It happened about five years ago. It was referencing a blog post that I’d written for my first blog Confetti Diaries. Instead of using free stock photos, I got caught using a photo that wasn’t mine. It was a picture taken by a professional photographer that I didn’t have the rights to use. And boy was the artist mad.
I know. As a blogger, I should have known better. I “borrowed” the photo from another person’s website and included it in a round up post. It turned out that the blogger I “borrowed” the photo from was also using it illegally.
The problem was that her blog had been shut down about a year prior to this happening. Oh, I wonder why.
I lost any evidence that I had. There was no way to contact her and I couldn’t prove (or even figure out) which post on her blog had the original photo.
Big lesson learned. You always need to have the rights to use any photos you want to include on your business blog.
Some of us are born photographers. Taking photos is just something we do. I’m always impressed by some of the amateur photography that people take. Their work is beautiful.
Others of us aren’t. Although I can take wonderful photos, usually I don’t have time. I usually want to write my blog post and publish it. Photos are an after thought.
After I got into trouble, I started using only my own photos on my blog. I was that scared.
Most of the blog posts I write for my stationery shop are DIY style. I take photos of the different steps for each project. This type of photography you can’t purchase from stock photo sites or find free stock photos.
Over time, I learned how to take amazing photos for my blog posts. I didn’t have a choice.
But there were moments when I couldn’t snap the right photo that I needed. Either due to lack of time, props or just vision, I couldn’t create the perfect shot to set the scene for the blog post. Did it mean that I couldn’t share my idea because I lacked a visual element?
There’s always the option to purchase rights to a photo for your blog post. But I hated to constantly spend money on blog photos if I didn’t have to.
And so many of those photos I would classify as a bit cheesy. They didn’t really fit the desired look and feel of my business.
That’s when I discovered the large assortment of free stock photos that are out there. These amazing photo collections provide bloggers and business owners like myself an outlet to find related photos for blog posts without having to make a financial investment. Or risk getting into legal trouble.
Quick Note about Licenses
The reason that I got into so much trouble for the photo that I used on my blog was that I didn’t have a license to use it. I had a strange (and very wrong) impression that as long as you gave credit to the blog it was from, you could share the blog’s photo as you chose.
This is completely false. I never asked the blogger direct permission to use the photo. And in retrospect, I’m pretty sure she didn’t have permission to use the photo herself. These were the days when you just searched Google images for photos without care about the creator.
Before using any of the free stock photos or any other photo on your blog, make sure that you have explicit permission from the creator or the website. Read the fine print of the Terms and Conditions section. Make sure you understand how you can and cannot use a photograph. This will keep you out of copyright trouble and make sure that the artist is credited for their work.
And if you are in any doubt of using free stock photos on your business blog, you can always take your own pictures or sign up for a paid stock photo website.
Over the years, I have found some websites with free stock photos more useful than others. The quality of the website varies based on the content it offers (many times directly from its users) and how it is organized.
I have compiled a list of my favorite places to find free stock photos for my business blog. These websites have stellar photography and great organization systems that make the photos easy to find. Saving time when you write a blog post is always a win.
Burst (by Shopify)
I recently discovered Burst when I was looking for free stock photos for this website and it’s quickly become my favorite free stock photos website for business. I particularly love the look and feel of the photos and can’t wait to share them with my audience.
Burst is run by Shopify to provide free stock photos for your online shops. It’s purpose is to help entrepreneurs have access to photos that will help grow their businesses. The collection of photos has a modern feel that I love.
The other cool thing about this website is that it’s also full of business ideas. Shopify includes a collection of currently trending business opportunities and photograph collections so you can start creating your online business.
One of the best ways to use this website is to type in the subject of your business blog or your niche. You will find free stock photos that you can use to add to your business blog posts or social media.
Unsplash is probably one of the first websites for free stock photos that I stumbled upon. I love the modern look of the photography. And the photos are organized into easy to navigate categories. You can easily find your business’ niche and search for unique photos related to it.
With an account, you’re able to collect the photos that you love and save them to use later. This is great if you like to time block your work. You can search for photos one day and decide which ones you want to use later.
This modern free stock photos site has a variety of beautiful photos to help tell your brand’s story. The photos are organized into collections curated by the sites users.
You can explore collections about feelings, locations and color. Or choose a photo set that helps tell your business and marketing story. I was excited to find a collection dedicated to creatives and stationery.
These free stock photos are also perfect for adding to your blog posts, using in your product promotion or sharing on social media with your own story.
Reshot is another free stock photos website that is focused on providing modern photos to freelancers and entrepreneurs. The photos purposely avoid looking like stock images and give a more unique vibe to your creative work.
