Images are an important part of making content for a website.
Technically speaking, you can write content without including any images, but it tends to be harder for people to read, and much less interesting visually.
Having relevant images as part of your content can help to increase audience engagement, this can potentially lead to higher traffic and profits for the website.
However, actually finding images for your website can be a little tricky, particularly if you are just starting out in website creation.
What’s the Problem?
It’s easy to assume that you can use pretty much any image when you make a website and many new users simply copy and paste images from wherever they want.
The problem is, there is copyright law surrounding the use of other people’s images, and this applies to using them on a website.
In fact, copyright law is even more significant for affiliate marketing, because you are using the images on a commercial site where you are actively trying to make a profit.
With the large number of online sites, it’s easy to assume that no one will notice if you use images that are under copyright protection.
For the most part, this is true, but as your site gets bigger, the amount of people who are going to care is likely to increase.
After all, can you imagine how bad it would be to develop a comprehensive and profitable online business and then have someone sue you for copyright infringement, which could have serious impacts on your ability to make a profit.
Additionally, there are some people who hold copyrights who intentionally look for people who are violating their copyrights.
There is a Fair Use clause that is part of copyright law, and some people use this to justify their use of some images. Personally, I would stay away from using anything under the Fair Use clause.
The issue is that copyright law is very vague and whether a copyright violation has occurred tends to be something that is determined in the courts. This means that even if you think that your use of time image falls under fair use, the person who holds the copyright may not necessarily agree.
As a consequence, using copyrighted images is a significant risk for any website owner, and this is a risk that only increases as the website increases in popularity.
Even though the risk is lower when you first start out your website, it simply isn’t worth it, and it is good practice to start finding images you can use right from when you start out with your website.
Where to Start Finding Images for your Website
There are two main approaches to finding images for a website.
The first of these is paid services, like Shutterstock and Canstock. These services offer high-quality images in a database that is easily searchable.
I’m not really going to focus on paid services, because they can be expensive and this is an expense that you don’t need, particularly when you are first starting out working on a website.
Instead, there is a range of different places to get free images from that are available for use.
In general, sites that have free images will have a much smaller collection than paid image sites, so it may take you longer to find the images that you are looking for. However, if you have the time, it is certainly worth doing, as the money you save can be significant.
One source of free images is photographs that you take yourself.
This is actually a particularly powerful image source because you can take photos on cameras, mobile phones, tablets and other devices, which gives you a lot of options.
One of the nice things about taking your own photos is that there is no need to look at the terms of copyright. After all, you are the copyright holder.
For example, some people use this approach to take photos of products that they review, as well as them actually trying the product. Needless to say, this is only effective if the product is physical rather than electronic.
One effective approach that I have found is to browse images online (both free and copyrighted) for inspiration and then use what I found to help me determine what I will photograph.
Taking your own photos works really well for some niches, and not so well for other ones.
Say you had a website dedicated to gardening, and you were an avid gardener.
One of the key sources of images for your site could be photos of your garden and what it produces. Not only would this make your site look wonderful, but it would also provide a more personal touch.
Many cooking websites also take this approach, because it lets them ensure that their images perfectly represent any recipe that they are writing about.
However, if your niche was ‘Holidays in Italy’ and you didn’t actually live in Italy, then taking your own photos probably wouldn’t be that helpful.
In some cases, taking screenshots or screen captures can also be a good way of getting images for your site.
This is very easy to do and can be quite effective, particularly if your topic is electronic rather than physical.
However, you do need to be a little careful with screen captures to make sure you don’t violate copyright.
For example, if you took a screen capture of you using software or of part of a website, then you would probably be fine.
But, this wouldn’t be the case if you simply took a screen capture of an image that was on someone’s site.
The bottom line is if you are unsure about the copyright on an image, then you should probably avoid using it.
Free Image Sites
There are a number of different websites that offer free to use images. With these websites, it’s really important that you check the exact rules that are associated with that image.
Some images will allow you to use it without any restrictions while others will require you to link to a certain page or acknowledge the creator.
Ideally, you are looking for full use images, as these are the images that you can use in any way you want to.
In particular, you are looking for the phrase:
I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.
It’s actually possible to search for this exact term and the type of image you are looking for in Google to find free images.
Additionally, there are some websites that specialize in these types of images.
Wikimedia Commons is a website that most people don’t know about, and people frequently confuse it with Wikipedia.
In reality, Wikimedia Commons is a site where images that are hosted. All of these images can be freely reused, but many of the images on the site have some restrictions on their reuse.
