Go on any web site and usually, its images convey everything about the site. That’s what you want yours do to. When visitors come to your website, it’s important that they are visually enticed about the products you’re offering. Too few images, while it may impart a clean, crisp look, may not say enough about your online business. But too many may clutter the look and feel of your site and turn visitors away.

Along with motivating copy, the right amount, and the right kind, of images can make the difference between a ho-hum site and one that keeps your audience engaged and regularly coming back for more. Once you know the look you’re striving for (or even if you already have an established look for your web site and are simply seeking to freshen things up), finding great photography is the next easy step.

Or is it easy?

Avoid Copying Random Images, Give Credit To CC Sources

Sure, it’s easy in the sense that you can spot that perfect image a mile away. Clearly, you know what you want whether it’s a specific angle, accurate lighting, a certain color scheme or a mood. Once you find it, it’s easy to right click and save that jpg, isn’t it? It’s a piece of cake to then insert that image on your home page, right? Yes and yes. But it’s also easy to get involved in serious matters like copyright infringement issues, legal battles and licensing concerns. Not fun.

For example, many folks out there assume that because an image was found through a Google image search that it’s there for the taking. The idea in this case is that Google = online and therefore, online = free access for anyone just because it exists. But even in that case, legal ramifications abound.

The purpose of this article isn’t to outline the specifics behind such legalities, but rather, to make you aware that legal issues exist and ultimately, that the responsibility of knowing the intricacies of image rights, model releases, license expiration, fees, etc. from the places you want to obtain images from fall on your shoulders.

Attribution

At the very least, it’s wise to always provide image attribution (i.e. Source: First name, last name, Getty Images via Entrepreneur magazine, Date) since proper attribution clarifies that the image is not your property, providing clear information on who it belongs to. This is true even if you purchase an image. It can’t hurt, is often an ethical choice that reflects respect and professionalism and it boosts your visibility once that photographer takes notice. Win-win!

And when in doubt: read. Scour the site or sites you want to download images from and read the “legalese,” or terms of use/rules. In that case, be sure you’re abiding by those terms and that when you create your account and check that little box that says you’re aware of those terms that indeed, you truly are.

Now, to shift away from the legal aspect and get back to what you want: a great looking web site with photography that amplifies what you’re selling and entices visitors to move deeper through your pages (ultimately to that “add to cart” section, right?).

Royalty Free Images

There are places that offer images for free or little cost, giving you access to head-turning photography that’ll make your online business stand out. This does not mean legal terms or creating an account go entirely by the wayside (in every instance, it never hurts to familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of each photo site), but does lessen the worries and hoops that are more harshly enforced when using a supremely popular online photo house. In some cases, attribution is not required (although we think a shout-out to the photographer is always a nice thing to do anyway).

Read on to score some pretty awesome finds but just remember, even though many are free, don’t require attribution or allow images to be used commercially, doesn’t mean certain terms don’t exist. In each instance below, be sure to read the legal section of their site before using their images on your own web site.

Top 8 Photography Sites to Download Free Images

1. PublicDomainPictures.net

PublicDomainPictures.net

PublicDomainPictures.net has over 20,000 images that are free and can be used for personal and commercial reasons. All of the photos on this site were taken and uploaded by the photographers themselves. That personal touch is evident throughout the site, making it an appealing choice compared to many of the cliché, over-used images a lot of other sites gravitate towards. From business people, clouds, families and adorable cats (hey, you never know what an expression can convey about some aspect of your site) there’s bound to be something for everyone. As with all sites similar to this, be sure to read the terms (no, we can’t say it enough!). In this instance, some photos require a hyperlink if redistribution is intended. Bonus: You don’t need to register to utilize the service.

2. Pixabay

Pixabay

Pixabay offers free images in public domain that are ideal for personal and commercial web-based projects. When you get to their site, you can’t help but be lured by the striking visual on their home page which may be anything like a beautiful close-up of an animal or perfectly-captured expression of an enthusiastic businessman. Simply type in what you’re searching for and if you’d like, narrow down the image type (photo, clipart, vector) and you’re set. If you’re selling music online, take a peek at some of their options here. Like PubicDomainPictures.net, if photography’s your thing and you’re so inclined, you can also upload your pictures to the site and engage with the Pixabay community. Also, it’s not necessary to register.

3. Image*After

Image After

This online collection of photos allows you to download and use any image on their site for free. Whether for personal (think creative exchanges among friends or family) or commercial (for your profit; often confusion between the two, or a fine line between them, is what gets folks in legal trouble so it’s refreshing that this site allows both).

4. FreeFoto.com

FreeFoto.com

This site claims to be one of the largest collections of free photos on the internet. With over 100,000 choices across nearly 200 sections and thousands of categories, it’s like a dream come true. Note that a link back and attribution are required and they encourage interested people to take a look at their “rules” section.

5. FreePixels.com

FreePixels.com

FreePixels.com boasts a collection of categories ranging from exotic fruits and technology to sunsets and abstract images. Who knows what might be the right fit for your website. According to their terms, “Freepixels grants to you a non-exclusive, non-transferable license to use and reproduce the images on the terms and conditions contained in this agreement. Images and digital creations downloaded from our website may be used for both personal and commercial purposes under the limitations of this license. Any magazine, newspaper or other publication, product, design element or promotional material they appear in may be sold or distributed in any way for an unlimited number of times.”

And now for the downside:

“However, you may not share an image or digital creation by providing access on shared disk drives or network, resell any image or digital creation, use any image or digital creation as part of a trademark or patent image, use any image or digital creation as part of a logo, produce printed reproductions of any image or digital creation on canvas or paper to be sold . . .”

The wording goes on, but still, this is a site worth exploring. Besides, it’s doubtful most of us are considering canvas reproduction or the like when we’re focused on keeping our online business running successfully.

6. Free Images Live

Free Images Live

This online photo library lets you select from a range of categories that can be used commercially or personally. While registration isn’t required, users have to link back to the site if the intention is to use the images. While some free sites have slightly diminished quality, all of the ones here are high-res and watermark free.

7. Stock Photos for Free

Stock Photos for Free

Stock Photos For Free gives you access to over 100,000 images in a variety of categories. To use this site, registration is needed, or you can log in with a Facebook account. All of their photos are in high-definition (1920px x 1080px), can be used commercially or personally across all forms of media and can be distributed worldwide.

Want to completely avoid legal matters, rules and registration when it comes to using photography on your web site?

8. Use Your Own Images

If you have a decent camera and a good eye, why not consider taking your own images and using those images on your web site? Or, if you’re pressed for time and can’t easily get into picture-taking mode, take a look at what already exists by your own doing. You’d be surprised how many photos you may already have taken that are sitting in your Facebook albums (or other social media), so why not sift through your own images? Just be careful about images showing other people or even business names/logos, becuase securing permission is a must. But if they’re generic enough and appropriate, Who knows . . . you may already have all the photography you need right in front of you. This way, you’ll bypass having to browse through hundreds of selections online and be sure to get precisely what you want, without any worries at all!

Resources For Royalty Free Images