Have you ever read a long blog post where they have not used a single image? If you have, you will no doubt have found it difficult to read. Images within a post make the content much more engaging and readable. User’s attention spans are limited, in order to make them want to read your blog posts, you need to make them as engaging and visually appealing as possible.

If you use images effectively throughout your content you will no doubt find that users will want to stay longer on your site and your bounce rates will be lower. These are important factors to consider especially as Google use these metrics to rank your site.

So, how do you find images which you can legally use? Also, if you don’t have a huge budget, how do you find free images? In this post we will cover these important topics. We will also go over free image editing tools as well tools that you can use to create logos and icons. Finally, we will explain how you can create eye-catching infographics that can drive traffic to your site and how you should fully optimize your images for your site.

Finding Images That Can Be Used Legally

Before we go into detail regarding how you go about finding images for your blog, we must first cover the all-important topic of image licenses.

You can’t simply use any image that you find on the web which you like and use it on your blog posts. Most images are protected by strict copyright laws.

If you don’t have permission to use an image, you could land yourself in legal deep-water. The copyright holder could also file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice which could result in the infringing content being removed and worst of all your site could even be taken down altogether.

If you want to avoid running into copyright issues, you should be familiar with the following image licenses:

  1. Public Domain
  2. Creative Commons

Public Domain is not actually a license. Images under the public domain are not subject to copyright. The reason these images don’t have any license agreements in place is because the copyright has lapsed so therefore it no longer applies (copyright expires 70-100 years after the creator’s death depending on the country). Images under the public domain can be legally used for whatever purpose without charge and there is no need to credit the original creator.

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that allows for the original creator to retain copyright whilst allowing others to make use of their image.

Creative Commons provides 6 different types of creative licenses. The 4 licenses which are shown below are ones where you can use CC images for free. The 2 remaining licenses cannot be used for commercial purposes so these are not suitable for blogs so they are not covered here.

CCO (Creative Commons) – A Creative Commons license give you full rights to use an image, modify it and redistribute (personal/commercial use) and you do not need to attribute the original creator as the image is in the public domain.

CC BY (Attribution CC By) – The license allows you to use, redistribute, modify an image (personal/commercial use) providing that you credit the original author.

CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) – You can use, redistribute and modify an image (personal/commercial use) providing that you credit the original author and that you publish it under the same license.

CC BY-ND (Attribution-NoDerivs) – Under this license, you can use an image (personal/commercial use) providing that you do not modify it and you credit the creator of it.

How to Attribute Creative Commons Images

Whether you need to credit the source of your image will depend on the stock photo that you have chosen. If you’ve chosen to use a CCO (Create Commons license), attribution is optional. If however, you’ve selected either a CC BY, CC BY-SA or CC BY-ND stock photo, you will need to attribute the original creator of the image.

Always carefully check the image license before you use it on your site. If you’re unsure whether you need to credit the creator, do it anyway. It’s always good practice to provide attribution especially if they are offering the image for free.

In order to attribute an image that you have you not modified, you can include something like the following and provide a link back to the image:

Image by [content creator’s name] is licensed under [type of license associated with image]

If however, you have modified the original image, you include something like the following instead and link back to the original image:

Image modified [image name] by [content creator’s name] is licensed under [type of license associated with image]

Finding Free Stock Images

So, where are the best stock image sites to find free images that are covered by the Creative Commons (CC) license or are under the Public Domain?

Here are a selection of image sites where you can find high-quality images:

Pixabay

Pixabay is great resource to find high quality images, vectors and illustrations that are under the CC0 license. The site has a simple interface and allows you to filter by image type, orientation, category, size, colour and you can also filter by popularity.

Using Pixabay To Find Stock Images

Unsplash

Unsplash has over 850,000 high-resolution photos. All photos are free so they can used for commercial and non-commercial purposes and no attribution is required.

With over 100,000 photographers and creators, the community is pretty active so new content is posted regularly.

