Article cross-posted from Freelancers Union.

If you want to illustrate blog posts, or include images in your emails or newsletters, or post it on social media, you need images.

Photographs and graphics have the power to communicate ideas and draw in your reader, add professionalism to your projects, and when used correctly, even increase search traffic to your blog or website.

But the best images aren’t (usually) free.

Which is exactly as it should be: each photograph — especially the best ones — is the product of a talented photographer, and he/she deserves both remuneration and attribution.

If you’re producing a professional brochure or other high-quality product, investing in the rights to a photograph or hiring the services of a graphic designer can give your product a degree of professionalism and impact that more than makes up for the cost of their work. Photographers and graphic designers aren’t merely technicians; they think creatively about how best to visually represent your idea. This can be invaluable.

If you’re looking for professional photography, visit Shutterstock or Getty Images. Prices vary, but most are Royalty-Free, meaning that after you purchase them, you don’t have to pay for each additional use.

Creative Commons and Public Domain

If you want to use an image without cost, you need an image that has a Creative Commons license or has entered the Public Domain.

A Creative Commons license allows the owner of a product to “retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work” according to Creative Commons’ website. Some licenses allow this commercially, and some only for private use. If you are using this image for your business at all — including just on your blog — you must only use images licensed for commercial use. Even if you don’t get money from the blog directly, it’s still a potential lead generator.

Even if an image is licensed for commercial use, you may need to attribute the creator. If you do, the image will be marked like this:

On the other hand, you may use Public Domain images for any purpose whatsoever. Public Domain images are typically old and are cases where the copyright on an image has expired.

Photo credit: openDemocracy / Foter / CC BY-SA.

The mother of all sources of CC and PD images:

Creative Commons Search

Public Domain Search

Other image sources:

The British Library — millions of images, lots of nice ornamental things, interesting just to browse through.

Morgue File


The Public Domain Review (PS, they also have a great newsletter)


From our readers:

Unsplash — These photos are incredible, thanks for sharing Jason Rose.

Vector999 — Royalty-Free illustrations from Freelancers Union member Michele Paccione

Symbiostock — Another suggestions from Michele: "You can license images directly from the artist. Then you know you have legal permission to use it. Plus, you're supporting other freelancers."

FreeRangeStock — Free and Royalty-Free stock photos, suggested by EditCassandra.

What other sources have you used in the past? I’ll add them to the list!

Disclaimer: If you have any questions about copyright and image rights, contact the owner or a lawyer. This article is not intended as legal advice.

Freelancers Union


Freelancers Union |

Freelancers Union believes all workers should have the freedom to build meaningful, connected, and independent lives – backed by a system of mutual and public support. Nearly one in three