How to Find Free Images For Blog Posts

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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/)

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  • One caveat with respect to screenshots. Obviously you need to be cautious taking screenshots of webshots to make sure you’re respecting copyright. But one thing you may not think of is that there could be identifying information stored with the image file you’re copying. (For example, the EXIF file format for photos can include the name of the photographer in the file itself.)

    Taking a screenshot is arguably removing that information, which could be a violation of 17 U.S.C. § 1202(b). It could also violate a Creative Commons license that requires attribution or disallows modification.

    It’s generally better to just download an image file, unless you need more of the screen to make a point. And you might want to download the image file anyway in order to check for identifying information.

    • Good points, Matt, and thanks for providing the details. I occasionally use screenshots to capture a conversation or statement, like a Twitter post. It often drives home a point more effectively than text.

  • Great post! I like using iStockphoto, but the images are usually a few bucks. They are high-quality and good if you’re in a hurry though.

    • Thanks, Abbie! I really like iStockphoto also, but the cost can add up quickly if you blog frequently. I still use if occasionally when I need that perfect shot, or like you said, if I’m in a bit of a hurry. For images to use on a website or other pages of a blog, I def recommend it.

    • Chris

      The photos as iStockphoto are really high quality. Also, it’s fantastic when my searches either 1) fail to turn up anything; or 2) turn up something unuseable. I take advantag of their free weekly photo. I save them with a general description of the image for future use.

      • Yeah, Chris, I also turn to iStockphoto when all else fails. Thanks for the great “free weekly photo” tip! I’ll try to keep on top of that.

  • Tim:

    Both Apture and Zemanta are 2 wordpress plugins that find photos as well.

    • Thanks for the suggestions, Fred. I tried a WordPress plugin awhile back and the functionality was less than desirable. I’ll def give these two a test run.

  • For retouching of digital images I like to use the GIMP or GNU Image Manipulation Program which is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

    http://www.gimp.org/

    And remember you can violate exclusive rights under copyright law provided your use is a fair use.

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html

    • Thanks, Robert. I’ve tried the open source GIMP but find it as complicated as Photoshop. The most I do with images (and I think most bloggers) is crop and resize with the occasional layering. The good news is that WordPress now offers some image manipulation.

    • I use GIMP constantly, although Tim is right that it is overkill for retouching and resizing. My favorite simple tool is actually the cloud-based (and free) Picnik.

  • This is a great topic. When I first started blogging, this was a real problem for me. My starting point is always http://search.creativecommons.org/, which allows you to then search the CC-licensed images on Flicker, Google Images, etc.

    For photo editing, I use http://www.picnik.com/.

    Thanks!

    • Terrific tip, John! I’m adding the CC search engine to my process for finding images. Tried Picnik a year ago, but with a couple of recommendations so far, I’ll def give it a second look. Thanks!

  • Also check out this website: http://www.ImageFree.com – good site!