How to Find High-Quality Royalty Free Images for Your WordPress Blog Posts

Free image above downloaded from Pixabay under the Simplified Pixabay License.

Want to know how to find royalty free images for your WordPress blog posts? This tutorial is for all site owners, but especially helpful to those on a tight budget. Here you can dip into a seemingly endless pool of free quality images and stock photos for all license types.

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

The right choice of photos, graphics, art, and illustrations brings a website to life. Imagery is the best way to capture the attention of first-time visitors. The bad news is that high-quality photos have become expensive, but there’s also good news. Today, there’s a myriad of exceptional images and illustrations available for free. Yes, you read that correct, $0.00.

Beware of Legal Implications

An online image search guarantees to find stunning photos for almost any topic. However, most of the results belong to other people or companies. To use them without permission is theft and has serious legal ramifications. It can be a temptation but don’t do it. Copyright infringement occurs with the unauthorised use of any media file as covered by its copyright law.

The Cost of Free

Many of the free media downloads have licences attached. It’s important to read these carefully so that you don’t break the law. They tell you which circumstances and under what conditions you can use the photo. For example, an image may be free for personal websites but has a price tag for commercial marketing use. A licence may include attribution strict editing guidelines too.

The 4 license types are:

  1. Site-specific copyleft licences
  2. Royalty Free
  3. Creative Commons
  4. Public Domain

Note that buying or acquiring a license is not the same thing as owning the media outright.

#1 Copyleft (site specific license)

Copyleft: Free-to-use. Contributors waive all rights to the uploaded media.

Free image above downloaded from Unsplash under its own copyleft license.

Copyleft is an agreement or arrangement between the uploader and the media sharing site. It’s the most appealing and straightforward of all the free-image options for webmasters.

Free image download sites like Unsplash have their own copyright-free licence. When artists upload media to sites like these, they become copyleft, free-to-use by anyone. That typically includes commercial as well as non-commercial use. Attribution is encouraged, but it’s not mandatory. You’re also free to modify copyleft downloads.

#2 Royalty Free Licence

Royalty Free – Subject to copyright or further intellectual property rights.

Royalty free image downloaded from Pixabay under its own terms and license.

Royalty-free (RF) photos are popular because of the minimal restrictions. RF was the most attractive choice before copyleft. If you pay a one-off fee for a photo, you can do pretty much what you want with it. If it’s 100% royalty-free, you can use it as part of your non-commercial web content. You’re not usually allowed to use it for branding, and definitely not for resale.

#3 Creative Commons Licence

Creative Commons Licence – Share photos under one of several licences, usually with compulsory attribution.

Free sample image above downloaded from the Unsplash Creative Commons Collection.

Creative Commons is an interesting concept controlled by a non-profit organisation. There are several copyright licences that photographers can attach to their publicly available uploads. The owner waives ‘all rights reserved’ but maintains ‘some rights reserved.’ In simple terms, that means they share their photos with the world under the terms they choose.

#4 Public Domain Licence

Public Domain Licence – Free unrestricted use for any purpose under copyright laws.

Free sample image above downloaded from Skuawk public domain portal.

The public domain license means there is no copyright associated with the photo or other media. The image may not have been eligible, or the Copywrite has since expired. Either way, re-users have complete flexibility and can use the image in any way they like.

Always read the wording of the different licenses with great care. Try to stick to one of two sites to source all your free photos. This way, you don’t have to keep reviewing the licence rules.

Where to Find Royalty Free and Copyleft Images

Now for the fun part. Below are 7 sites that offer royalty free and copyleft images.

  1. Pixabay
  2. Free Images
  3. Unsplash
  4. Photo Pin
  5. Public Domain Pictures
  6. Skitterphoto
  7. io

These sites offer a huge selection of high-quality photos and illustrations across multiple topics.

#1 Pixabay Royalty Free Images

Pixabay is one of the most popular photo-sharing websites around now. It offers free-to-use copyleft, royalty free (CC-0) licensed images, vector graphics, and illustrations. There are even 450+ free videos available under the Pixabay License. Best of all is the simple search function with advanced features that make light work of finding that perfect pic.

View licence details here.

#2 Free Images (formally stock.xchng)

Free Images is another quality share and download website. Here you can find 1000s of high-res photo and illustrations. Browse by Free Photos, New Images, Popular Images, and the Editor’s Picks. There is also a search by Camera or Photographer option, which is useful for photography-themed and review sites. Alternatively, you can search for images by category.

View Free Images licence details here.

#3 Unsplash

Unsplash has lots of fans for good reasons. The site has plenty of regularly updated stock of high-res, freely-usable images in its 1M+ collection. It has a quick search box at the top of the screen and links to categories directly underneath. The search options remain in a fixed position as you navigate the site, so looking for that perfect free image is quick and stress-free.

View Unsplash licence details here.

#4 Photo Pin

Photo Pin lets you search millions of Creative Commons photos. Its homepage is little more than a search box, but don’t be put off. The site presents the results in a long scrollable page. Along the top are text links related to your search and checkboxes to choose the license type. There’s also a sort option for Most Recent, Relevance, and Interestingness (default).

Most photographers on Photo Pin require attribution. On the sites above, attribution is optional.

View Photo Pin’s licence details here.

#5 Public Domain Pictures

Public Domain Pictures has around 328,000 photos and illustrations for free download. It has a simple search box function that lets you sort the results by Popularity, Rating, and Date. There are 20 categories to help narrow down searches, including photographic styles such as landscape and Macro. Most images are free to use with premium options for larger files.

View CC0 Public Domain Pictures licence details here.

#6 Skitterphoto

Skitterphoto has been around since 2014 and has plenty of high-resolution photos. All images are in the public domain. That means downloaders can use them for any purpose, personal or business. The home page shows the current Admin Picks, with another tab to view the Newest Uploads. Other search filters include Sort By (5 options), and Category (16 options).

View the Skitterphoto licence details here.

#7 is another impressive photo-sharing website. It boasts hundreds of new high-res uploads every week, all of which are free from any copyright restrictions. There are 100 popular categories to help filter searches. You can use all images for personal or commercial projects. The CC0 license means there’s no need for attribution, though it is appreciated.

View licence details here.

More Image Sharing Choices

The picks above are some of the best photo sharing options around, but there are others. Some of those include; Wikimedia, New Old Stock, Pickup Image, Public Domain Archive, LibreShot, and PDPics.

Closing Comments

There are plenty of options and more free photo sharing sites appearing all the time. Quality written content is vital to the success of any website or blog, but so is imagery. Photos can transform a webpage from a visually dull block of text into a glossy online magazine. Thanks to free downloads, now even the budget-conscious webmaster can boost their website’s appeal.

Want to Learn WordPress?

WordPress is an amazing platform for building any type of website.   It’s used by large corporations and small mom & pop sites.

You may also like


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hello, I'm
Andy Williams!

You can get up to 90% off my Online Courses for webmasters, marketers & affiliates (plus a free course on Gutenberg).

Create your own WordPress Theme

It's built in to WordPress using Gutenberg, and my new course shows you how.