Search by a particular keyword and Unsplash will display related keyword underneath the search bar allowing you to filter down to particular category.

Using Unsplash To Find Stock Images

Pexels

Another stock image site with a good selection of high quality images. All images are licensed under the CC0 license so you can use them as you so wish.

Using Pexels To Find Stock Images

Foter

Foter differs from a regular stock photo in that instead of searching for photos on its internal database, it searches for photos on a range of sites including Flickr, Wikimedia Commons etc. This means it should save you time not having to browse through multiple stock image sites.

The site allows you to filter for images for commercial and non-commercial use.

Using Foter to Find Stock Images

Flickr

Flickr, the image sharing site can also be great place to find images for your blog. Simply enter a keyword relating to the image that you’re looking for and click Enter. Next, click on the “Any License” drop-down and select the relevant license. For example, if you’re looking for Creative Commons images you will need to select “All creative commons” from the drop-down. If you’re intending on modifying an image, you will need to select “Modifications allowed” and so on.

Using Flickr to Find Stock Images

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons is a library of over 53 million images, illustrations, drawings, video and audio files that can be used without any copyright restrictions. Most images are either under the CC-BY or CC-BY-SA licence.

Using Wikimedia Commons To Find Stock Images

RawPixel

RawPixel is another stock image site where you can search for free CC0 images, illustrations, PSD mockups and vectors to use on your site. The stock image site has a simple to use interface.

Using Rawpixel To Find Stock Images

Image Editing Tools

Once you’ve found a stock image that you like you may want to edit it or tweak it before uploading it to your site. If you don’t fancy purchasing Photoshop or spending a considerable amount of time learning about the tool, you shouldn’t worry, there are plenty of photo editing tools that are easy to use and many that are free.

Here’s a selection of some great alternatives to Photoshop:

Canva

Whether you want to create featured images for your blog posts, or create social media images or simply create a logo, Canva is the tool for you. Without any design experience you can create some truly stunning visuals in no time at all. What may have taken you hours or even days to produce in Photoshop, with Canva you can produce an eye-catching visual in a matter of minutes.

Canva provides hundreds of amazing templates which you can customize in just a few clicks with its intuitive drag and drop interface. It also have a stock library of over a million images, graphics, shapes, charts and illustrations and hundreds of fonts to choose from.

Using Canva

Gimp

If you’re looking for a free alternative to Photoshop than GIMP is a great choice. The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) allows you to retouch, edit and manipulate images.

It’s quick and easy to install and is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux and supports layers, curves, cloning, healing and much more. You can even install an update that will mimic Photoshop’s interface as well its keyboard shortcuts allowing you to quickly get up to speed with the image editor.

Using Gimp to Process Images

Paint.NET

Paint.NET is a streamlined version of GIMP and Photoshop. The free tool looks similar to Photoshop and Gimp although it has reduced functionality which means it easier to use so you won’t need to spend time learning how to use it.

It supports layers, transparency, plugins as well providing a range of different filters and it supports different image formats. It also provides common image editing functions such as cropping, rotating, resizing etc.

Using Paint.NET

Infographics

An infographic can be a great way to spruce up a long blog post. They can also be a useful aid to summarise lots of information into a single image. Best of all, infographics are often highly shared on social media platforms such as Pinterest. If your infographic goes viral, it could bring lots of traffic to your blog posts so they can prove a highly effective way to promote your site.

There are a number of sites out there which allow you to easily create great looking infographics so there’s no need to be skilled graphic designer to come up with them.

Here’s a selection of sites that will allow you to create infographics:

Canva

Canva provides a wide selection of free infographic templates which you can easily modify to suit your own needs. You can also choose from a number of free images/illustrations and other graphical elements which you can then use on your infographic.

Using Canva for Infographics

Visme

Creating infographics with Visme is a breeze. Select from hundreds of free and premium infographic templates as well millions of photos and icons. One of the great aspects of Visme is that it allows anyone on your team to make edits to your infographics. It also allows you to create animated infographics allowing you to create engaging blog posts that I’m sure your visitors will appreciate.

Easel.ly

Easel.ly provides over 320 infographic templates to choose from and millions of free illustrations and images that you can use. You can sign-up to a free account and gain access to 10 infographics. Otherwise you can sign-up to their Pro Account for $4 per month in order gain access to their full library of infographic templates.

Using Easel for Infographics

Using Freelance Graphic Designers

If you require the help of someone to design a logo for your site or you require someone to create an illustration to support the contents of one of your blog posts you may want to think about hiring the services of a graphic designer.

There are numerous sites out there where you can hire graphic designers for all tastes and budgets.

Below are some that we have used in the past and that we can recommend:

99Designs

If you’re looking for someone to create a high quality visuals then 99Designs is the site to use. One of great aspects of 99Designs is instead of hiring a specific freelancer, a number of freelancers will work on your design and you then choose the best design out of all of them. If at the end of the process you don’t like any designs, you won’t have to pay anything.

99Designs provides 4 package types which includes Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The price for the Bronze package is $229 and allows you to choose from 30 designs. While for the price for the top Platinum package is $1,299. With the top package, you get to work with top designers and can choose from 60 premium designs and you also get an assigned a manager to help with any queries you may have.

You won’t have to worry about the quality of the designers on 99Designs as each one has been vetted.

Finding Freelance Graphic Designers Using 99Designs

Upwork

Upwork is a huge online freelance marketplace with over 12 million registered users. Once you’ve created your account, you can either search for a graphic designer directly or you can post a job description and then get users to submit proposals.

Due to sheer number of users on the site, Upwork provides a comprehensive filtering system allowing you to narrow down the list of potential freelancers that may be suitable for your requirements.

Unlike 99Designs, freelancers on Upwork are not vetted so always ensure you screen any potential freelancers before hiring them.

Finding Freelance Graphic Designers Using UpWork

Tools to Create Logos and Sites to Find Icons

If you’re looking at creating a logo or you want to find some icons to use on your site and you don’t want to pay a graphic designer to create one for you, don’t worry. There are a number of tools out there that can help you create ones for free.

Here’s some great online tools that you can use:

Logomakr

Logomakr is a logo maker tool with a simple user interface that allows you to create and design great looking logos for free. The tool allows you to choose from a large library of fonts, shapes and icons to come up with your logo. You will be amazed how quickly you can create one from scratch.

Once you’ve created your logo, you can simply download it for free to your PC before uploading it to your site. If you’re looking to download a high resolution copy of your logo (.svg, .pdf format) you will have to pay a small fee of $19. LogoMakr is great tool and one that can you save hundreds of dollars.

Using LogoMakr to Create Logos

FlatIcon

FlatIcon has the largest database of free vector icons. Most of the icons on the site can be used for free providing that the icon is attributed. You can also sign-up to their premium plans which will allow you use any icon on the site without any attribution. For the premium plan, you can either pay 9.99€ monthly or otherwise you can pay 89.99€ for the yearly plan instead.

Using FlatIcon to Find Icons

NounProject

NounProject is a great resource to find high quality icons. The site has over 2 million royalty-free icons to choose from. In order to use the icons for free, you will need to credit the designer. You can however sign-up for a premium account ($39.99 yearly) instead and you will get unlimited royalty-free licenses and you won’t need to provide attribution.

Using NounProject to Find Icons

Optimizing Images for Your Site

While using images in your blog posts can have a beneficial effect, if you fail to fully optimize your images before you upload them to your site you could be wasting all your good efforts.

If you don’t resize and compress your images, they could slow your site down as larger images will take longer to download for your users especially for ones who are using mobile devices. A slow loading site can also have a negative impact on your search engine rankings as well as increase your bounce rate.

Before you upload your photos to your website you should ensure that you perform the following steps:

  • Resize the image
  • Select the right image format
  • Compress the image

These steps can all be done with an image editor, if you don’t have Photoshop, you can use a free image editor such as Paint.NET or Gimp.

