Images are a great way to add some visual punch to your blog, they entice visitors and can increase your shares. However, most people don’t have Photoshop or an unlimited budget. I’ve put together a great list of resources for finding free stock photos and images for your next blog.
Free Image Licenses
Before you head out and grab a ton of free graphics, you are going to need read the appropriate licenses. There are too many possible licenses to list them all, but I will cover the main categories.
Completely Free & Clear
Some images will be licensed saying you can do pretty much anything you want with them. The only usual restriction is that you can’t claim them as your own creation.
With this type of license you can copy the image, modify it all you want, post it on your website, even use it in an ebook you are selling or a poster for your event.
These images you can use like the free & clear, but you have to credit the source. Sometimes you also have to link to the license that it is under.
For example the above header graphic I used is under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license from Web Design Hot. Since I’m free to modify it, I deleted a couple elements, changed the hue, and added some text.
Personal Use Only
I generally avoid anything that is labeled for personal use only since my blog is for commercial use. However, for some people and uses a personal use only image may work. For example if you have a family blog with no ads on it. But you will need to read the fine print.
I also avoid these. You must ask the author for permission before using their work. That’s all fine and good, but I just don’t want to wait to hear back from them.
That covers most of the licenses. After a little while of using these free resources you will find you remember most of the important licenses.
Free Image Resources
These are sites that offer free photos & graphics. There are some things on all of these sites which are free for personal and commercial use, no extra hoops, but not every item is. The good news is they do a good job providing you information on which items are under which rules. But, it’s still your responsibility to read the rules.
Freepik is one of my favorite sites to start my search on. FreePik is a search engine for finding free files from many different sites in various different formats.
Stock.xchng has a varied collection with a lot of high resolution images. They use the same technology team as iStockphoto and are run by Getty Images. You do need to create a free account to download. Great selection, plus you can contribute if you’ve got some things!
unprofound has no signup and photos are sorted by color. They do have a rather basic search engine, but it can get confused. Better for browsing.
morgueFile has lots of high resolution free photographs. It got the name from the newspaper industry and their goal is to be a repository of images for use in almost any project.
Freedigitalphotos.net has a mix of free and premium photos.
Dreamstime is known for their paid stock photos. However, they also have a whole section of their site devoted just to free photos & images. Free membership is required, and remember not to stray off into their paid area unintentionally.
OpenClipArt is not the clip art of yesteryear. Clip Art has come a long way and some of their stuff is really graphic art. There are some large and very detailed renderings here in addition to your usual clip art items. Just don’t expect any photos.
Subtle Patterns is a great site with many subtle patterns for download. Useful for all sorts of projects where you need to add that something special.
Bonus: Social Media Icons
Social Media Icons is a listing of over 100 social media icon sets. The answer for pretty much any website.
Editing Your Images
Now that you have your images you need to edit them to suit your needs. One of the most common issues with found images is their size. On websites width is frequently more important than height, and usually your image is too wide. You want to resize or crop your image so that it is only as big as it needs to be. This will also help reduce your file size.
For basic resizing & cropping your built-in desktop tools like Preview for the Mac and Microsoft’s Paint (or Fresh Paint for Windows 8) will do a decent job. However, you are going to run into needs that these basic applications just can’t help with.
A quick note about file sizes for the web. You want to keep your graphics to 100K or less. Smaller files equal faster load times, which make happier search engines and visitors. Yes, search engines grade you on how fast your site loads.
When saving your files consider PNG or JPG format. PNG format is great for graphics with clean lines and solid colors, like text and flat color graphics. JPG is great for gradients and subtle color changes, like photos. When saving as a JPG you can usually aim for 50-70% quality. Lower quality when you have very few line or text elements, higher quality when you have more.
Online Option: Pixlr
Pixlr is a completely online image editor and even available for your tablet or smart phone. When you get started you can open an image from your computer, from their library, or even from an URL. This means you can start directly with that free image you found from the sources above.
Online Option: Canva
Canva is a free online image editor designed for creating blog headers. It has predefined templates to get your images done and your blog posted in no time! You can bring your own image or purchase images within it.
Gimp is the free and open source alternative to Adobe Photoshop and has many of the same features. You can do a lot more than just resizing & cropping with Gimp!
Inkscape is built for vectors much like Adobe Illustrator. This is not a beginner user’s quick and easy editing program. Inkscape has some impressive features.
You already knew why you needed images for blog, to increase visitor engagement and entertainment. Now you know what licenses to look for, where to find images, and how to edit those images for your blog. Now, go on and add a splash of color to your blog!