These days it’s crucial to know how to find free images online. Here are some top tips to avoid annoyance.
Do you need images for your blog or website? If so, it’s key to know how to find free images online. Whether you’re a big company or enthusiastic blogger – good images seem to be only a click away. A casual Google image search returns the results we need in less than a second. Click. Drag. Done. (Or is it?) Yet, from calls we get *daily*, this too often ends in: stress, worrying legal letters and (even a hole in your wallet)!
So what is going on?
Most people believe that any image online is up for grabs. This isn’t the case unfortunately. Whilst some images online are available to use for free; most are copyright protected.
In the UK, copyright is not registered. Because of this, photographs become subject to copyright as soon as they’re made.
This grants the holder (the creator, or business they work for) special rights. These rights allow the copyright holder to determine how to the image can be used.
If the copyright holder has not made the image available to use under license – it’s illegal to use it. It’s as simple as that. Copyright may be under-enforced. But, continued use of unlicensed images is just not worth the bother!
Because of this, it’s very important to know where to find images that you can use freely.
How to find free images online: 5 top tips
So how do you do it? Here are 5 top tips to steer clear of choppy waters:
1. Know your licenses
When it comes to using images online – it’s not a case of “yes” or “no”. There are many different licenses which determine how you can use the image. If you’re looking for an image to use in your business, make sure it allows “commercial use”. If you’re going to edit the image, make sure that it is “labelled for modification”. If the license prescribes attribution – make sure you give the author’s details. Do all this and you won’t go far wrong.
2. Take your Google Image Search to the Next Level
Whilst Google is the first port of call for many – it serves up images without filtering licenses for you. That is, unless you tell it to! By clicking on “tools” and then “usage rights” you get a set of options. These give you a way of filtering the search for the appropriate license types. This can be an quick and easy way to avoid issues.
3. Cast your net wider
Google is not the be-all and end-all of the internet. It also doesn’t have to be your only source of free images online! There are many sites that offer royalty-free images to visitors. Wikimedia.org, Flickr and Pixabay; all offer free images (or the ability to filter for licenses). This is often the case with other image-banks online. With a little research; you can find millions of images you can use completely for free.
If the image you are looking for is of something you have to hand – it might be simpler to take the picture yourself! Doing so saves the effort of trawling for a royalty free version. It also helps you practice your photography / graphic design skills! What’s more, as the copyright holder; you can then even license your images out and even make money from it.
5. Take copyright seriously
The most important tip of all is to take copyright seriously! Anyone who creates an image is legally entitled to know how it’s used (and get paid if applicable). It’s key to put yourself in the shoes of the photographer/designer. You’d be hopping mad if someone reproduced your website design (or article!) without attribution or permission. So remember: treat as you wished to be treated!
by Elizabeth Ward · Published July 15, 2016
· Last modified June 7, 2019