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Royalty Free Images: A List Of Sites That Provide Free Pictures

Royalty Free Images: A List Of Sites That Provide Free Pictures

Royalty Free Images – There are tons of sites out there that provide free pictures that are free to use. Here’s my list of favorite sites for Royalty Free Images.” …

Royalty Free Images:
A List Of Sites That Provide Free Pictures

Royalty Free Images | Free Pictures | Curation Works | Steve Gaghagen

Photo: From Breva Storia Del Cinema on Flickr.

Are You Searching High & Low for Royalty Free Images? Here’s A List Of Great Sites!

For a change of pace here, I’m going to check in today with an original post, rather than a curated one. The idea for this post came to us because my partner Don Legere did a really great post earlier today on Facebook on the correct use of images in curated posts. That got me thinking, Don and I talked, and the idea for this post popped up. We’re going to help you to stop all that useless detective work, and just give you a great starting list of sites that will help you out here! And, of course, when something like this hits me, it ends up much bigger than a post.

If you know me at all you’ll understand that every time I come up with a “simple little concept” … it grows bigger. Well, this one remained a simple blog post, but it did expand. It grew big enough so that I would recommend that if you’re a Curation Works member, a curator, or a content marketer in any form, you simply bookmark this thing for reference right now. It’s turned into a complete primer on how to find free images online. 

As Don pointed out in his earlier Facebook post, the use of images can be a minefield when you’re curating content. There are quite a few ways you can get your foot caught in the door. For instance, I know a lot of folks who will just take the main image off the article they’re curating and stick it on their curated version. That’s simple, and in most cases it’s fine … especially if you make sure to give proper credit and a link in the caption area or on the blog post somehow.

Now, I said “in most cases“. Making this a consistent practice will, sooner or later, introduce you to the “predatory licensing company“. If the author of the article you’re curating paid to license that photo … say from the “ image website” … he did not pay to license it for you. Legally, in most cases, the right to use that photo stops with In reality, if you are a small business person and you use that photo and credit and link it properly, most licensing companies will not come after you. However, some will … and they are within their legal right to do so in that case.

If you read Don’s Facebook post from earlier today, and the article from Content Marketing Institute that he was referencing, you’ll see how to handle that situaFrtion should it ever happen to you. BUT … there are ways to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. The first, of course, is to locate sites that will provide you with images that you can use for free. There are lots of them out there. The second is to sign up with an image licensing company and pay for the images you use. There are some very inexpensive ones out there, and even some that will allow you to join for a low rate for just a few days when you’re working on a project. We’ll talk about both these methods in this post.

Free Image Sites

The first option … sites that will provide you with free images … is easily done. There are tons of sites like this out there. They vary in the amount and quality of their images. There are tons of them. Try Googling “Royalty Free Images” sometime, and you’ll see what I mean. I’m going to simply list those that are my favorites, and you can check them out!

Google Images

Hey! When you want to find something online … Search Google! Google has a huge repository of images designated for reuse under specific circumstances and with proper attribution. These are actually not stored by Google. Google Images is an image search engine that can access images from all over, and then allows you the choice of filtering the results by licensing, reuse, and attribution requirements. Neat, huh?

To use this incredible google function, simply go to Google Images through the link above and then search the term that describes what you’re looking for. Once you get some raw results, then narrow your search by the licensing parameters. Image search works just like a regular Google Search. As you can see in the image below, you’ll want to click on “Search Tools” and then drop down “Usage Rights”. Then simply select the one that applies to how you’re going to use the image … and Google will  show you what’s available! 

Royalty Free Images | Free Pictures + Curation Works + Steve Gaghagen

If you simply click “Labeled for Reuse”, you can freely use what you find as long as you don’t modify the image. “Labeled for reuse with modification” is what you want to use to create a Facebook meme, for instance, or any time you’re going to modify the photo by putting words on it or performing any other changes. You’ll find lots of Wikimedia Commons photos through this method, and it’s a lot simpler and faster than searching Wikimedia Commons. I usually start any search for images right at Google Images.


