Picture Perfect? Facts on Free Photo Usage for Blogs & Social Media

Facts on Free Photo Usage for Blogs & Social Media

Photo: Ryan McGuire of Bells Design

When it comes to your marketing efforts, words alone are not going to be enough to attract your target audience. Visual content, such as photos and graphics, enhance your blog and drive traffic to your website. They are also essential to running successful email marketing and social media campaigns that inspire commentary and sharing.

The reason? Images process quickly and people are drawn to them.  We are all designed to communicate visually –it’s science.

New research even shows that the human brain can achieve the remarkable feat of processing an image seen for just 13 milliseconds. That’s pretty incredible, and coupled with a study that shows the human’s average attention span is 8 seconds, it’s clear that we need to get smarter about staying top-of-mind with daily marketing that is rich in visual content.

Unfortunately, many nonprofits and small businesses have limited budgets and are unable to consistently hire  professional photographers or purchase stock photos. So how can you find images that are okay to use without having to pull out your credit card?

At inBLOOM, we’ve discovered several photo sites that offer high quality downloadable images for free. Some you have to register for and others you can access without logging in.

When using photos in your marketing campaigns, it’s important to respect copyright laws. Although it’s tempting to grab something right off Google Images, tweak it and call it your own, it’s not considered fair use; in fact, it’s stealing.

Here are some of our favorite free photo databases along with guidelines for using them:

Getty Images

Getty Images has made over 35 million photo images from its inventory available for free online use by anyone. Getty’s new policy provides a select group of images for free via an embedding feature that provides attribution and a link back to the Getty Images website.

The new Getty policy doesn’t permit all types of use, though. The images cannot be used for any commercial purpose (advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship. They may be used only for editorial, non-commercial purposes, meaning any events that are newsworthy or of public interest. Otherwise, users will need to purchase a license.

You can find the free images right here. Search for the type of image you’re looking for by using keywords or phrases. Let’s say you need an image to go along with a blog post on tips for exercising with your pet, you could search for something like “dog running with owner.” When you find an image, place your pointer over it and click the </> icon. Then copy and paste the code into your website or blog.


Flickr is a fantastic place to find images, especially ones that don’t look so commercial. Just like with Getty Images, search for the type of image you’re looking for by using keywords or phrases. Let’s say this time you wrote a blog post on ways to get over writer’s block. You could search for something like “writers block” or “writing” and see what comes up.

After you search, click where it says “Any License” and choose “Creative Commons Only”.  This is where you’ll find images that have a Creative Commons license, which allows the creator to retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work. Every Creative Commons license also ensures licensors get the credit for their work they deserve. Licensors may also choose to grant additional permissions when deciding how they want their work to be used. After you confirm the image is free, you can download it for use as allowed by its license.


Picjumbo offers a variety of free photos for any kind of use—free of charge with no registration required. There is no search function, but you can narrow down your search through the categories. All photos are by photographer Viktor Hanacek. He mentions in his terms that he greatly appreciates attribution when using his photos.


Gratisography is a collection of free high-resolution images by Ryan McGuire of Bells Design for personal or commercial use. You can choose from his selection of new photos that are added weekly. Simply find the photo you like and click to download. All photos are free of copyright restrictions.

Keep in mind, there is no search option, you can only browse through whatever is there. These photos are very artistic and unlike any stock photo you’ll find. You may not always find what you’re looking for but it’s worth a try.


iStock releases a new batch of royalty-free photos, illustration, video, audio and editorial files each week. You will need to sign up for a free membership in order to download these images. This is another site where you may not always find what you’re looking for but it’s worth a look see.

Death to The Stock Photo

Death to The Stock Photo offers free high-resolution photos for commercial use, blog posts, social accounts and mockups, sent to your inbox every month. All you need to do is give them your email address. They even give you a file of free images once you sign up.

This site was created by two photographers, Allison Lehman and David Sherry, after they noticed that many brands, bloggers, and other freelancers had trouble consistently getting photography that was authentic and quality enough to use in production. All of the images they provide you with are their own photography. Their license states that you must include a copy of, or reference to, the license with every copy of the photograph that you distribute or display.


Although marketing platform HubSpot is not a photo database, it offers a package of 75 free stock photos in exchange for your email address and information about your company. These images are free to use in blog posts, social media networks, landing pages, emails or wherever you’d like –no royalties and no fees. Once you sign up, HubSpot will send you a zip file containing the photos. You can sign up right here.

Facts on Free Photo Usage for Blogs & Social MediaPhoto: Viktor Hanáček

I hope you found this post helpful in your search for free images. It’s important that you start maintaining a library of photos that will enhance your marketing efforts. The right image can draw your reader in and help you to effectively tell your story.

It’s important that you also recognize the value of hiring professional photographers to take quality and creative images. Their work is key to persuading your target market to learn more about who you are and what you offer.

“Photography is a small voice, at best, but sometimes one photograph, or a group of them, can lure our sense of awareness.” W. Eugene Smith, 1918-1978

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Danielle Thibault
Danielle uses her background in public relations, event coordination and fundraising to gain exposure for inBLOOM’s clients by establishing connections with the media and target audiences. She is most passionate about writing and networking. You’ll never find Danielle without her morning cup of coffee. She is a firm believer that a little caffeine goes a long way!

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