Where To Find Royalty Free Images

Posting articles at Life As A Human is one thing. Dressing them up with images is another thing entirely. While it’s easy enough to do an image search in Google or Yahoo, a great many of the images you will find have a copyright or a license attached to them.

Unless our authors provide us with pictures that they have taken, we always look for images that are either creative commons, or public domain and even if the license does not require that we provide attribution, we do so anyway. We want to give credit where credit is due. It’s the right thing to do.

I am often asked where to find free pictures. There are a number of different sites that we use to find images. All have their own distinct advantages. Over time, as you get to know them and how their user interface works, you can find suitable images quickly.

Here are some of the sites that we often use when looking for royalty free images.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons is quickly becoming one of my favorite sites to source great images. You can search by topic or you can just enter your search into the search box. Each and every image you will find has information about the image including the license and permissions details.

If you are browsing Commons for the first time, you may want to start with Featured pictures, Quality images or Valued images.

This is a featured picture on Wikimedia Commons and is considered one of the finest images.
It was awarded second place in Picture of the Year 2009.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons – Creative Commons

Microsoft Images And Clip Art Collection

Another site we often use is the office.com image site. This site has many superb images, illustrations and some great clip art. Unlike creative commons and public domain images, the images here are: “owned either by Microsoft Corporation or by third parties who have granted Microsoft permission to use the content.”

According to Microsoft: “If you use Microsoft Office.com or the Microsoft Office Web Apps, you may have access to media images, clip art, animations, sounds, music, video clips, templates, and other forms of content (“media elements”) provided with the software available on Office.com or as part of a service associated with the software.” – reference point 17 on this page: Microsoft Service Agreement

I also suggest that you read this page carefully: Use Of Microsoft Copyrighted Content

This site has some filtering options in the left hand sidebar that lets you select for illustrations, photos, animations and sound as well as image sizes.

Here is a great example image from the Microsoft Office Collection.

Image Credit: Microsoft Images


Like Wikimedia Commons, every image has information about the image including the license and permissions details. Moreover, Wikipedia is a veritable gold mine of great information. Wikipedia also connects to Wikimedia Commons. Just be careful in there … it’s REALLY easy to get sidetracked!

Looking for The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci? Look no further.

Image Credit: Wikipedia Public Domain


A morgue file is a place to keep post production materials for use of reference, an inactive job file. This morgue file contains free high resolution digital stock photography for either corporate or public use. ~ MorgueFile

I was recently introduced to this excellent resource by one of our guest authors. Their license summary for each image is directly below the image. They state that ‘attribution is not required’. We do anyway. Like I said before, I feel it’s the right thing to do.

Here is an image that came up in a search for ‘sad’ at MorgueFile

 Image Credit: By: grietgriet at MorgueFile


Clearly, Flickr has a huge and excellent inventory of images. Why do I place them so far down the list? One word. Licensing.

If you search at Flickr, there is a search drop down option that lets you select ‘The Commons’. Do a search for ‘bridge’ and then select The Commons.

You would think that the images would be under a creative commons license or public domain. In fact, many are, but many are not.

Case in point. “http://www.flickr.com/photos/14992506@N03/6935643624/

This is a bridge found under a search for ‘bridge’ under The Commons. I cant show you the picture because … well …






So, be careful. Many of our well meaning authors send in images that they think are ok. Often, they are not. I ALWAYS check the Flickr images now. Here is another The Commons search example with the ‘license via Getty’ logo.






If you have lots of time on your hands, Flickr has some great photos. But, when a majority of the images I find (or receive) would violate a license, I tend to look  elsewhere. All of that said, this is not a reproach on the quality to be found at Flickr and I will continue to use it as a source.

Here’s a beauty of Rideau Falls, Ottawa, Ontario … in 1869!

Image Credit: Rideau Falls, Ottawa, ON, 1869 by Musee McCord Museum –  No Known Copyright Restrictions

Google Image Search and Yahoo Image Search

Both of these are very similar in that they will bring up images that are linked to a page or a post at a website. Click on the image, and you go to that web site where more often than not, there is no attribution provided for the image. Both have filters you can use but the filter choices have changed a lot in recent months and are IMHO not all that useful.


