Finding Free Photos for Your Creative Projects: Part 1

Whether you’re a creative professional in need of stock photography or a student who simply needs images for a slideshow, the search for high-quality, royalty-free photography can be lengthy and challenging. The good news is that finding royalty-free photos is not as hard as it might seem at first, you just need to know where to look. This three-part blog post series will offer some suggestions of where to find these photos and, going a step further, will break down some of the ways images are offered online for free. 

This week, we look at websites that offer “free” images.

But first, a quick disclaimer: This blog post gets into some specifics of copyright law. While we hope the guide below is useful, this post in no way constitutes formal legal advice. It is simply an informational jumping-off point. 

“Free” as a License

A number of websites offer “free” or “royalty-free” or “freely-usable” images. There are many terms you’ll see that advertise this, but what these terms come down to is a license that allows for download and use of these photos. Even though the images are “free,” there are often still rules regarding their use. 

Whatever their reason, some photographers elect to give away their work for free online. The sites they upload their work to lay out the terms and conditions in the license. That means that when you download an image from the site, you are automatically agreeing to follow the rules of the license. Thankfully, many of these licenses are simple, common sense, and easy to understand. The important thing is to read the license and follow its rules!

Sites that offer “free” photos in this sense tend to have the most up-to-date, trendy, and high-resolution photographs. Sometimes, the site will require a free account to download the images and there might be advertisements for paid images, but a majority of the photos will be available at no cost. 

Be careful, however, of sites trying to trick people into giving away their personal information in exchange for “free” images. If a site asks for things like your credit card number, address, social security number, or even your phone number, steer clear -- it’s likely a scam!


If you’re interested in learning more about copyright, don’t forget to check out SLPL’s many resources on the subject. Click here to browse the catalog. 

Next week, we’ll look at Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that is trying to make it easier to share, find, and use creative works.

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