laptop with lots of images flying from it

Good quality images and photos can make a huge difference to your website, blog and social media posts.  After all they say “a picture is worth a 1000 words”  But finding good quality images that you actually want to use in your media can be a minefield.

Many many years ago, when I first started out, I didn’t realise that some photos you find on the internet are copyrighted and unfortunately I found out the hard way.  I had created a one-time only pamper package on my website for Emerald Dreams, and had gone online to find a photo to use with the offer.  But little did I know that the photo I chose was copyrighted, until an agency got in touch and said that I had used it without permission and I owed them nearly £1000!  I almost died of shock, as I genuinely didn’t realise I had done anything wrong!  After a lot of negotiations (including proving my income!) I managed to bring the fee down to around £300 and a big slap on the knuckles. One of the annoying things was I didn’t even sell one of the pamper packages, it was just still on my website and months and months later, and the agency screenshot my website as proof! Hasten to say I learnt my lesson the hard way!

Before I give you my top 3 free image websites, let me just give you the run-down on terms you may find on some sites

What does “Royalty-free” mean? Are the files free?

Royalty-free means that an image is available for use in accordance with the licensing terms without having to credit the creator every single time.  This does not mean it is free – most image sites offering royalty free images and photos, sell you the image for a one-time licence fee and you can then use the image as many times as you want. However, please do check the terms when you buy a royalty-free license, as there may still be some restrictions ie can’t use for commercial ventures etc.

Public Domain

According to Wikipedia, the public domain consists of all the creative work to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply. Those rights may have expired, been forfeited, expressly waived, or may be inapplicable.

Creative Commons

The Creative Commons licence allow photographers to release their photos to the public but still allow them to have some control over how they are used.  They fall into 2 categories 1) Those that allow commercial use 2) Those that don’t allow commercial use

Some may ask you to attribute the photos to the original creator, others may allow you to change the original image as long as they credit the original creator and license the new creations under the idenitical terms.  Please check each photo for T&C’s before using.

My Top 3 Sites I Like To Use For Free Images


1. Pixabay

Free images and videos you can use anywhere.  Pixabay is a vibrant community of creatives, sharing copyright free images and videos. All contents are released under the Pixabay License, which makes them safe to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist – even for commercial purposes.

The only thing you need to be cautious of with Pixabay is that once you have searched for a term and it shows you a list of relevant photos, the top row of photos are not copyright free and are subject to fees.  The same goes for when you click through to an image, it may show you other similar images that need to be paid for

pixabay images

2. Unsplash

As they say… “The internet’s source of freely usable images.  Powered by creators everywhere.” 

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.


3. Pexels

As they say…
“The best free stock photos & videos shared by talented creators.”

Pexels have their own licence terms which say

  • All photos and videos are free to use
  • Attribution is not required.  Giving credit to the photographer or Pexel is not necessary but always appreciated
  • You can modify the photos and videos from Pexel.  Be creative and edit them as you like.

    I hope you find these sites useful.  Feel free to tag me in any blog posts or websites where you use images because of this blog post.

    Take care

    Sarah xx