Reshot’s goal is to provide a platform for emerging photographers to share a sample of their work for other creatives to use. Through exploring the different artist’s work, you can also learn more about some of today’s up and coming photographers. Support these photographers and their creativity by visiting their shops, sharing their profiles and following them on social media.
My other favorite part. Reshot has a super simple license. Like one paragraph long. There’s not a lot of mistaking what you can and can’t do with their free stock photos.
The photos are organized into themed packs. You can find a variety of themes from Active to Flat Lays. This website does take a bit more time to browse. But the photographs are beautiful, so I don’t mind losing myself for a little bit to enjoy the beautiful images.
If you’re on the hunt for landscape and travel vistas for your business blog, Kaboom Pics has you covered. You can choose search for individual photos or a photoshoot with photos.
You can also search for photos with a specific color palette. This let’s you find photos that match your business brand’s colors and lighting.
I really enjoy using the photo shoot option. Photographers feature their work in these themed collections. Choose from themes ranging from the Amalfi Coast to Summer Drinks at the Seaside. It’s a great way to find visual elements to accompany almost any unique blogging topic.
Although there are a lot of feminine stock photo websites out there, Styled Stock boasts free stock photos with a feminine feel. At least some of them are free.
When you browse through their collection of images, some of them are free stock images and easy to download.
But other images on their website are only available for purchase as part of the themed stock photo collections. Unfortunately, you can’t tell if an image will cost you money when browsing the website. You need to click on the photo thumbnail and it will say “Free” if it’s a free stock photo.
Also, sign up for their newsletter to receive even more exclusive free stock photos in your inbox. And who doesn’t want free photos?
Although I used to use Flickr and Creative Commons as my go to for all photos in public domain, I like the website layout of Skitterphoto. All photos included on the site are in the public domain and free for your use.
One of my favorite features is that the website tells you how popular a photo is. Each photo includes information about how often it’s been viewed and downloaded. This information is helpful to determine how many times a particular photo might be seen on the Internet.
My recommendation is to always avoid using free stock photos that have been downloaded too often. Photos that are overused dilute the originality of your business blog post and make it harder for you to stand out in an already cluttered blogosphere.
Instead, find free stock photos that have fewer downloads. This will give you a better chance of making your own brand stand out.
If you’re looking for something that’s a little more original for your business blog, check out the free stock photos website Gratisography. Specializing in the quirky and different, Gratisography includes a collection of slightly odd photos that are perfect for giving your blog post a unique feel.
From colorful walls to funny faces, this is definitely not the place to search for a traditional photo. But I do love all of the vibrant colors and unique angles. It’s the perfect go to when you want your blog post to really stand out.
For a one stop shop of free stock photos, Pixabay has you covered. With over a million free stock photos on it’s site – and the collection is still growing – this is the place to go no matter what kind of photo you’re looking for.
Simply type a term into the search bar and select the type of file that you’re looking for. If you’re also a designer (or just someone trying to create printables as an opt-in), Pixabay offers a wide assortment of free vectors and illustrations for your design work also. It’s a great place to look for graphics as well as photos.
You can also search for your term with different options. You can add a specific color, category, size and orientation to your search. The results are pretty amazing.
For example, I searched “ladybug”. After the results came up, I added the category “Business/Finance”. I ended up with a variety of ladybug piggy banks. Or add “Food/Drink” and end up with a ladybug mug and ladybug macarons.
Okay, time for my last favorite. Pikwizard is similar to Pixabay because it also boasts more than a million images. But the quality of the images is a bit more artsy. They look more like you took the photo and less like a traditional stock photo.
The Pikwizard license is a bit stricter and less clear too. It seems that you can use the photos on your blog, but you do not have commercial use of the photo. Also, I couldn’t figure out if you needed to attribute the photo to someone. Social media use seemed vague too. So read the terms carefully.
Also, Shutterstock mixes in Premium photos into the free stock photos. It can be frustrating if you fall in love with a photo for your blog post just to find that you have to pay to use it. Not my favorite layout.
But, oh the photos. They’re colorful, creative and absolutely beautiful. And since there are so many to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect one to use for your blog post.
When writing your business blog, adding a visual element to your blog posts is really important. It helps illustrate your ideas and keep visitors on your blog longer.
But adding “photographer” to your list of job titles might not be the best use of your time. Especially when there’s so many different free stock photos out there to choose from.
Explore some of the websites listed above and choose your favorites to use when writing your blog post. Bookmark the websites for easy reference when you’re writing your blog post.
Most importantly, when choosing a photo for your blog post, make sure that the style of the photo matches your business branding. It’s never a good idea to use just any photo. You want to choose one that has the same look and feel of your business and product offerings.
Need help writing your first blog post for your business? Check out these tips on getting your business blog started and why I believe that having a business blog is one of the most effective marketing tools out there.