I have read many upset posts from people saying that they had used an image they found online, only to get an email a few days later from the photographer asking that the picture be removed. The ramifications of using a copyrighted image without proper attribution can be serious. And even without the possibility of legal action, in general it’s best not to steal someone’s work and use it without permission.
So what can you do if you just want to use a picture as the background of your post, or a header image on your website? Luckily there are a few sites that serve only 100% free-to-use images. My favorite two are Pexels and Unsplash.
Pexels has an almost unending supply of images in nearly any topic you could imagine and allows you to download them in a decent variety of sizes. The site frequently runs little contests with the people who submit photos, to inspire more contributions. This way around holidays, you will see a surge of relevant imagery you can use. This avoids the issue of the same group of stock photos being used over and over again. Every image you download on this site can be used however you want (as long as you don’t try and sell the image as your own work) and can be used without attribution.
Once you download an image, a window will pop up allowing you to send a few dollars to the photographer if you wish, but this is absolutely not mandatory.
Similar to Pexels, Unsplash has a huge variety of beautiful images that you can download in different sizes. Unsplash also has the addition of “sponsored” images, so if you are looking for a picture for a specific brand, you run a higher chance of finding those images there.
Unsplash also has a row of suggested keywords that you can search at the top, which makes discovering images a little more simple and quick than Pexels.
Often photographers will submit their images to both these sites, so you will tend to see a lot of overlap. We recommend sending some money to your photographer if you use your pictures frequently. This is by no means required, but is a nice way to ensure that the photographer feels appreciated and continues to submit pictures.