WPLift is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

How To Search And Insert Gorgeous Free Stock Photos From Your WordPress Dashboard

Last Updated on January 29th, 2021

Published on January 4th, 2018


Share This Article

Part of creating great content on your WordPress site is interspersing quality images in that content. For example, BuzzSumo found that posts which used images every 75-100 words got more shares than those which used images more sparingly. So images are pretty important.

But here’s the thing about finding quality images:

It can be time-consuming. If you want to stay on the right side of copyright law, you have to:

In this post, I’m going to show you a better workflow for inserting gorgeous, royalty free stock images in your blog posts without leaving your WordPress dashboard.

By the end of this post, you’ll be able to search sites like Pixabay, Unsplash, and Pexels right from your WordPress dashboard. And when you find an image that you like, you’ll be able to insert it with just a couple clicks.

What Are Pixabay, Unsplash, And Pexels?

Pixabay, Unsplash, and Pexels are three separate royalty free stock image sites.

That means each site collects images that you’re allowed to use commercially without any attribution or payment.

On a more technical level, that means all of the images use the CC0 license (except for Unsplash, which has moved to its own unique, but equivalent, license).

How To Search Pixabay And Insert Pictures From WordPress Dashboard

Let’s kick things off with Pixabay, a popular CC0 stock photo site that offers over 1.2 million free images.

While Pixabay’s images aren’t as consistently high quality as Unsplash and Pexels, Pixabay does have the broadest selection.

Article Continues Below

With the free Pixabay Images plugin, you can search Pixabay’s entire library from inside your WordPress dashboard. Then, you can insert images with just a few clicks without needing to leave your dashboard.

When you insert the image, it’s saved as an actual file on your server that you can access at any time via your Media Library.

Better yet – the plugin is super easy to use.

Here’s all you need to do:

First, install and activate the free Pixabay Images plugin.

Once you activate the plugin, there aren’t any settings that you have to configure. When you go to add new content or edit existing content, you’ll see a new Pixabay button next to the normal Add Media button:

how to insert pixabay images from WordPress dashboard

When you click that button, a popup will open where you can search the entire Pixabay catalog:

searching Pixabay from WordPress dashboard

To insert an image, all you need to do is click on it. That will open up another screen where you can add metadata, choose alignment, and configure its sizing. Then, you can choose to either Insert into Post or Use as featured image:

Article Continues Below

By default, the plugin will credit the image author in the image’s caption:

Pixabay does not require attribution, though. So if you want to turn this functionality off, you can go to Settings → Pixabay Images and uncheck the box for Insert image credits:

And that’s all there is to it! You can now enjoy Pixabay’s 1.2 million plus free images right from your WordPress dashboard.

How To Search Unsplash And Insert Pictures From WordPress Dashboard

Unsplash doesn’t have as large an image collection as Pixabay, but the images are consistently high quality and almost always gorgeous.

Personally, Unsplash is my favorite free stock photo site and where I always start my search, though I sometimes have to look elsewhere because I can’t find something that fits.

To search and insert Unsplash images from your WordPress dashboard, you can use the free Instant Images plugin.

Once you activate the plugin, go to Media → Instant Images and click the Settings button:

Article Continues Below

This lets you set a max image width and height for when you automatically upload images from Unsplash. This is import because all of Unsplash’s images are high resolution by default. If you don’t resize them, you’re going to slow down your page load times with Unsplash’s massive image sizes.

Once you set the max dimensions that work for your site, you can access the interface by clicking on the Instant Images button next to the Add Media button in the WordPress Editor:

How to insert Unsplash images from WordPress dashboard

When the popup window appears, click the Initialize Instant Images button to start activate the search. Then, you’ll be able to search the entire Unsplash library right from your dashboard.

When you find an image that you like, all you need to do is click on it and Instant Images will automatically upload it to your Media Library:

Searching Unsplash Images

Once the process finishes, you’ll see a green checkmark:

To actually insert the image in your content or use it as your featured image, just use the normal Add Media button – you should see your chosen image in your Media Library and you can insert it like any other image:

And that’s it! Enjoy Unsplash’s beautiful free images without needing to step away from your WordPress dashboard.

How To Search Pexels And Insert Pictures From WordPress Dashboard

Like Unsplash, Pexels is another website that collects beautiful free images in one place. All the images are CC0 and free to use without payment or attribution.

To search and insert images from Pexels, you can use the WP Pexels plugin.

There is one major limitation with the free version of this plugin, though:

You can only automatically insert the image using the image file on Pexel’s server. If you want the ability to automatically upload Pexels images to your Media Library without leaving your dashboard, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version for $15.

With that caveat out of the way, here’s how the plugin works…

Like the other two plugins, after you install and activate the plugin, you’ll get a new Pexels button next to the regular Add Media button:

How to insert Pexels images from WordPress dashboard

When you click on that button, you can search the entire Pexels library by keyword:

To insert an image, all you need to do is click on it. That will open up a new interface on the right. There, you can choose:

  • Metadata
  • Dimensions
  • Link

And then you can choose from three options:

  • Insert – inserts an image that links to the file on Pexel’s server (this is what’s available in the free version)
  • Save & Insert – uploads the file to your own server and inserts it (only available in $15 Pro version)
  • Featured – inserts the image as your post’s featured image (links to the file on Pexel’s server in the free version, though)

While this one is the only option that costs money to unlock its full functionality, if you’re a fan of Pexels, I don’t think $15 is too much to pay for the extra convenience.

Wrapping Things Up

It can be difficult and time-consuming to find free images for your WordPress site, which is why you should always be on the lookout for ways to speed up your workflow.

By using one of these three plugins, you can cut down on wasted time and search and insert free stock images right from your WordPress dashboard.

I hope you enjoyed the post and it helps you create better content in less time!

And if you did enjoy it, you might also be interested in learning how to create gorgeous featured images with Canva or how to automatically watermark WordPress images.

Stay informed on WordPress

Every Friday you’ll receive news, tutorials, reviews, and great deals from the WordPress space.

Invalid email address
Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer and long-time Internet marketer. He specializes in digital marketing, WordPress and B2B writing. He lives a life of danger, riding a scooter through the chaos of Hanoi. You can also follow his travel blog.