Free images for your website? Yes, but with a caveat!
One of the biggest myths about the world wide web is that virtually everything you find is free to use. Oftentimes, when we are building a new website or revamping an old one, we ask the client for fresh content and images.
One of the replies we get the most are the cringe worthy words, “Can’t you just take them off the Internet?” Yikes!
Fortunately, this post includes a number of links to sites that allow you to use photos for free, legally!
Once we explain that you cannot simply take anything off the web and use it as you see fit, sometimes the next question is:
…but can’t you just change it a little bit?“
That’s also a big, whopping NO unless you find images that allow permitted use, typically as part of a Creative Commons license, public domain or with some type of special written (documented) permission.
Best to check the licensing information from any website where you download free images such as Pixabay, etc. Especially in regards to images of people. Have the models signed a release? Can you use the images “as is” for commercial use such as on t-shirts or ebooks that you are selling? With sites like Pixabay, this can be a bit questionable so if you’re not absolutely sure do not use the images with people in them for commercial projects.
Even when you download images and graphics from sites where you pay for the content you also have to be careful. Make sure to read the licensing info, especially in regards to commercial use. You may be surprised to learn that even if you pay for an image you cannot use it on a product you are selling without exclusive rights to do so or substantially altering or re-creating the image.
Be aware that if you didn’t take a picture, or someone else created it, and you found and saved it from the Internet, using it could possibly be copyright infringement.
Copyright law varies by country. For the most part it’s common sense. Trademarks, logos, brand images and so on are protected by copyright and if you use them without permission you might get a nasty violation notice.
Avoid using celebrity photos without permission. Celebrities have legal teams who love to send out cease-and-desist requests to people who use their images.
Do NOT just go to your favorite search engine such as Google or Bing and search for images and then grab the one you want to use. Use the following methods to find and safely use images that are free to modify and share.
One of my favorite tools is the “Search Creative Commons” website, which allows you to search several free image websites via one interface. The screenshot below came for using this tool:
Fortunately, there’s a wealth of free to use free to use and modify stock image resources on the web. These are some of my favorites: