Caroline's Corner Blog post images: Why use them and where to get them

For the bloggers who started building websites in the early 00s, blogging was ‘just’ writing an update on your life or writing a tutorial. Photos were  not usual and if you had photos, you made sure the title of the blog post contained something like: ‘warning: image heavy’. Today, you cannot imagine posting a blog without an image. Your post is less likely to be picked up on Facebook, Twitter and even Google. And as we all know, even the Yoast SEO plugin tells you to use images in your post! But… why do you use those images? And where do you get them from? Fear not! I’m going to share all my secrets with you. Again!

Why you should use images in your blog posts

My most popular posts on my blog are, not quite coincidentally, posts with high-quality images. A picture is worth a thousand words. And this holds very true for bloggers in a niche that’s saturated. If a visitor has to choose which site to visit on Pinterest or Facebook, they will choose one with an image that’s compelling to them. Sure, your call to action will have to persuade them as well, but if you don’t use images, or don’t use high-quality ones, they very well might skip your blog post.

There’s another reason why you need proper images, other than social sharing: Google images. When you have high quality and optimized images, your images could rank first when people perform a Google image search. There are several posts I actually rank first with on Google Images. And does this give me visitors? Yes, it sure does!

Before you grab your camera…

Before you fear you have to invest in photography courses, have to hire a professional photographer or you just cannot create the right photos, read on. Because I’ve got some tips and tricks for you.

Use stock photos

If you cannot create your own photo for whatever reason, there are a lot of stock photo websites you can grab images from. Do not, and I repeat, not, Google search for images and just grab them. This is stealing. The photos you are placing on your website, belong to someone else. You need to have the photographer’s permission. You don’t want to see your blog post on someone else’s blog. A photographer does not like it when their photo is published on your site without permission. You wouldn’t be the first one to get a claim from a photographer, and rightfully so.

But if you can’t just grab every image, where should you find them? Luckily, there are quite a few stock photo websites out there that have licenses that permit you to use the photos. Please always check the licenses described on the website. Because I like you and because I’m feeling very helpful today, I’ve explored the licenses on the sites below.

Unsplash.com

Unsplash is my absolute favorite. The images on here are gorgeous, the website is easy to navigate and the licensing is very clear. All photos published on Unsplash, are free for commercial and non-commercial use. You can alter the images if you wish without needing to give the photographer credit. I use this website for my personal blog quite often. Especially for blog posts about motherhood, when I don’t want to photograph my own child.

Pixabay.com

Pixabay has both paid and free images. A lot of images here do not require crediting the photographer. If you don’t have to credit and you can alter the image, you will find that the image is released under Creative Commons CC0.

Foter.com

Foter claims there are over 335 million free stock photos on its site. Just conduct a search. Each and every photo will display the license under which it’s listed. Some photos require credit to the photographer, some photos may not be altered and some may not be modified. It can be quite hard to find a picture you like here, especially if you have to make sure you comply with the licenses.

But what if my blog is about a subject I can’t find a photo for?

What if you write about blogging or programming? Or about showering, and you don’t want to have someone naked on your blog who’s enjoying their shampoo a tad too much? Be creative! You’re a blogger, a writer, you can be creative with images, can’t you? For that blogging article, use a (stock) photo of a laptop. And for that shower, use a shower head. Or just running water. Remember: the image does not replace your article, it’ll enhance it and grab your reader’s attention.

But what if you really, really, really cannot find a suitable image? Well, have you ever heard of Canva?

Canva is amazing

With Canva, you can create designs for every need in your browser. It holds a lot of free designs you can use. There are premade designs for Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, posters and more. With these designs, varying from drawings to quotes and photos, you’ll be able to find a suitable image for your blog post, I’m absolutely sure of it.

There’s a photo for everything

Trust me when I say there’s a photo for everything. Have you ever checked stock photos for pineapples? There are tons of them, like the one we displayed here. Actually, there are so many stock photos about pineapples, I wrote a blog post dedicated to pineapple stock photos. Even the most funniest, weirdest or ugliest stock photos can give you inspiration to write.

