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29 – Using Copyright/Royalty free images

Whenever you read a blog post or piece of writing you will often find at least one image within it. There are several reasons someone might do this including breaking up large volumes of text and providing a visual to enhance the text. Whatever the reason might be using images in your posts can be helpful but what happens when you don’t have the right photo or need a photo right away that you just don’t have? Well, that’s where using copyright free and royalty free images can come in handy and they are super easy to use too.

What’s the difference between royalty free and copyright free?

One of the biggest mistakes people often make at the beginning if thinking they can take any image from good old Google images and as long as they credit it, they can use it. Well, that’s simply not true and can land you in a bit of trouble and a hefty fine. That is why it is better to use dedicated websites that offer images exactly for the purpose of being able to be used by others either for a small fee or free.

There is a misconception that royalty free images and copyright free images are the same thing, this is not true and there is one simple thing that separates them. Royalty free images are something you usually pay a one-off fee for which enables you to use the image.

Whereas copyright free images are exactly that, free! They are images that are not protected by any copyright and usually do not incur any fee to use. They may however by some terms for using these images such as crediting the person who took/owns the image when using it.

When to use copyright free or royalty free images?

Well, the simple answer to this is it’s up to you and how you feel they fit with your blog/website, just don’t claim the photos are yours or were taken by you if they weren’t. You may love photography and enjoy taking your own images, but you also might just love the writing and hate the photography side of blogging, if this is you, that’s ok! You don’t have to like taking photos or be good at it either, that’s why it can become so useful to utilise copyright or royalty free images so all you need to worry about is the writing

Websites you can use to find images

There are lots of websites that offer both copyright free and royalty free images but always make sure to do your research before you use them and ensure they are legitimate. It is also worth checking any guidelines they may have as some copyright free images may ask you to credit the photographer upon use etc.

Here are some of my favourite sites to use –

Royalty free

Shutterstock – Royalty free images, videos and music with an offer of 10 free images when you sign up and join (no cost to join). They have a library of over 316 million photos with everything from illustrations, lifestyle images and product photography. If you decide to cancel your account at any point you also get to keep any licensed images, you have acquired. Subscription starts at £19 per month once the free trial ends.

Adobe Stock – Royalty free stock photos, graphics, HD video and even photoshop templates with categories for almost everything from food and sport to transport, technology and animals you name it, Adobe Stock probably has it. They offer a free 30-day trial where you can get up to 10 free images and can cancel at any time. Once the free trial ends it is around £19.99 per month.

iStock – Royalty free images, illustrations and videos that are updated regularly and offer worry free licensing with their commercial use content backed by industry leading coverage. iStock offer the option to either subscribe at around £19 per month or a “pay as you go” option where you can buy credits to use towards images. With credits starting at £7 for one, a monthly subscription seems like a better option but the pay as you go option is perfect if you are just looking for the off one-off image for a project. 

Depositphotos – Royalty free images, videos, vectors, illustrations and music, with over 234 million files on Depositphotos you are sure to find a suitable image or video for your project from their huge stock of photos and music library. The subscription for Depositphoto is based on how many photos you may want to download per month with 30 images a month costing around £19 (around 63p per image), any used credits each month will be rolled onto the following month however so you never lose credits you do not use.

Copyright free

Unsplash Offering over 1,000,000 free images Unsplash have a huge collection of free to use images for any purpose. Their website is easy to use (just type in what you are looking for and the site will show you a selection of matching images as well as other search suggestions that are similar). They do also offer some “premium images” via iStock which do need to be paid for, but these are clearly shown so if you don’t want to have to pay just avoid these. You can download free images from Unsplash directly to your computer and whilst you will be given the option to credit the person who took the photo with a “copy and paste” style link, this is not mandatory.

Pexels – Regularly updated high resolution copyright free images with over 3000 new images added each month. The images found on Pexels all have a creative commons zero licence enabling them to be downloaded and modified without permission for both personal and commercial use. The easy-to-use search bar makes for quick and easy access to both photos and videos at the click of a button.

Life of Pix – Copyright free high-quality images that are updated daily with new content, with no copyright restrictions for both personal and commercial use. The images are released under the creative commons zero licence and are submitted by both Leeroy advertising agency and visitors who are welcome to submit images.

Gratisography – Copyright free images with a difference. Whilst most free image sites offer similar images Gratisography may be a little more niche but they have some awesome, quirky and alternative pictures out there for those looking for images with a twist or that are a bit different. Their images range between real life and cartoon and they have categories such as urban and whimsical. If you are looking for images that are different, this is the place to go.

As with most things found online you do have to be careful, nothing is 100% and whilst these websites are all legitimate there have been times when people have used a photo that has claimed to be copyright free but in fact was not. This is rare though and most sites are pretty good at clamping down on this. Just be sure to read any terms and conditions before using a photo, credit the producer of the image when asked to and ensure you are using a reputable source/website when sourcing your photos.

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