How I find and use free images for my blogs

May 31, 2017

Blogging is a form of media, in which great writing is enhanced by visual stimulation. Most bloggers use at least one image to draw attention to their post: the first glance at an article should convey a sense of what the writing presents, or at least a visual hook to draw the reader in.

But where can we source these images from? As content creators, we understand the value of our work and can empathise with others' need for income and validation. Established bloggers with a steady income stream find a plethora of images available at a cost from such worthy sources of quality as Getty Images and Adobe Stock. Those of us with less cash to splash must therefore find more creative means to illustrate our compositions while honouring our fellow creators by giving credit where it's due.

I have several reliable sources for aesthetically pleasing images which can be used at zero cost, and choose which to search first depending on the theme of my post or the design of a website. In this post, I'll highlight my favourite resources, along with some description of the needs to which they are best suited. is the resource I use when I need something "specific", for example, a dish to highlight a recipe post on Glamumous (since I'm really not to good at photography!) or a stock photo for a client's business website.

As the title suggests, this resource does indeed publish "free" images, which are usually available to use commercially. Many images do not require any credit or acknowledgement to the photographer, though it is very important to check the image license on the page of the photograph you want to download: some artists require notification about their image being used, or require credit.

The image above, for example, is by the artist Alin Nan,who requires no credit or notification of his photographs being used, though I have done so anyway in order to acknowledge the beautiful composition he's shared.

I believe most of the artists whose work is offered for free on share their photography in order to build their portfolio and status. The website does also showcase paid stock images from the partner site iStockPhoto to generate revenue.

Flickr Creative Commons 

Image credit: Osamu Kaneko, via Flickr
Flickr's Creative Commons pool is my resource choice for images which evoke a "mood" as opposed to photographs for a specific illustration. I frequently use Flickr CC images to illustrate articles on Glamumous (a parenting/lifestyle blog) or to complement longer articles on my book blogging site.

The method I use has been tried and tested by bloggers all over the world:
  1. Go to the Flickr homepage and type a relevant word or two into the search bar.
  2. Limit the results to photographs in the "Creative Commons" pool
  3. Select "Interesting" as a means of ordering the results
  4. Scroll through to find the image which is a perfect fit for your blog post or design.
All Creative Commons images on Flickr require that you credit the artist. (Unless you want to get technical and throw Public Domain Dedication (CC0) into the mix, but even when this is offered, crediting the artist is still a kind gesture of thanks for the use of their work). 

I prefer to do this by naming the artist, along with a link to their Flickr profile or the photo page. Often this is in the form of a caption, as in the image above, though when the photo is used to headline my articles, I provide credit at the end of the article so as not to interfere with summaries in feeds, search results and social media previews (see below for an example). 

Be aware of licence limitations! Particularly if you benefit financially from your use of the image. Even publishing ads on the blog where an image is used can count as "commercial use". You should also take care if you intend to edit the image in any way, which would fall foul of the Creative Commons No Derivatives restriction. Pay careful attention to the licence descriptions outlined on this page, and if in doubt, leave it out!

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons is my favoured resource for very particular images, usually of historical value or for a particular educational concept. Virtually all of the images used for daily posts on Harvard Classics 365 (and the accompanying eBook) were sourced from Wikimedia.

Most images on Wikimedia are in the public domain, usually since their copyright has expired (though generous artists and content creators frequently upload content for their educational or illustrative value).

While it's possible to search for images directly from the Wikimedia Commons website, I personally find it a little clunky to navigate. More often, I search Wikipedia for an appropriate page and scan through the images to see which (if any) are hosted by Wikimedia using a licence I can work with.

As when using Flickr to source images, it's important to take note of the licence under which the image you need is available. Not all content is Public Domain: some are published under Creative Commons licenses, and a select few are fully copyrighted, so be sure to check the details on the dedicated image page before reusing.

For your information, the map above is a Celestial map from 1670, by the Dutch cartographer Frederik de Wit, available in the public domain. You can download a high resolution version from this page if you admire it as much as I do.


Rijksstudio publishes digital images and photographs of works of art contained in Holland's Rijksmuseum. It's a treasure trove of dutch art, all provided for free re-use under the public domain. Better still, online tools allow you to make selections of images to save in a personalised collection, download or order prints.

Rijksstudio is one of several museums and galleries around the world to provide digitised images of their art. Others include The National Gallery, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Tate Modern.

Mostly I use these public domain works as design elements, such as within the slides on the home page of my site, though it's entirely possible I'll find use for some beautiful piece or other to illustrate the content of an interesting blog post...

What are your favourite free image resources?

I'd love to learn of other useful resource sites for images to use on my sites. Please feel free to share your favourite resources in the comments section below.

Credit: Header image by Chiara Cremaschi, via Flickr.

You Might Also Like


Goodreads Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
Amanda has read 49 books toward her goal of 50 books.