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Sourcing Free Images for Your Site, Social

Posted on 2.23.2017

Images can make an enormous difference to the impact your online store and its marketing initiatives have upon a current or potential customer.

No matter how much time and effort you have put into the design of your store or the cleverness of your social posts, however, it can easily be undone by a disappointing picture. Hence, it really does pay to place a high value on high-quality photos.

In addition to specific product photos, there are many photos used on e-commerce websites, for instance, that are designed to convey various moods and incite reactions.

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In this picture, there are no actual products in the spotlight – it rather conveys a nice and relaxed summer mood. In this way, you can introduce your customers gently to the theme of your shop culture or the products that are offered (in this example, summer fashion). Because of their size and prominence on the website, we call such photos "Hero images".

There can be pitfalls when creating or obtaining photos, however, such as:

  • In contrast to product photos, which you can usually create yourself, such images are more difficult and more complex to produce
  • To use images from photographers, you must secure permission from them and respect the respective copyrights
  • Photos from image agencies can often be quite expensive

Fortunately, however, there are remedies out there – for example, you can search for free photos via Google or Flickr. In addition, there are now a number of reliable websites that specialize in offering high-quality photos that are free to download - some with attribution rules, others with the opportunity to buy the artist "coffee" for their contribution.

With our top tips and list of best sources for free images, it can be easy and achievable to land yourself some winning pictures.

What to consider about image rights

Again and again, we see warnings about the use of licensed images on the Internet. Always check in detail whether the pictures you want to use are really free for commercial purposes and which conditions may be linked to their usage. For example, it is sometimes necessary that you name the photographer. Photos are often published under a ‘Creative Commons’ license. This license also specifies whether or not images can be edited. You can find out more about this area in Wikipedia.

It is always worthwhile to familiarize yourself with the various different types of license out there or risk legal trouble. 

Google image search

Google's image search is useful to find any type of image. It can also be used to search for photos with specific usage rights.

Go to images.google.com and enter a search term. On the search results page, click Search options at the top, and then click Usage rights. Now you can filter the results accordingly. It is particularly useful that you can also screen the pictures according to other criteria - for example, by size. However, the quality of the photos varies greatly. In contrast to the portals described below, there is no quality control, and so images of poor quality are displayed.

google-image-search

Flickr

The users of the photo platform Flickr have uploaded 13 billion pictures so far. Many of them can be used freely for commercial use.

After entering a search term, you can click on any license in the search filters and then display the photos with the desired license. As with Google, there are also photos of poor quality.

Creative Commons

The official website of Creative Commons provides a search engine for image licensing, which allows you to search for different sources – also from Google Images and Flickr.

Enter your search term at the top and select the checkboxes checked at “I want something that I can ....”. Then, under ‘Search using:’ choose a source and click on the green search button at the top. You will then be taken to the appropriate website.

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Unsplash

On Unsplash you will find great photos for free usage. The various collections offered by Unsplash are particularly captivating and useful.

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Pexels

The motto of Pexels is "Best free stock photos in one place" – and they are doing well on their mission. All pictures on the site are free for private as well as commercial use.

Stocksnap

The pictures on Stocksnap are clear of copyright restrictions as well and every week hundreds of new pictures are published on the site.

After searching for a keyword, you will find further search filters on the left-hand side. For example, you can view the photos according to popularity.

Pixabay

Pixabay states that you can find more than 820,000 graphic files for free use on their site.

Please note, there are also pictures on Pixabay that you will need to buy in order to use. For example, in the search results, you will see a series of "commercial images" above the free photos.

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Splitshire

Splitshire is the work of Italian photographer Daniel Nanescu. On his website, he publishes his own pictures, which have also been used by the likes of media giants such as CNN and the Huffington Post.

Picjumbo

On Picjumbo there are free pictures of various types available. However, the selection is relatively small compared to most other portals.

Stockvault

Currently, there are over 90,000 free photos available on Stockvault to download. Hundreds of new pictures arrive weekly on the platform.

Gratisography

Gratisography is not only unique because of its eclectic design, but many of the photos offered on the site are also quite special and of high quality.  This combination could make the portal a very useful resource.
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Startup Stockphotos

The target group for Startup Stockphotos is quite small, as compared to the other portals mentioned in this article. As the name suggests, the site mainly focuses upon the needs of young technology companies. There are certainly many good photos of young, working people in stylish surroundings.

Happy Searching

With such a world of amazing images out there, it will always be enjoyable and productive to experiment in time with how images can impact upon your sales, engagement and brand loyalty. Now have fun finding the best images for your own online store!


As head of corporate communication for ePages, Richard Stevenson has been in the Web hosting and e-commerce software industry for around 13 years, many of which working directly with SMEs all over the world to drive Web adoption and awareness for e-business and e-commerce activities.
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