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Finding Free Photos
Kate Gingold
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Finding Free Photos

The Sprocket Report

Experts emphasize the importance of graphics in your blog and social media posts and many options are available just for the googling. But where can you find images that won’t land you in intellectual property trouble?

Of course photographers and other artists deserve credit and compensation for their work and there are plenty of options for purchasing graphic images such as Shutterstock, iStockPhoto and Getty Images. But the costs may be beyond the reach of many small business owners and fledgling entrepreneurs.

While some free options are available, you need to pay a little attention to determine how “free” they actually are. For instance, many people start their photo quest by searching Google Images using the “Labeled for reuse” tab, as seen below:



Unfortunately, many of those permissions are suspect because the photos were posted by someone other than the owner and who copied them from another, original, source. You may think you’re doing the right thing, but you could still get in trouble.

The most obvious answer to the original source problem is to be the original source yourself and take your own photos. Everyone has a camera on their phone these days. You could set up some shots on purpose, regularly collect interesting images or draw from your family vacation photos.

If you want to watermark your images, there are plenty of tools that make that easy to do, although there are differing points of view on whether you should. It really won’t slow thieves down at all and some say since watermarked images are less likely to be shared, your chance of "going viral" is also less likely. We are currently experimenting with some business tips using original photos, watermarked and not. We’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Even if you make the effort to build up your own photo library, there will come a time when you simply don’t have the right image available. That’s when it’s good to know a resource like Morguefile

Morguefile boasts a total of 378,489 images and proclaims right on the Home page:  “Yes, they're all completely free.” Even with all those images, you may not locate The Perfect Picture, but you have a good shot at finding A Pretty Good Picture. When you’re searching, you’ll see that there are also other tabs, such as iStock, which have photos for purchase, but as they are heavily watermarked, don't worry that you might upload one of those accidentally.

Morguefile specifies that their images are for use in a creative work – which your blog post is – but they also suggest that you get permission from the photographer before using an image with your blog. Like everyone else writing about intellectual property on the Internet, we have to remind you that there is still a whole lot of gray area that keeps shifting, so it makes sense to try your best to do the right thing.

With so much to keep track of in the marketing world today, you don’t need to be updating your website, too. That’s where we come in. Give us a call today and let us take that task off of your To Do List.


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Kate Gingold

Kate GingoldKate Gingold

I have been writing a blog with web marketing tips and techniques every other week since 2003. In addition to blogging and client content writing, I write books and a blog on local history.

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I have been writing a blog with web marketing tips and techniques every other week since 2003. In addition to blogging and client content writing, I write books and a blog on local history.

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8 comments on article "Finding Free Photos"

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Jerilyn Willin

I am always looking for images and always wondering what laws I am breaking when use one. Thanks for this resource.


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Kate Gingold

You're welcome, Jerilyn, and I agree with with your concern. That IP gray area has never been grayer!


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Mark Buelsing

Thanks Kate. That looks like a great resource for really good images.


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Kate Gingold

Morguefile seems like the most straight-forward of the "free image" sites. Hope you find what you need there! And thanks for commenting.


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Pam Albrecht

You didn't mention pixabay.com. I use that all the time for myself and my clients. They have over 600,000 images that are free and free from copyright issues. I will check out the site you suggest as well.


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Kate Gingold

You're absolutely right, Pam! Morguefile is a good introduction as it's the least complicated. We'll talk about some of the others in an upcoming article.


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Tracey Cowart

Thanks Kate, this is an area I have been looking for information on. You write about exactly what I need to know!


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Kate Gingold

Happy to help out, Tracey! If you have questions about other topics, just lob them our way for future articles.

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