Sites like MorgueFile actually do have a storehouse of photos, unlike Google Image Search, and this is the “grandaddy” of them all. MorgueFile has thousands and thousands of high-quality images you can download and use with no attribution or credit required on any of them. They will show you “Sponsored Images”, but you don’t need to follow those. Just be sure you’re always searching the “Free Images” category, and you won’t even need to create an “account” and login to download. That’s unusual. Usually these sites at least want your email. 


This one has thousands of photos and all of them can be used with no attribution of any kind. They do show you “Sponsored” images, from companies like “Shutterstock” that you will have to pay for, so just be aware of what you’re clicking and searching. This one will, like most, want you to create an account … providing them with your email … before you can download.

Free Images 

This one is a good site with thousands of photos available. The site is designed to direct you to their “Premium” images, which you have to pay for, but if you pay attention and stick to searching and viewing the “Free Photos”, you’ll find lots of great stuff here. Be a bit careful as some of the photos do require written permission to use, even though there is no charge involved. They provide an easy process to do that, but there are enough photos here so you can avoid that completely if you don’t want to take the time.

Wikimedia Commons

We mentioned this earlier in this post, and it’s a tremendous resource with literally hundreds of thousands of images that you can use in your posts and projects. It’s part of the Wikipedia project, and photographers from all over the world contribute content. Pay attention to the attribution requirements of each image. Many require specific links or forms you’ll want to abide by, but once you get the hang of using the site you’ll use it often! Be careful! You can get lost in there for days!


Want something a little offbeat? This is a really amazing site that, well to be honest, I’ve spent hours just browsing. It has an unusual collection of things contributed by artists and photographers that range from photos to paintings to digital art of all kinds. You can find lots of really amazing things here, but you need to pay attention to what you’re looking at. The site contains free to use images, images that are free with attribution required, images that are free but the artist wants to see your website and give written permission first, and images that the artist wants a royalty fee to use. Make sure, if you use this great site, that you’re up-to-speed with the desires of the artist who created the image you wish to use, and that you abide by them.

U.S. Government Free Photo Sources

Most photos belonging to the U.S. government are free to use. At one time there was one specific website that provided access to all “.gov” photos that were available. Over the years, as more and more federal repositories were digitized, that simply became too much of a burden for one site, so the government abandoned it and left the archiving of these photos to individual departments. You can still find them by following the link above which will take you to the result of searching “Free Images” on the website. In those results you’ll find many good resources. Pay special attention to the National Gallery of Art (NGA) web pages. They have recently released MILLIONS of historic photographs that are simply amazing. You’ll find other great resources such as NASA, JPL, National Institutes of Health, and many more.

Bing Image Search

Bing Image Search works just like Google Image Search, which we discussed earlier. It is not a repository of images, but a way to search images online and then narrow those results by licensing requirements. Follow the link above to a Microsoft page that provides complete instructions on how to do that. It’s very similar to Google, so you might not need this cheat sheet … but it’s all laid out there and Bing Image Search is another tremendous tool you can use!

Flickr: The Commons

Here’s another tremendous repository of images you can use. And, the search engine they’ve designed makes this one very easy. As with the Google and Bing searches, you can sort by “Licensing Type” to find the ones that allow your type of reuse. There is a great wealth of material here.

Flickr: The British Library

Basically the same thing as the “regular” Flickr, but a UK based system. Lots of good stuff here if you’re looking for a more European focus, especially with a historical perspective.


The World Images database provides access to the California State University IMAGE Project. There are thousands of images here that can be used with no royalty for educational purposes. There’s great stuff here, but be sure you understand the licensing requirements. If you’re using it in a blog post, for instance, make sure it’s a blog post that is teaching something, not on a “sales page”. You can read the requirements on the site. Lots of really interesting stuff here.


Royalty Free Images | Free Pictures | Curation Works | Steve Gaghagen

Photo Source: PIXABAY

Like MorgueFile or Pixabay, this is just a great collection of images you can use for personal or commercial purposes. They will try to “upsell” you to a “Premium” account, but it’s not necessary.

PD Photo

Yet another great collection of images that are free to use. There are some in the collection that do require special attribution or some royalty for specific kinds of use, so be sure you read the licensing requirements on each image. This site has a huge collection of “travel type” photos.


Like MorgueFile, this is just a whole bunch of really good images you can use for just about any purpose. Nice site with good stuff.