However, the site does make it very obvious what the copyright restrictions on its images are.
For example, the following information was included underneath one of the images that I found on Wikimedia Commons:
Honestly, the number of other sites that focus on free images is substantial, and this doesn’t even count the images you can find simply through searching.
One reason for this is that many free image sites make money by acting as affiliates for paid stock photo sites. Often this means that they will recommend some paid images in their search results.
Realistically, there are going to be many specific free image sites that I don’t cover here, but hopefully, this selection is enough to get you started.
One site is Stock Free Images. In this case, the site offers a range of free images, while also promoting paid images from the stock photo site Dreamstime.
The images on the site (at the time of checking) are free to use with the exception of being used an essential component of a sold product, although the site does provide a copyright byline that it recommends is included with the image, although the byline isn’t actually required.
The site does have an annoying popup promoting Dreamstime, but it is still worth using despite this.
Another site I often turn to is Free Images. This time the site promotes paid images from the site iStock, but it is a good source of free images.
Two other sites that are pretty similar are Pixabay and Pexels. I’m especially fond of both of these sites, as the images tend to be high quality and can be a little bit unusual. Both sites also showcase their most recent images on their main page, which is great if you’re looking for a little inspiration.
One slightly different free image site is Startup Stock Photos. The collection of photos on this site are very specific and they strongly apply to topics like business and startups. The authors describe the motivation behind the site as such:
This particular image site is very relevant if you’re working on an internet marketing website or your niche has something to do with businesses. Plus, the owners of the site are also the ones that took the images, so this provides a better guarantee that there is no copyright associated with the images.
I’ve got one final example of an image site and this is another unusual one. The site in question is called Gratisography. This is another site where the site owner was also the photographer.
In this case, many of the images are somewhat unusual and there is quite a variety.
Nevertheless, the quality is very good and with a little digging, you may find something that works well for you. In some cases, the unique nature of the images may even be an advantage as they can help your content to stand out a bit.
When it comes to the copyright on images, affiliate sites have their own set of rules.
The rules will differ between each site, so it is very important to find out what the affiliate will, and will not, let you use as an image.
Because you are promoting a product that the affiliate owns, many affiliates will give you the required permissions to use their images.
However, this isn’t the same for every affiliate site, and some will refuse to let you use any of their images, or will require you to use them in a specific way.
One large affiliate site, Amazon Associates, actually promotes the use of its product images, providing users with many options for embedding links within images and displaying images within widgets. However, it’s much less clear whether you can use those images if you aren’t actually an affiliate.
In this final part of the article, I want to talk a little bit about scientific articles.
Many authority websites will reference the research that is done within the scientific literature and it is tempting to use images from this literature too.
In particular, using a graph or a figure is often desirable, particularly when the results of the study were complicated.
The legality on this one is a little more difficult to determine, as it can be argued that free use applies, as you are using scientific information to spread knowledge.
However, whether this is actually the case is a matter for the courts to decide, and it isn’t something you should rely on. Additionally, academic papers are published in scientific journals and these journals tend to be large for-profit organizations that are strongly protective.
Because these journals hold the copyright on the images in the articles, using them without permission is probably not a good idea.
As with affiliate sites, each journal has their own rules, and you can find out whether you can use these images by looking at the website for that journal or by contacting them directly.
When it comes to scientific images and research an interesting place to look is PLOS.
This is an open-access online scientific journal that uses the creative commons license.
The only restriction on the use of works on the site, including images, is that they are correctly cited.
This restriction isn’t a big deal at all because you would want to cite any scientific article you discuss, as this helps to give your site credibility.
Time versus Cost
The biggest differences between free and paid images are the time it takes to find them versus the cost.
Paid images take very little time, but cost, while free images take more time and don’t have the same amount of cost.
Ultimately, which approach works for you will vary depending on how much time and money you have available, and which of the two is more important.
It’s also important to note that paid images do tend to be of significantly higher quality than free ones.
As a general rule, I would recommend using free images as you start to get your site up and running and switching to paid images once you get the site off the ground and are making a profit.
Finally, you may be interested to know that all of the images used in this particular article are from various free sites and I’ve tried to include a variety of different types of images.
Being able to find good free images is important for many reasons, but this is particularly true if you are working on an online business. After all, paying for stock images is an expense you really don’t want if you are trying to get a website off the ground.
You can also find more information about various free image sites through some of the training at Wealthy Affiliate and also from the discussions that members have. After all, Wealthy Affiliate has a large community of people and many of them dig out free image sources that would work well for their websites.