4 tips for finding fantastic free photos

Your content deserves engaging, striking images to capture readers’ imaginations. Finding high-quality pictures that are free to repurpose takes a little extra effort.

4 free photo sources

The old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” still rings true in the digital age.

Tweets with images receive 150 percent more retweets, and Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than posts without them. When it comes to blogging, articles with an image once every 75-100 words get double the number of social shares than articles with fewer images.

With everyone and their mother adding “professional iPhone photographer” to their resumes these days, finding great photography for your external communications is even more crucial. Your readers are digitally savvy, busy and know what an awesome photo looks like. If your photos can draw them in to your content, even for just a bit, it’s worth it.

It’s easy to do a quick Google image search and find pictures to use, but if you use photos without the proper permission, your business could find itself in some hot water.

The safer route involves doing one of two things:

  • Paying for stock photography. (Adobe, Shutterstock, etc.)
  • Finding awesome stock photography and Creative Commons Zero licensed pictures.

The second option is free.

For those who don’t know, pictures under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license are free for personal or commercial use and require no attribution. Most PR pros love a good bargain—so when it comes to finding pictures, the cheap option has much to recommend it.

Here are four places to find free pictures for blogging and social media:

1. Free stock photo sites

If you are looking for generic images to add visual depth to your communications, there are countless free stock photo sites out there. Some of my favorites include PixabayPexelsFree RangeUnsplash and Fancy Crave.

The sites partner with creatives and photographers to offer CC0 licensed photos for anyone and everyone to use. (No attribution required.)

On several of the sites, you have the option to download high-resolution files which is key when publishing to websites and blogs. The pictures offered are great for general image needs (Think: landscapes, office settings, technology, food, people). Often, I turn to these sites when putting together PowerPoint presentations or looking for a header image in a blog post.

2. Creative commons search

More specific photo needs (restaurants, celebrities or landmarks) can be tougher to find on a stock photography site with a CC0 licensed. Understandably, paparazzi don’t want to offer the world their photos free of charge and without attribution.

That’s where CC Search comes in. CC Search is a website that aggregates access to search services from other independent organizations. Essentially, it is a starting point to find photos that can be used for commercial purposes and/or modified, adapted or built on. Begin at CC Search and from there, jump to Google images, images from Flickr or images from Pixabay.

Note: CC Search does not guarantee CC0 Licensed images. It is always good to verify that the work is indeed CC0 licensed by clicking through to the source. Sometimes the photos are free to use but require attribution—and when in doubt, attribute.

3. Press kits

This may seem like an obvious last option, but it’s easy to forget about press kit image banks. For me, it’s second nature to head to a stock photography site and try to find a generic image, but you would be surprised how many businesses have press kits on their website with high resolution image banks accessible to the public and media.

One of the accounts I work on involves writing and publishing a Swedish-American digital magazine. We’re often writing about very specific Swedish customs, food and daily life, so good photography can be hard to come by.

Yet, when digging through Sweden’s website, I came across its image bank. The official site for the country of Sweden has an extensive image bank of high-resolution photos for media, Swedish travel agencies and government officials. It just took a little digging.

4. Social media

Lastly, thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram’s embedding capabilities, you can embed social posts directly into blogs and websites. This is particularly helpful if you are writing about a specific recent event or person and need a recent picture from the event to go in your post copy.

While embedding social media posts will not work as header images, it is a great way to source timely images throughout the copy of your post.

Where do you find your best images?

Aiden Guilfoyle works for the Hodges Partnership, a strategic communications firm in Richmond, Virginia. A version of this article originally appeared on the Gong Blog.

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