There’s plenty of evidence that including images in blog posts makes them more engaging and effective. Articles with images get 94% more views on average and one examination of popular blog posts found that the top-performing posts included one image every 350 words.
And while both those statistics are merely correlation, I think they’re pretty convincing evidence that you should definitely be incorporating images into every blog post that you write.
But, if you want to stay on the right side of the law, you can’t just pop open Google Image Search and start grabbing images willy-nilly. You have to stick with sites that actually give you the rights to use and modify images.
That’s what this post is all about - the best free (and legal!) image sources for your WordPress blog posts. Once you find the perfect image, you can then use a tool like Canva to further design your images and make them perfectly fit your blog.
A Quick Primer on Image Licensing
Most of the image sources I’ll be listing here operate under some form of Creative Commons licensing. If you’re not familiar, Creative Commons is a nonprofit that helps creative people share their works through a straightforward licensing system.
There are a variety of Creative Commons licenses, but the absolute best one for bloggers to use is Creative Commons Zero. Creative Commons Zero, aka CC0, means that you can commercially use, modify and distribute the image without needing to provide attribution to the author. It’s the least restrictive Creative Commons license, hence the “Zero”. Essentially, works licensed as CC0 are considered part of the public domain.
Other viable options are the CC-BY and CC-BY-SA licenses. These allow you to commercially use and modify the image, but you still need to provide attribution to the author. If you decide to use one of these images, you’ll usually need to provide a sentence below it with all the relevant attribution details.
Another good source of images is public domain images which have existed for so long that their copyright has expired. But, as you might expect, these images are usually dated. So don’t expect to find a beautiful shot of a Macbook sitting on a desk in these pictures.
And finally, you can always pay the actual license fee to use stock photos. But because this post is all about finding free sources, I won’t touch on that.
The Best Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog
Now that you’ve got the lowdown on the basics of image licensing, I’ll take you through some of the best spots to find free pictures for your blog.
Pixabay - Powerful Search for CC0 Media
Pixabay is always my first stop when I’m looking for a specific image. All their images are CC0, so I know that I can freely use them. And their search feature makes it really easy to find exactly what I’m looking for.
Just keep two things in mind when using Pixabay:
- The first row of images is usually sponsored stock images. Don’t get excited if you see one you like, because it won’t be free. Everything after the first row of sponsored images is CC0 though.
- You need to register an account to download full resolution photos. This process is pretty painless, though. And there’s no money involved.
You can also search for CC0 videos, though I confess I’ve never used that feature.
Unsplash - Limited Quantity, but Amazing Quality
Unsplash is another one of my favorite image sources. It’s a completely different experience than Pixabay, though. It’s all about quality over quantity. You don’t have nearly as big of a selection as Pixabay, but every single image on Unsplash is gorgeous.
If you just need an eye-catching background image, you won’t go wrong with Unsplash. If you need to find a very specific image, Unsplash probably isn’t your best option.
Like Pixabay, every image on Unsplash is licensed under CC0.
Public Domain Pictures - Broad Selection, but Not Everything is Quality
Public Domain Pictures is another great option if you want access to a huge collection of images. I’m not sure exactly how many images they have in their database, but you can find lots of results for some pretty random queries, so I’d imagine it’s a large number.
The only area I think it falters is the interface. While totally usable, it’s not nearly as nice as Pixabay’s interface. And like other large collections, you’ll have to wade through some low-quality images to get to the good stuff.
Wikimedia Commons - ~34 MILLION Free Images
If you’re willing to dig through the almost 34 million free images in Wikimedia Commons, you can find some absolute gems. While the images are well-tagged and categorized, the fact that there’s 34 million of them can still make it a bit overwhelming to find what you want.
Death to the Stock Photo - Quality Images Delivered to Your Email
Death to the Stock Photo sends out monthly emails with brand spankin’ new images. I know you might find the requirement to enter your email slightly annoying, but I actually think it’s a nice feature. It ensures that the images are somewhat limited in distribution, which makes them less likely to be overused.
All Death to the Stock Photo’s images are beautiful, so you’re getting some amazing quality shots. The only downside is you don’t have control over what comes to your inbox, so you can never know for sure if you’ll be able to use their images.
They also offer a premium membership if you want even more image goodness.
PicJumbo - Good Balance of Quality and Searchability
PicJumbo is a good jack-of-all-trades for images. You can search by tags, browse the latest images, or go for what’s popular. Unlike some of the bigger image searches, you don’t have to wade through many duds on PicJumbo. The images are good quality far more often than not.
You can also sign up for a newsletter to get alerted whenever they add new images. And they offer a premium plan which gives you access to even more images. The premium plan definitely isn’t a necessity to get value from the site, though.
Some of the images you find in your search results will come from the premium collection, so be aware that you won’t necessarily be able to use everything you see.
Google Images - Advanced Search for Usage Rights
Not a lot of people know this, but you can actually use the advanced search options in Google Images to filter by usage rights:
You can access the search options by following the image above. Just make sure to choose one of these options:
- Labeled for reuse
- Labeled for reuse with modification
Google isn’t omnipotent though, so you should probably double check the usage rights with the image creator before you use it.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. But does anyone really check 60 different photo sources for blog images? I doubt that!
I tried to pick only my favorites and give you a good balance between small collections of high-quality images and large collections of searchable images.
But if you think I missed a really good one that offers something different than those on the list, I’d love if you left a comment so I can add it to my own repertoire!