Top Sites For Copyright-Free Photos

You may be a fantastic writer, but as a blogger, your graphics and images get you noticed. Good writing is in no way dying, but you can't deny that eye-catching graphics make a big difference to your content's shareability and ultimately, your blog's traffic.

One oft-asked question in blogging forums is,"Where do you get your free images from?".  So, I put together this guide for understanding what 'free' actually means, and where you can find truly copyright-free images. I also included photo sites I use frequently for images on my blog.

Top Sites For Copyright-Free Photos

What are copyright-free images? How are they different from royalty-free images?

No image is completely copyright free, unless the owner has specifically given up his or her rights to a photo. Copyright-free means have given you the permission to download their photo, and use it (usually, in a non-commercial way) without having to credit them or link to them.

Royalty-free images are those that come with a one-time license fee. Most often, you don't have to pay that license fee because sites offering 'free photos' usually pay the royalty on them, and allow you to reuse them. But you have to read the fine print. Often, it will be required that you credit the site and author, and/or link back to them. Many photos (but not all) on sites such as Public Domain Pictures, Free Digital Photos, and Dreamstime fall in this category. Even if photos are in the public domain, they may come with some terms, depending on where you get them from.

There is nothing wrong with using these inherently free photos as long as you give due credit. But I share my blog graphics everywhere, and it makes me feel a little uneasy about not crediting the photo every time, which is just not practically possible. That's why I prefer using copyright-free photos that have no requirements for attribution.

If you use Wikimedia Commons, or Flickr Commons, you must check their licenses. Anything other than a CC0 1.0  or C.C.0 license means that you will have to at least credit the author. Read more about the Creative Commons Licenses, and how to attribute them.

Tips for using copyright-free photos:

Use PicMonkeyCanva  or any image editing software to add text to your photo. It really doesn't make sense to use them otherwise, because many other blogs or sites will be using them too. You can lighten (fade) or blur the background image and add text to it. Else, you an image placeholder (a geometric shape) behind the text to make it visible. Both these sites have helpful tutorials, althought beginners would prefer PicMonkey for it's simplicity of options. If graphic design comes easy to you, you'll love Canva for it's myriad of design elements. For more tips, read my post on the Perfect Blog Graphic.

Top Sites for Copyright-Free Images:

1. Unsplash - This site makes me feel very grateful to it's owners because the photos here are so breathtaking, it's hard to believe they are free! The photos on Unsplash are great for using in quote backgrounds or abstract designs. It may be a little hard to find exactly what you are looking for, but if you subscribe to their newsletter, you can get new photos in your inbox. I always download and save the photos that broadly fit the categories I write in.

2. Little Visuals - The photos here are also beautiful, and well presented. No categories. (Update: The founder of this site tragically passed away at a young age, and the family is now accepting donations.)

3. Kaboom Pics - This site has some nice themed photos. These are the kind of photos you are more likely to use on your blog. Attribution is not required, but appreciated.

4. PicJumbo - Another site with categorised photos, on a wide range of subjects.

5. - A site where you can download royalty-free photos without having to attribute. There are no clear-cut categories though.

6. New Old Stock - These are photos on which the copyright has expired. They are vintage stock, which you can use creatively in your graphics.

7. Morguefile - I still go back here to find photos I can't find elsewhere that fit my requirement. There is a huge collection of photos here, but the downside it that the same photo is probably being using in hundreds of other places, which is why it's a good idea to add your text on it.

8. Pixabay - This is another favourite of bloggers, but has the same downside as Morguefile.

I'll add to this list as I discover more sites for copyright-free images. Hope you find it useful! 


To understand the legal terms better, see these FAQs on stock photo rights.

Look at this fantastic flow chart on whether you can use an image on  The Visual Communication Guy or Pin for later below.

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