The biggest and best-known photo-sharing site, Flickr, is also a gold mine of free photos for your website. Not all photos on the site are free but those tagged as Creative Commons for Commercial Use offer a license that allows any website to display them with proper attribution.
Many of our clients ask how to get Flickr photos. Like all big sites out there, Flickr is regularly implementing improvements to their software, so the instructions below will work for now but in the future your mileage may vary.
- Go to https://www.flickr.com/search/advanced/. Put in your search term in the box, for example, “Morocco business” or “kids with cats.” Then, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the two boxes Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content and Find content to use commercially. Then, hit the SEARCH button.
- Depending on your search, you’ll either get a message saying there’s nothing, or a page of pictures. Some searches will deliver multiples pages of shots. Select a picture you like and click on it.
- That will bring up a screen with a black background. Don’t try to drag and drop the pic directly from this page, even if you can — that might give you a shot that’s too small. Instead, look in the lower-right hand corner of the black area, with the three little icons: a star, a larger right arrow and a small down arrow. Click on the small down arrow, which lets you download.
That will display a pulldown menu with sizes available. For most shots, there will be 3-5 sizes listed plus another choice to view all sizes. For most websites, the Medium size of about 600 pixels wide probably would be fine, but if there’s a larger size available, perhaps 800-1000 pixels wide, that may be a better choice if your site pulls featured images from posts or pages into a slide show or if there’s a big image at the top of your page or post. In any event, it’s better to go one size up just to be safe. Your site can always make big pictures smaller, but it can’t make small images bigger.
- Be sure to note the screen name of the owner of the photo so you can provide the photo credit required by the Creative Commons/Commercial Use license.
- When you click on the option for the size you select, the file should then download to your computer. From there, if you’re using WordPress, you can upload it to your post as the Featured Image.
Flickr really is a gold mine for free photos, but since it’s a big site open to everybody’s contributions, the quality is mixed. You may have to dig through a lot of junk to find photo gold.
If you’re willing to be a bit more adventurous, you can find a consistently high quality of shots on smaller sites run by photographers themselves such as Death to the Stock Photo or Startup Stock Photos. The selection is much smaller than on Flickr, but the shots are beautiful.
Not enough for you? Well, wait, there’s more…
The DIY graphics design service Canva has published an exhaustive list of places to find royalty free photos. Helpfully, they rate each resource with 1-4 stars: “Free Stock Photos: 73 Best Sites To Find Awesome Free Images.”
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group