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co.

Say thanks

We’re lucky to live in a world where it’s very cheap to create your own website. Where you don’t have to pay for WordPress, you can use a lot of free plugins and become big without spending a dime on your website. You might be one of the few bloggers that make a living out of blogging. If so: that’s awesome.

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I have one request for you in that case: if you make money with your website and you do use stock photos, please consider thanking the photographer by donating a (small) amount to thank them for their work in making your website better. It’s up to you to decide if you wish to do this and if you have the means to do so, but I do believe ‘we bloggers’ owe quite a lot of thanks to the wonderful people out there who share their knowledge and resources for free.

Please let me know in the comments which stock photo websites you use that I haven’t heard of. Oh, and a game for you: spot the stock photos on my own personal blog ;)

Read more: Image SEO: Optimizing for search engines »


Caroline is a technical product specialist at Yoast. In her spare time she writes and maintains a blog about life as a mother. In September 2014 she joined the company as a software developer without any idea what the Yoast SEO plugin even did. Something with SEO, sure. But who needs that as a blogger? That’s for the big companies out there that are only in it for the money. O, how wrong she was. Read more about Caroline and find all of her posts »


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37 Responses to Blog post images: Why use them and where to get them

  1. Nadim Alamuddin
    Nadim Alamuddin  • 1 day ago

    Hey Caroline, what a great post, especially that it reinforces what I currently use – Unsplash! Yes, I definitely love the images on it. I actually choose to credit every photograph in my blog (still not launched, but soon!).
    I have used other stock images such as Shutterstock or Flickr, but none compare to Unsplash!
    I have often gone to Canva, but it takes a longer time to create great products than first anticipated.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!!
    Nadim

  2. Rajeev
    Rajeev  • 2 days ago

    Hello Caroline!
    Awesome stuff and thanks for sharing wonderful article.

    Thank you so much!

  3. Professional Web Design
    Professional Web Design  • 2 days ago

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful article and tips on blog posts. I have been writing and posting various blog posts for my website and this article really helped me out. Images of our blog posts are the great contributor in attracting the user’s attention as well as it enhances our blog’s creativity and looking.

  4. Samiur Rahman
    Samiur Rahman  • 4 days ago

    Thank you so much Caroline!

  5. Paresh
    Paresh  • 4 days ago

    Great article with quite a few resources to find good quality free / paid images. I have a question here?

    The picture that we download from any site (free / paid), it may have been used hundreds or even thousand times on different websites. Having such photos on our website also, will it affect anyway in SEO terms or will it matter in Google search?

  6. Matteo Duò
    Matteo Duò  • 1 week ago

    Hey Caroline, great post! To me, Unsplash and Canva are invaluable resources: I love them.
    Btw, some while ago I put together a massive list of resources for finding free stock photos you could use anywhere you like. Here’s the link, if you’d like to have a look: https://www.matteoduo.com/free-photo-websites-commercial-use/

    Thanks again! :)

  7. Roshan Ingle
    Roshan Ingle  • 1 week ago

    Awesome tips thanks, i already knew about canva and pixabay.. Unsplash new addition to my list now

    • Caroline Geven

      You’re very welcome :)

  8. mike
    mike  • 1 week ago

    Fotolia’s images are beautiful :)

    • Caroline Geven

      Yes, I checked them out, I love them!

  9. Tunde Sanusi (Tuham)
    Tunde Sanusi (Tuham)  • 1 week ago

    You’re indeed right about images and using them for site:)
    Am more familiar with Pixabay and Canva and i must say they’re pretty cool

    • Caroline Geven

      There are great photos on there, definitely!

  10. Leon Buijs
    Leon Buijs  • 1 week ago

    I’ve often wondered if the photo’s from a stockphoto site are worth less, SEO-wise. You don’t mention this.

    Google likes original content over copies, so I’d expect it to prefer a unique photo over a stockphoto / any previously published photo, even if that’s a less perfect picture.

