If you already know the basics of using royalty free stock images, you can scroll down to skip the rhetoric and go straight to the recommended resources links. 😉
Why Writers and Bloggers Need Quality Images
- Images draw attention.
- Images enhance the words.
- Images pull link juice
Though writers may prefer words, we write for our readers, and most readers prefer images and visual formatting for comfortable reading on multiple forms of media. This is why writers must also consider fonts, font size, and white space.
Most forms of modern writing also need images either to support or enhance points or to give the eye an expected break.
For the online writer, images are also important for SEO and social networking. (Make sure images are properly named, tagged, and formatted to generate visual appeal and link juice.)
The bottom line is that Writers and bloggers need good (and affordable) resources for quality royalty free images.
What Are Royalty Free Stock Photos?
Ideally, we can create the required screenshots and photos ourselves, but in the real world, most of us are not professional photographers or illustrators. At some point, we’ll have to defer to online resources to get appropriate and quality images for our work.
Royalty Free means you don’t have to keep paying royalties to the artist every time an image is used or accessed.
It’s important to make sure the photos are royalty free unless you or your company has the capability of paying royalties.
Royalty Free does NOT necessarily mean “free” to use. There ARE many free images available for writers and bloggers – either totally free to use as needed, or free to use under creative commons or license agreements – usually with the agreement to credit the photographer or illustrator.
Flickr’s Creative Commons collection briefly describes most of the standard license agreements.
Just as many writers offer blog posts or sample chapters free to readers, many artists offer free images to boost links, name recognition, and to attract other work opportunities.
In my experience, the best quality images are usually on paid/paying sites. With that said, however, I DO need quality images. I may NOT need the BEST quality images.
Depending on the specific need or use, I may still choose a quality image I can get for free over a super high quality image that will cost me. It depends on the project. If it’s a high profile / high return project, I don’t mind investing a few dollars on a great image by a professional photographer or artist.
Some of the really high quality images can be expensive – beyond the comfortable budget of most writers and bloggers, but most are reasonably priced. With pay-as-you-go and credit purchasing systems, high quality royalty free images can be purchased between $1-5
Where to Get Stock Photos
There are LOTS of online resources for royalty-free stock photos, both free and purchased. I’ve experimented and tried multiple stock photo and stock image sites over the years. As friends and colleagues recommend new resources, I also try those, so the resources listed here may change as I find new options.
I won’t even attempt to list ALL the resources I’ve tried. Instead, since folks frequently ask me about my favorite online resources for images, I’ll list just those…the ones I still use and recommend. Then, since we all have different favorites, I’ll list a few links that recommend even more sites.
As with all paid, but especially FREE royalty-free images, DO verify the terms of service and license conditions. Make sure you ONLY use the images as allowed.
To Purchase Royalty Free Images
- Adobe Stock
- Big Stock Photo
- Clipart Of – These are illustrations/clipart rather than photos, but sometimes cartoon images work even better than photos.
Under License Agreements, Royalty Free Images
Always double-check for no known copyright restrictions.
- Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog
- Library of Congress on Flickr
- National Archives UK on Flickr
- Icon Finder
- Dreamstime, Free Images Collection
- Free Range
- Photo Rack
Public Domain Clipart Sites
- VectorPortal.com – Not Public Domain, BUT the About section at the bottom states that “We create free stock vectors which designers can use in commercial projects.”
Other Tips and Resources:
- Clip Art No More: Stock Photos for Programs and Marketing by Rebecca Starr
- Pat Flynn’s Ultimate Guide to Finding and Using Images On Your Blog
- Digital Image Magazine: 25 Free Stock Photo Sites
- Digital Image Magazine: 18 More Free Stock Photo Sites
When You Still Can’t Find An Image
If you still can’t find an appropriate image or photo, you can use one of the online services to commission a photo or illustration. Colleagues and I have all had varying levels of success with the following:
I also like to hire local photographers when I need exceptionally good quality photos. If I need a very specific photo of a very specific item – in a very high quality image, it’s best to defer to the professionals who already have all the proper equipment ready to shoot.
How about you? Do you use the same resources I listed, or do you have other favorites I should try? How about freelancers on Elance, ODesk, or Fiverr? Do you have any favorites to refer?