Another good collection. The site is similar to some of the others. You just have to make sure you’re looking at the “Free Photos” as the site is designed to send you to “premium” stock and it re-directs you to Shutterstock if you’re not careful. Just be aware that when you search “Free Photos”, the top 2 rows of the Results are going to be “Featured” images … which will all require joining Shutterstock and handing over your credit card. This makes the Free images a bit difficult to track, but most all these sites are like that to some degree. Visit just a few and you’ll get used to the process. Bottom line: this site has a lot of good stuff that’s free to use.


This site is similar to a lot of the others. They’re obviously tied into Shutterstock and trying to push you into buying their images, but they still have a great collection of Free Images that you can use.

And … Finally …

Liam’s Pictures From Old Books

This is a pretty specialized, but pretty amazing site that some of you may find useful. Frankly, I find it fascinating and have spent hours there just poking around at all the cool stuff! It’s a collection of images that are all from old books, or pictures of old books themselves. If you’re writing a Thanksgiving blog post and want an image that looks like an old illustration of a family thanksgiving that might have been lifted from a novel or history book … you’ll find that here. Old engravings, faceplates … all manner of things can be found at Liam’s. This is a really interesting site that has a specialized kind of audience. But, once you discover it, exploring Liam’s images and incorporating them into your creations can become addicting! Enjoy!

All of the resources above are free to use. Have at ’em, folks! But, pay attention to the individual requirements of the sites and the creators of the images you’re going to use.

Paid Stock Images & Clip Art

This is the second method I mentioned above. Sure, we all want to operate on the smallest budget possible, but sometimes you need to know you can find what you need quickly, without a lot of searching, and you’re going to want to know you have the complete right to use the image without a lot of rigamarole in obtaining the correct license. And, let’s face it, most of the time there is a reason an image can demand a royalty. That’s usually because it’s of a higher quality than those you may find for free in the same category.

I use, and am a member of, a paid service that provides stock images, clipart, and vectors. It’s called iClipart, and it’s the most economical I’ve found with really Class-A material. The way it works is simple: you purchase a Subscription, and as long as that subscription is active you can download up to 100 images a day. They have year-long subscriptions, but the nice thing is they have them for as short as 1-week for $14.95. What many folks do is to join for a week whenever they’re working on creating a new website or just in a creative mood, and then spend a week building a nice library of things they might use, depending on their niche. I’ll be right upfront, I am an affiliate, and if you subscribe through my link I’ll receive a commission. But, I don’t recommend them simply for that reason. I recommend them because I’ve used others and I just like the selection they have, the quality of the material, and the fact that it’s cheap! If you’d like to take a look, you can do so here:


Click Here For iClipart

Royalty Free Images & Responsible Curation

Well, that’s it for now. In this post I’ve tried to provide you with all the resources I use for obtaining images for my blog posts and articles … in a legal, ethical, and economical manner. As curators, we want to avoid stepping on anybody’s toes. We want the people whose articles and images we share to know that we like and appreciate their material and creations … their contributions to the conversation, if you will. We also want them to know we will abide by their preferences when it comes to how we use their material. Finally, we hope they appreciate the traffic we drive to their sites.

In the world of Content Marketing, everybody benefits … as long as we do it right.

Royalty Free Images.

Royalty Free Images: A List Of Sites That Provide Free Pictures
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Royalty Free Images: A List Of Sites That Provide Free Pictures
Looking for Royalty Free Images you can safely use on your blogs or websites? Here's a huge list of sites that provide free pictures! Click Here!
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Leave a Comment (2) ↓


  1. Rahimah Sultan January 27, 2016

    Thanks for the legwork, Steve. I have used some royalty-free images in the past and have a few sites in a notebook someplace. It’s great to have a list all in one place that I can actually save on my computer. Great post!

    • Steve Gaghagen January 27, 2016

      Thanks, Rahimah! My hope was that people would find it useful and use it as you’ve suggested. The reality is that we can always Google “royalty free images” or something like that, and we’ll find lots of stuff. But then what happens is we end up going to a new site every time … and learning a new site every time. When we do that we’re spending too much time figuring out stuff and not creating content. If we choose a few and go to the same ones, we’re much more efficient and productive. Thanks again! Glad you liked the post! 🙂


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