Share
Technical Penguins: How and where to find the best free images for your website project. A camera with a large lens and flash is seen sitting in the middle of a highway on the double yellow line.
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

How to get free images for your web projects – legally

Executive Summary

Say you’re working on a blog post or a new landing page for your website and you think, “Hey, I could really use an image to jazz this up.”

So you go to Google Image Search, find something cool, and include it, thinking, “That was easy!” Right?

Nope.

Sorry, but most things you’ll find in a standard image search are NOT photos you can use because of copyright and “fair use” requirements. By almost any standards, the Google Image Search concept is a total no-go.

But don’t worry, there’s good news. There are a ton of places to get free, high-quality, totally usable images for your project. We also share some tips to help you know you’re getting the best image for your project.

Details, Tips, Recommendations & Takeaways

Let’s start with…

The really important stuff about usage, crediting and copyright

Don’t skip this part. We promise not to make your eyes glaze over too much, but this is key to avoiding problems and, in the absolute worst cases, can save you from a lawsuit!

Only use images that specifically say you’re allowed to use them for the purpose you have in mind. There are a lot of sites that provide images for public use for noncommercial purposes. If you in any way attempt to monetize your website – through affiliate links, sale of services, even donations – you don’t fall into this category. Don’t use any images from sites that don’t specifically say they can be used, and even on stock sites, read the terms and directions and be sure they apply to your case. Err on the side of caution here!

Don’t use anything that contains copyrighted material outside of “fair use” guidelines. This can get complicated (for instance, if you’re writing a product review), but the short version is, if you haven’t specifically received permission or an invitation to use an image, and it belongs to another entity, it’s not available. This includes everything from brand logos to movie stills, but also any professionally taken photos unless you have a signed release from the original photographer. (Really. You’re not supposed to post your kids’ public‐school pictures on Facebook unless you buy the rights. I know, everyone does it, but the law says that if the photographer wants to make a big deal about it, they can – and will probably win.) Some things are OK – logos from companies you’ve partnered with when use of the logo is included in the agreement – but again, if you’re not sure, it never hurts to be on the safe side.

A lot of people seem to think that if you only use one image, or only a small image, or some other arbitrary rule, then it qualifies as “fair use.” It doesn’t. There are very specific things that count as fair use, and generally you making money off someone else’s work doesn’t count.

Choosing the right free images

No matter where you're looking (and we promise, we'll tell you exactly where in a minute), there will be THOUSANDS of possible options. Having a clear idea of

This content is only available to subscribers. Login or Subscribe today.

Get more great advice

Technical Penguins is a full-service digital shop. We offer content, development, design and other internet services. Have a project you’re thinking about pursuing, but need a little help? Get in touch!

Contact Us

If you’d like to read all of our white papers (including tips and recommendations), you can either join with a content membership plan or purchase a maintenance agreement, which includes access to all content! Maintenance agreements also include discounts on all services, as well as other perks.

An illustration of a penguin in a hard hat, holding a wrench and a screwdriver, with an open toolbox in front of him.

Standard WordPress Maintenance and Security Plan

  • We'll keep WordPress and your plugins up-to-date on a monthly basis.
  • We will ensure your site is being comprehensively backed up monthly.
  • Includes access to all our white papers, with members-only recommendations and tips.
  • Includes an email newsletter on topics such as security, updates and website best practices.

$40/month

Find Out More
An illustration of a penguin wearing a security guard uniform and hat.

Premium WordPress Maintenance and Security Plan

  • We'll keep WordPress and your plugins up-to-date on a monthly basis.
  • We will ensure your site is being comprehensively backed up monthly.
  • Full access to and use of the Penguin Pack, a smorgasbord of services and add-ons that can enhance your website. Features include image optimization, security, SEO, newsletter opt-in forms, even selling courses! This can replace some existing services or plugins you already use, and we'll get everything set up for you.*
  • Includes access to all our white papers, with members-only recommendations and tips.
  • Includes an email newsletter on topics such as security, updates and website best practices.
  • 10% discount off regular hourly rates for scheduled work performed.

$75/month

Find Out More
An illustration of a penguin wearing a suit, with sunglasses, an earpiece and a bowtie.

Penguin Pro WordPress Maintenance and Security Plan

  • We'll keep WordPress and your plugins up-to-date on a monthly basis.
  • We will ensure your site is being comprehensively backed up monthly.
  • Full access to and use of the Penguin Pack, a smorgasbord of services and add-ons that can enhance your website. Features include image optimization, security, SEO, newsletter opt-in forms, even selling courses! This can replace some existing services or plugins you already use, and we'll get everything set up for you.*
  • 1 hour of work included every month
  • Includes access to all our white papers, with members-only recommendations and tips.
  • Includes an email newsletter on topics such as security, updates and website best practices.
  • 15% discount off regular hourly rates for scheduled work performed.

$120/month

Find Out More

* Free setup only includes the setup of the new tools and services. If you need to migrate information from an existing tool or service (e.g., from a different membership plugin/program), that would incur an additional cost for the work at our (discounted!) hourly rate.