Images are an integral part of any marketing endeavor. There are pictures and images everywhere online. They are so easy to find and download that it can be difficult to abide by copyright laws. “Fair use” designations are sometimes murky and may only be clear in a court of law.

But who wants to get to that point?  

To avoid the hassle (and expense) of a possible lawsuit due to copyright infringement, it is extremely important that the photos you use on your website or blog are either (1) photos taken by you or your company, or (b) copyright-free.

Here are a few more tips to get you started choosing the right type of photos to use:

What Types of Photos Should I Use?

Every image that is produced is licensed in some way.  Some are licensed under Creative Commons Zero, which means that the photographer (or designer) has waived all rights to the image.  The image can then be downloaded and used for any (legal) purpose – included additional graphic design and commercial usage.

Some websites offer free images to be used for these purposes – but always check the licensing & terms section for fine print.

Here are a few sites to start with for a nice assortment of free images, all under the CC0 license:

Some Places to Look

Startup Stock Photos

Start Up Stock

This website has great photos to use, free of charge, for you to use in your marketing and advertising endeavors.  The majority of the photos use everyday office situations as subject matter, making it a one-stop-shop if you’re blogging for a business or more professional services.


Picjumbo example - jpg

This site includes high quality photographs available for download – for free! Begun in late 2013, this site has seen nearly 2 million downloads of its images.  Although attribution is not required, it is appreciated. The photographer, Viktor, puts a ton of time and effort into creating beautiful stock photography to for bloggers and web designers to use.

Canva Photos 

Canva Photos gives you the option to download from their thousands of quality stock photos. Better yet, they give you the option to overlay text, icons, and illustrations on the photo, right in the cozy comfort of their website – no need to download any software. Its the perfect tool for busy bloggers or business owners who are on the go but want to get the word out with quality images.


Pexels example

This site has a lot of really great photos of specific subject matter – a mallard duck, classy wine bottles, or a healthy salad, anyone? Ten new photos are uploaded everyday, making it a great site to visit as you begin your morning at work.


Unsplash photo example - jpg

Every ten days, ten new images appear on this website.  The photos are varied in style and subject matter and are never “cheap” looking. A subscription option is available to those who would like to receive a notification when the new images are available. (If you’re like me, you forget to keep checking back).

The great CC0 license gives any user the ability to download and modify these images without requiring attribution.  With an ubelievable volume of photos to choose from, this is one site that is easy to use and enjoy.

Sometimes it happens that an image was unlawfully posted onto a stock photo site.  When this happens, the site will usually remove the image promptly.

Looking for More Options? 

There are many great companies that you can work with to purchase additional stock photos, often at a very low price. After paying a license fee (usually included under a “subscription”), these images are available to use for a specific use – perhaps for a website, or for editorial purposes, or print materials.

Once again, always check with the website’s permission specifications. Many websites (or even individual photos within the site) include their own set of permissions, including whether or not the image can be used on social media, for editorial purposes alone, on a printed brochure, etc.

Bigstock Photo

Bigstock is a fast, easy-to-use marketplace for quality stock images. You can buy what you want in the size and format you need when you are ready for it. The subscription plans differ greatly, so be sure to pick the one that fits your needs best.


Dreamstime offers both free images and images for purchase. A free Membership is required to access anything in the site. In order to use licensed images you will need to purchase either a credit package or subscription. The costs of these are dependent on the plan chosen.  With over 13.5 million images to choose from, this is a great site to utilize.

on the website homepage, Free Digital Photos advertises that “Our free photos and illustrations are ideal for business, personal and educational use. Every image is free, with an option to buy larger images at reasonable prices.” allows you to to enjoy using their images in almost any project. However, if you use a free image, you must include a proper acknowledgement to the artist (instructions on how this must be done is outlined on the website).

This site has images that are in public domain.  Pictures may be used for any purpose including commercial purpose. If you are using their images online you do need to hyperlink back to them. There will be a Html link to be used when you download the image. They do note that some photos do require a model or property release and that photos featuring products should be used with care.


MorgueFile allows you to remix/adapt images as well as use their images for commercial purpose. The nice thing about their images is that you are able to use them without attributing the original author. However, you are not allowed to sell, distribute, or claim ownership of those images in their original state without the permission of the contributor and are prohibited from using their work in a stand alone manner without first contacting the photographer.


Best SMART practices

S – Stay safe by checking the licensing/copyright details before using an image.

M – Make a master list of websites that you have researched and trust to download images from.  This will be helpful to share with your coworkers.

A – Attributes are often required by photographers when you use their photos.  Use them when necessary and when they can be used to honor & bring attention to photographers who freely offer their photos for public use.

R – Refer back to the website periodically to ensure that the permissions have not changed.

T – Take copyright laws seriously. Legal liabilities can result from improper use.  It is also just plain disrespectful to steal another person’s masterpiece for your own use!

If you need an image for blogs or articles and you do not have the image you want in your media library – don’t just pull one from anywhere on or off the web. There are a number of places around the web where you can download the right stock images to suit your purpose.

For more information on amping up your marketing with the right photos, talk to a pro.  The Art Unlimited team specializes in marketing strategies and best practice – we’re always happy to share our expertise.

Contact us with your questions today.

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Originally published: June 1, 2012
Information updated: July 31, 2015