Both are PROOF POSITIVE of the importance to your SEO to use the Title and Alternate Text fields when you upload your images. No one is going to search for dscg3232.jpg. If it’s a photo of a Labrador Retriever, give it that title. It also looks way better as a mouse over.

For example. Hover over the image above of Rideau Falls. It’s file name is ‘2918568397_beac7c5af8_o-550×385.jpg’. If I didn’t use the title field, that is what would show up in the hover and that is what Google would index. People might actually search for Rideau Fall. They won’t search for ‘2918568397_beac7c5af8_o-550×385.jpg’.

Consider this. Depending on the day, up to 30% of the search traffic at Life As A Human comes from image search. Why? Because at a minimum, we use proper image titles.

Some Closing Thoughts

Irrespective of where you get your images, my advice is to ALWAYS give attribution at the end of your article or under the image including a link to the image source. It’s a bit of extra work but:

  • It’s good netiquette (net etiquette)
  • It gives credit where credit is due
  • It builds links out from your site
  • It’s the right thing to do (I think I may have mentioned that a few times already)
  • It’s good karma!

I am sure there are many other sources for royalty free images out there in cyber space. If you know of some good ones, please leave us a comment with a link and share it with our readers.




  1. Great resource, Gil! I’m always looking for pictures to embed in articles, and sometimes the search can be frustrating. You’ve given me a lot more options, and some things to look out for along the way. These ideas will be especially handy as I look for images to add to my series on adult children of alcoholics: http://lifeasahuman.com/category/mind-spirit/minute-to-freedom/

    Dan Hays

    • Gil Namur says:

      Hi Dan!

      Thanks for popping in. Glad that this will be of help. Speaking of great resources, Minute To Freedom is WAY up there in that category ;-)
      It’s a very good thing you are doing Dan.


  2. Ross Lonergan says:

    Wow, what a great help this is going to be. I have only been using Creative Commons-Flickr and poster images from Wikipedia and find the former quite restricted, as you say, in terms of images that are not “All rights reserved.” You have given us a whole new world to search in, so thanks, Gil!

  3. Great article. I’d like to offer another site that I use even more than Morguefile: stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/

    It has tons of pictures for people to use freely with a powerful search engine. Just be careful of the images that appear above and below your search results, because those link to a pay site called iStockPhoto.com. When you click on a picture, you get a page with a small version of the image and details. Click on the image and you will get a full size version, then just righ-click and save.

    • Gil Namur says:

      Hi Erik,

      Thanks for the link. I had a quick peek but can only DL smaller sizes. Looks like I need to sign up to get the larger ones. Do you have to be logged in for the larger images?

      • Hmm.. I registered so long ago there and I’m automatically logged in, I didn’t even realize. I guess you do. Registration is free. If that has changed, please let me know.

  4. What an amazing collection of links.This will definitely come in handy. Many thanks for this post. I would also like to suggest another royalty-free image website that I’ve been using for quite a long time already. I love their designs and photos here. All photos, clip-arts, textures, graphics and so on are very stunning and incredible. You might want to check this site out http://www.kozzi.com/

  5. Also check this site out


  6. You should check out pixabay and http://www.goodfreephotos.com for public domain photos

  7. another one site for free photos http://www.barior.com

  8. Hey Gill, Thanks for the list. At upicm.com we decided to cut to the chase and get rid of all the confusion re. creative commons license and public domain etc. All images are completely free for personal and commercial use with no attribution required ever. You can even incorporate our pics into your products for free with no limitations on the number of products. We create all images on the site ourselves so we can stand over their free legal use.
    Also, all images have been optimized for web use which can save a lot of time.
    We’re just getting started but thousands more pics will be added soon.
    In the meantime, your readers can stop by on any device and grab themselves some amazing free pics at http://www.upicm.com/
    Including Facebook covers, Backgrounds, Nature Pics, Urban scenes etc. – Regards, Declan.

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