In today’s competitive online world, the web is saturated with all manner of creative websites, thought-provoking articles and heartfelt blogs. With titles such as “the ultimate list of low-carb keto recipes” to “You won’t believe what these 10 famous child actors are up to now”, sometimes it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. One of the best ways to do that is to include some eye-catching images!
But here’s the problem, what if you don’t have the right photo? What if you weren’t able to take a good enough snapshot, or even worse, you forgot to entirely? Now your article looks as bland and colourless as a 5th grader’s textbook that won’t pique anyone’s interest. But not to worry, there’s a way to get photos on Google for absolutely free! Let me show you how.
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What are Royalty-Free Photos?
Now you might be thinking; why can’t I just copy and paste images like I used to do for my high-school project? As convenient as that may be, they’re not your photos to take, they’re owned by someone else. You can’t just pick a random picture off Google and use it for your own website, you’re basically stealing!
An image is the legal property of the owner, and you can only use it if you are given permission. This can be through a verbal agreement with the creator, or you can purchase a license for the photo, which can be done on websites such as Shuttershock or Getty Images. Others will state outright that their image is free for the public to use under certain conditions.
What are the Different Levels of Copyright?
Some creators allow their photos to be used, as long as certain conditions are met. Some simply want to be given credit for their work while others won’t allow you to profit off their image or even change it.
CC BY – You can share, adapt, and build upon the author’s work, even commercially, as long as you give them credit for the original work.
CC BY-SA – You can adapt and build upon the author’s work even for commercial purposes. Credit needs to be given to the author and your new creation needs to be under the same license.
CC BY-ND – You can reuse the work of an author for any purpose, including commercially, however, it cannot be shared with others in an adapted form. Credit must also be given to the original author.
CC BY-NC – You can adapt and build upon the author’s work non-commercially. Credit must be given to the original author and be non-commercial, though you don’t have to license derivative works on the same terms.
CC BY-NC-SA – You can adapt, and build upon the author’s work non-commercially, as long as you give them credit and license new creations under identical terms.
CC BY-NC-ND – This license is the most restrictive. You can only download the author’s work and share it with others, as long as you give them credit. You cannot profit in any way.
Where Can You Find Royalty-Free Photos?
There are several websites available where you can find royalty-free photos! Websites such as Pexels, Pixabay and Unsplash are amongst the most popular as they have high-quality photos and, best of all, you don’t need to give the author any credit or backlink in any way!
Flickr and Wikimedia Commons also have an extensive selection of images, however, they’re much lower quality and usually require proper attribution for the author’s photos. They’re still free, they just require a bit of extra work.
Searching through each of these websites one by one can be very time consuming, though luckily, Google acts as an easy one-stop-shop that gathers free photos from all these websites at once!
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Royalty-Free Photos on Google
For years, Google images has been everyone’s default stop to find photos! Even now, it can still be used by up-and-coming bloggers and entrepreneurial website owners to spruce up their online projects, all while not spending a single penny!
Obviously, you can’t just pick any photos off Google willy-nilly, as you have no right to use them. Luckily everyone’s favourite search engine is always one step ahead! All it takes is a few simple steps to find all the royalty-free photos you’ll ever need.
How to Find Royalty-Free Images
Let’s play out a scenario. You spent a wonderful weekend away in Rome and returned home eager to write about your experiences and maybe a few helpful guides for other aspiring travellers.
But disaster, your photo skills are equal to a 6-year-olds and the shot came out blurry, or you just flat out forgot to take that all-important snapshot. You’re lacking just the right photos to add that extra pep to your article, so now you have to rely on Google to find yourself some free photos. So let me show you what to do.
Just like you’ve done a million times before, head to Google images and search for your desired image e.g., Rome.
How about that, so many beautiful photos! Just a shame that you can’t use any of them as they belong to someone else.
Now you need to narrow down the photos to ones you can use for free. First, you need to click “Tools” button to the bottom right of the search bar.
Next, you need to click the “Usage Rights” dropdown menu and then select “Creative Commons Licenses”. If you’re willing to pay for photos, then you could select “Commercial & Other Licenses” instead.
Congratulations, before you is an awesome selection of royalty-free photos you are welcome to use free of charge. Just be sure to check which license the photo has to see how you’re permitted to use it i.e. commercially or not.
Now simply browse through the different options and pick the photo you want!
Great, you found one, but hold your horses cowboy, this isn’t just a simple copy & paste kind of deal. First, you need to click the link to find the source image where you should be able to download it.
Some sites like Wikimedia Commons allow you to download the images with a click of a button, while others like Flickr, Pixabay and Pexels need you to register an account first. Don’t worry, all these sites are still free!
Okay, the last step, but this is the most important one. Many authors require you to give credit for their work by attaching appropriate links to both the author and their work. And yes, this is very necessary as you could be sued for using someone else’s work…so best avoid that headache!
To find details on the licenses used for the image, click on “License details” which will take you to the creative commons website where they give clear details on what you’re allowed to do with the image and what you need to do (more on that below.)
Remember to Check the License!
Though you do find royalty-free photos with this method, some of the photos’ license’ may not allow commercial use. That means you cannot use the image to make a profit or even in marketing. If you’re one of the many people that advertise on your website, then you’re out of luck too.
You just need to double-check which license they use. If you happen to see a little dollar sign with a line through it, then you cannot use it commercially.
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How to Give an Author Credit
Many of the owners of the images require attribution, meaning that you must give credit to them for their work. Sadly there is no standardized way to give attribution, however, they usually involve three things: a link to the author, a link to the original source of the photo and the creative commons license.
It sounds like mind-bending legalese, but not to worry, it’s pretty simple.
The Steps of Attribution
Let’s continue with our Rome theme. While browsing the “Commerical Use Allowed” photos on Flickr, I found a perfect image of the Colosseum which I can use for my article.
Beneath the date the image was taken, I can see that the license of the photo, which shows I’m free to use the photo as long as I give credit to the author.
The first step is the get the author’s name and then link back to their Flickr profile. So in this case, we have:
Photo by Sean MacEntee
Next, you need to add the licence used for the photo. To find it, click on “some rights reserved” which will take you to the Creative Commons website. From there you can copy the name of the license and you could also link back to that page just to be extra careful:
Last but certainly not least, you need to add a link to where you found the image in the first place. Write down which site you found the image then link back to it.
And there you have it, an appropriately credited photo! You’ve given more than enough details to track down the author, the source image and the license of the photo. In the eyes of the law, you’ve done enough to prove whose photo this really is and that you’re allowed to use it. Now get on Google and find yourself some free photos now!