we think a lot about visual content.
We’ve shared our own study on the importance of images in Twitter posts for more social sharing. We’ve explored tools that help anyone create visual content. Our social media management tool incorporates image posting because we know how important that element is to engage your followers and fans.
But there’s one question we get asked quite often: Where can you find free images that are high quality and cleared to use for your blog posts or social media content?
It’s a question with a lot of different answers and caveats. Nearly every image created in the last 30 years is still protected by copyright—a protection that gives virtually every author the exclusive right to use or reproduce their work. But you can find a public domain photo, use a Creative Commons image that might need attribution, or even create your own image from scratch.
In this post, we’ll share more than 20 different sources and tools for free images, covering searchable image sites, create-your-own-image tools, and more.
(Related: If you are interested in learning how to pick and use such images, you might like our complete guide to using stock images in your marketing.)
24+ Sites to Find Free images You Would Actually Use for Your Marketing
Understand these terms before using any free images
A few things to know before we get started. The following terms will come up often as we discuss free image sources. Read over the terms and conditions of each site you try so you know exactly when and what type of attribution is required.
What is Creative Commons?
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. There are various types of Creative Commons licenses that range from allowing any type of use with no attribution to allowing only certain uses and no changes.
What is public domain?
Works in the public domain are those whose copyrights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. Finding something on the internet does not mean it is in the public domain.
What is royalty free?
Royalty-free images aren’t necessarily free. In most cases, you’ll have to pay a one-time fee to obtain the rights to use the image. Then you can use it as many times as you like. The “free” in “royalty-free” only means that you do not have to pay royalties to the owner of the image every time you use it. For a comprehensive read on royalty-free images, check out this guide by Amos Struck.
24+ websites to find free images for your marketing
To better help you evaluate these sites, I performed the same search, if possible, on each using the term “happy people.”
Unsplash has its own license, which essentially lets you use the images for free, in any way you like, except for using them to create a competing website. (We are huge fans of Unsplash here at Buffer!)
2. Burst (by Shopify)
Burst is a free stock photo platform for entrepreneurs by Shopify. The images are both free and royalty-free. (Burst has a cool section of business ideas, with tips and high-resolution images for getting your business started.)
Pexels also has its own license, which states what you can and cannot do with the images. You can use and modify the images for free for both commercial and personal use without attribution.
Images on Pixabay are licensed under Creative Commons Zero (CC0), which means you can use the images without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist (though it’s always appreciated). Pixabay provides a gentle reminder to check that the content depicted in the images doesn’t infringe any rights.
5. Free Images