A picture is worth a thousand words. There’s an emotional reaction to images. They break up pages that are text heavy making for a more visually appealing and easier to read blog post. Tagged correctly, images can also help with search engine optimization.

But it can be a struggle to find images to legally use on our blog posts. And as legal professionals we certainly don’t want to be running afoul of copyright laws. No one should.

A few bloggers have asked me recently where I find low cost or free images. Low cost is fine if you write an occasional post, but if you churn them out consistently, that cost is not so low after a very short  while. I discovered this when I first started blogging and thought nothing of spending a few dollars for a royalty free image. The total cost after a few months was not cute. So here five sources I go to for free images.

1. Flickr

By far, the site I use the most is Flickr. Use the advanced search feature and search within the Creative Commons-licensed content . Credit the author by providing an attribution and link back to the source. The image I used for this piece came from the vast Flickr database. Note the attribution at the end of the post. One of the drawbacks of using free sources is that the search functionality is not particularly robust compared to many of the paid services. Flickr is no exception. So play around with search terms.

2. Wikimedia Commons

Everyone is allowed to copy, use and modify the free images Wikimedia Commons Many of the images have been released into the public domain with no attribution necessary, while others do require that you credit the author. I use this when I’m looking for raw images, mostly objects, that I can modify.

3. Google

Go to Google Advanced Image Search and check the box, Only images labeled for reuse. This dramatically reduces the number of searchable images. And a few links in the results may take you right back to Flickr. I’ve found a few gems here, but it takes a bit more time to locate that perfect (or almost perfect) image.

4. Graphs and charts

Have some data you wish to share? Create a Graph and communicate that information visually. Build a bar or line graph or pie chart with this free tool. Render it flat or in 3-D. Adjust the size, font and color of the text and you’re ready to save your creation as an image file to upload and use in your blog post. I’ve used this to show results from a survey I ran in a prior post. Simple and effective.

5. Screen capture plugins

Firefox Awesome Screenshoot addon is well, awesome. –  I use it all the time. From any web page you can capture the entire page or any portion, annotate it with rectangles, circles, arrows, lines and text and save as an image file to upload to your WordPress blog or any other blog or website.

BONUS: Photo editing software – Adobe Photoshop prices are ridiculous and open-source alternative Gimp is complicated and feature bloated. A terrific little windows program, Fotografix – – does the job. It can crop, adjust contrast and enhance shadows, but what sets it apart is the “layers” feature which you can use to combine texts and images. Since I’ve started using my MacBook Pro more, I’ve searched for but have yet to find a comparable Mac-based alternative. If you know of any…

Blogging has created an army of amateur photographers. I’ve snapped thousands of shots over the years with my smartphone and used many in my blogs.

Where do you find images for your blog posts?

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jking89/3827925787/)