For authors and bloggers on a budget, one of the biggest challenges is to find high-quality images that are copyright-free. While you can always purchase stock images from sites like Shutterstock or iStockPhoto, it can be a strain on your budget. Thankfully, there are generous photographers that release some of their work under a public domain license, meaning that you can use these photos free of charge (but check each website’s license for complete details).
Before you get too excited, there are both pros and cons to free images.
Pros: The images are free, yay!
Cons: Because they are free, everybody seems to be using them! Have you seen the same stock photos used over and over again online? “Free” seems to combat originality. (By the way, here’s how you can check where a photo has been used before.)
What’s the verdict?
- Do not use: If you’re looking for a photo to incorporate into your book cover, it might not be in your best interest to use a public domain photo. After all, you want your book cover to be original…you don’t want the same photo used on hundreds of other book covers.
- Use: If you just need an image for a blog (and you’re not particular about it being totally original), this would be a fine time to use a public domain image. You save some money, you have a nice image on your blog, and it’s OK if someone else used it somewhere too. Plus, if you want, you can credit the photographer and help them with more exposure. It’s a win-win.
- Use: If you need something quick for social media, and it’s alright if the image has been used before.
- Use: If you have a fantastic book designer that can alter, adjust, combine, and Photoshop the image into something totally original. In this case, public domain images become a great base for new and original artwork.
Now that you know when to use and not to use these images, here are 5 awesome websites that offer these totally free images.
This is a wonderful website with (very) high quality, beautiful photography that you can use for free!
The photos are free for personal and commercial use.
Here is an excerpt from their license:
“All photos published on Unsplash can be used for free. You can use them for commercial and noncommercial purposes. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the photographer or Unsplash, although it is appreciated when possible.” (https://unsplash.com/license)
Pixabay offers public domain photography, as well as some vectors and illustrations.
An excerpt from their FAQ:
“Pixabay is a vibrant community of creatives, sharing copyright free images and videos. All contents are released under Creative Commons CC0, which makes them safe to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist – even for commercial purposes.” (https://pixabay.com/en/service/faq)
A project by Ryan McGuire, this site offers images that are…a little bit out there…and super awesome. These are great for attention-grabbing social media posts (and daily inspirational breaks from work).
“Free high-resolution pictures you can use on your personal and commercial projects, free of copyright restrictions.”
(Read the full license terms here: https://gratisography.com/terms.html)
A very nice collection of thousands of public domain images.
These are also free for personal and commercial use. Here’s an excerpt from their terms:
All photos on Pexels are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose.
The only restriction is that identifiable people may not appear in a bad light or in a way that they may find offensive, unless they give their consent. You should also make sure the depicted content (people, logos, private property, etc.) is suitable for your application and doesn’t infringe any rights.
(Read the full terms here: https://www.pexels.com/photo-license)
Another nice resource that categorizes images into nicely organized categories.
Images here are also free for personal and commercial use, but check out their full terms here: https://isorepublic.com/terms/
Elena is founder and creative director at DTPerfect. She loves collaborating with authors to create books that inspire, teach, and leave a legacy. When she is not working with authors, she writes and illustrates a few of her own stories and is the award-winning author of Thank You, Me, a children’s book created to inspire gratitude and self-care.