The first step is to resize your image to the correct proportions. If you’re using Paint.NET, open your image up with the editor and then select Image from the toolbar and then select Resize from the drop-down menu. The Resize pop-up menu will then appear. Modify the width in pixels to the right dimensions (the height will adjust accordingly) and then click on OK.

Resizing Images Using Paint.NET

Once the image has been resized, the next step is to select the right image format. The most common formats for the web are JPEG (.jpg extension) and PNG (.png extension).

JPEG format is generally used for photos and images while PNG are used mostly for logos and elements such as buttons and background textures and images with transparency. JPEGs use lossy compression which generally means they have a lower file size than PNGs.

On the whole, you should only save images in PNG format for logos, graphs, transparent images, and graphical elements for your site such as buttons, icons and for anything else you should be using JPEG format.

The final step once you’ve selected the right format for your image is to compress the image. If you’re using Paint.NET, the Save Configuration pop-up screen will automatically appear once you’ve saved your image to the relevant file format.

Compressing Image Using Paint.NET

The Save Configuration pop-up will allow you to compress the image by selecting a relevant image quality percentage. For high-resolution images, you should be able to reduce the image quality by at least 30-40% without any noticeable quality differences. As you reduce the image quality percentage, the image size will also reduce.

Generally you should aim for images to be less than 100 Kb in size. It’s important that you experiment with setting the appropriate quality percentage for each of your images. If after reducing the image quality, you notice any obvious quality degradation such as pixelation, increase the quality percentage a little until you see that there is no noticeable negative impact on your image.

WordPress Plugins for Image Compression

Even if you’ve optimized your image before uploading it to your site, we would recommend that you also install an image compression plugin for your WordPress site.

The great thing about image compression plugins are that they will compress your image without scarifying on image quality. They work by stripping unnecessary meta data that are stored in images.

An image compression WordPress plugin that we recommend is Smush. The free and easy to use plugin will compress any images automatically that you upload to your WordPress site on the fly. For any old images that have not been optimized, you can perform a bulk Smush which will compress up to 50 images in one go.

Smush

Image SEO

While Google is a powerful search engine, it’s still not fully capable of deciphering with 100% accuracy what the contents of your images are about. You therefore need to help Google with this.

If your images show up in a Google Image Search, it can be an effective way to drive traffic from Google to your site. For this reason, it is important that you always optimize your images for the search engines.

In order to do this, you need to ensure that you perform the following:

Rename Your Image

Before uploading an image to your site, you first need to give it a descriptive filename. If you simply give an image a random name such as “img1202.jpg”, you’re not going to be helping Google understand what your image is about so always use a relevant file name that properly describes your image. If appropriate, try to include a relevant keyword within the file name although avoid keyword stuffing.

Add An Image Title

When you upload your image to WordPress, it will give you the option to add a title to your image using the media uploader. Never leave this blank. While the title won’t be displayed to the user, it will be displayed when the user hoovers their mouse cursor over the image.

Add An Image Alt Tag

The WordPress media uploader will also give you the option to add an image alt tag. Always remember to include one. The alternative text allows you to provide more information about your image to the search engines. Also, if the image can’t be displayed for any reason, the alternative text for the image will be displayed instead. This is especially important for users with visual impairments who may be using a screen reader as it will instead read out the alt text to the user.

Optimizing Images Using Media Library

Conclusion

While creating great content for your site is important, so is using eye-catching visuals. When you create a blog post, always remember to find images that support your content. It will make it much more engaging and your audience will definitely appreciate it. It can also help with SEO as users are likely to stay longer on your site.

Use some of the stock image sites mentioned in our blog post and you’ll be sure to find high-quality images which you can use for free. Don’t forget to also fully optimize your images before uploading them to your site.

Comment below and let me know what stock image sites you use and what image editing tools you find useful.

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