I routinely use photos to illustrate my stories on Living on the Cheap, but I rarely use my own. Instead, I search for royalty-free websites that offer free downloads of a photo that corresponds to my article topic. The Internet is full of stock photo sites that charge a minimal fee for use. But I can save you time and money by sharing five of my favorite sites that offer a free option:
Unprofound.com: This site is run by a guy named Jim who is also a primary photographer on the site. If you need stock photos to illustrate an info-packed article, you may not find it here. But I loved some of the images and found some of them to be, well, profound. You can search by using a color theme (the blue button brought up a not-so-blue photo of the word “compulsive”), or typing in a search word (type in “kids” and check out a fun photo titled “floater”). Try several keywords — it’s a challenge, but a fun one. Jim doesn’t give a flying pixel what you do with the photos – he likes to share.
Freedigitalphotos.net: I often use this site. The small downloads are free, but remember to include a credit line for the photographer and the website. You can easily search for photos using keywords, and once you have agreed to the terms of service and typed in the provided passcode, the photo downloads to your computer.
Stock.xchange: Sign up at this site for access to free photos that are great for use as wallpaper, blog illustrations or other projects. Searches can be a bit confusing, but the choices are varied enough that you are likely to find something that will work well for your particular project. Check the licensing rules carefully before using the photos as there are several forms of permissions. Also be sure you are downloading site photos instead of the higher-priced photos from other sites that are confusingly located near the free ones.
Unsplash.com: This site is different than the others. It is a Tumblr blog that offers 10 free, high-quality, artistic photos every 10 days. You sign up using your email address. The statement “do what you want” is linked to the Creative Commons site, which explains the no-restrictions policy for participants. The photos merit a credit to the photographer.
Morguefile.com is a free site created by Kevin Connors, Michael Connors and Johannes Seeman. The photos are contributed by artists to be freely used for creative works such as illustrations, presentations and visual accessories. Some images are stunning works of art. Keep in mind that you do not own these images and must contact the photographer for permission if you are planning to use them as stand-alone pieces. If you have questions on copyright, consult the FAQ page on the site. Whenever possible, give credit to the photographer – it is good karma.
Bonus update, September 23rd: Hubspot just offered 160 FREE business-related photos. Simply sign up here to access pics of business communication, machines, etc. for your presentations, blogs or other projects.
Image by Koratmember, freedigitalphotos.net.