    Apart from the stockphoto site, a stockphoto might be sold dozens, even hundreds of times…

    • Caroline Geven

      An own photo is always better SEO wise than a duplicate. I’m not sure how it can influence you, but I think it’s better you have a stock photo than none at all. I’ve written down your question and will explore for a future blog post!

  11. Nick Leffler
    Nick Leffler  • 1 week ago

    My favorite source is always Depositphotos for more options than the free images on Pixebay. I chose Depositphotos mainly because there’s a good balance of decent photos and a decent price for those photos. Best part? Appsumo occasionally has a $49 deal for 100 images, love that deal so much. I would recommend even if you don’t make a ton of money from your blog to splurge a bit if Appsumo ever gets the Depositphotos deal back. Even if they don’t, Depositphotos has a good deal for $29/month for 30 images I think. Not as good of a selection of images as iStockPhoto and other big sites but the price is a good balance between quality, quantity, and price.

    • Caroline Geven

      Thanks for the tip, I love that everyone in the comments agrees with me to pay for the photography.

  12. Susan
    Susan  • 1 week ago

    I just read an entire article on the importance of images without one image : (

    • Caroline Geven

      There’s a huge header image specifically drawn for my blog series ;)

      But I get your feeling, your comment made me chuckle – I did in fact not insert a single image.

  13. John-Pierre Cornelissen
    John-Pierre Cornelissen  • 1 week ago

    I use librestock.com that site indexes free images from many different websites

    • Caroline Geven

      Oh, that’s useful too. That way you don’t have to remember all those different stock photo sites. Thanks for the suggestion.

  14. yourbestresort.est2018
    yourbestresort.est2018  • 1 week ago

    Thank you – that was most useful information. I’m still a little vague on the matter, however, given that I am creating a travel website with tools and resources for travelers. When i feature a resort or destination hot spot, I usually use wikepedia or trip advisor where no photography author is identified. Do you think this would be permitted?

    • Caroline Geven

      I don’t think this is permitted, as someone might very well have only allowed Wikipedia or Trip advisor to use the image. I would advise to contact the resort for images.

  15. Missy Zane
    Missy Zane  • 1 week ago

    Fotolia’s images are not free, but they’re inexpensive and beautiful.

    • Caroline Geven

      Thank you for the suggestion!

  16. Aimee Paterson
    Aimee Paterson  • 1 week ago

    Great post! Imagery is so important and it can be super time consuming to find the “right” photo. Another great option is Shotzr.com – the platform is on a mission to remove the grunt work of finding photos by predicting image needs and delivering authentic and relevant photos straight to your inbox.

  17. Eddamoun
    Eddamoun  • 1 week ago

    Thanks for sharing!
    I use Unsplash to find high quality photos.

  18. Per Karlsson
    Per Karlsson  • 1 week ago

    Continued:

    But more importantly:

    Even if the license on eg. Unsplash says that it is OK to use for commercial use (=advertising, but also something that promotes any kind of service or product, without necessarily being advertising) it is not necessarily true. If the picture contains a recognisable person that person MUST have given his/her permission in a “model release”, otherwise they can go after the user.

    The same is true also for objects. Many “things” are also under copyright. For example, the illumination of the Eiffel Tower (but not the tower itself). So you can not use a picture of the Tower at night when it is illuminated without permission from the designers of the illumination. It was easy to find many picture of an illuminated tower on Unsplash…

    Same thing with e.g. grafitti (and many, many other objects). Many picture agencies refuse pictures of grafitti since the grafitti painter can come after anyone who uses a picture of the “painting” for damages.

    This became very long, but I think the conclusion is: be very, very careful when you use pictures that are not your own.

    In fact, you said it well in your text: a blogger / publisher wouldn’t dream of stealing (=copying) a text or article from someone else, right? It is EXACTLY the same thing with pictures. Just grabbing (=copying) one is stealing (unless permission is granted).

  19. Per Karlsson
    Per Karlsson  • 1 week ago

    Thanks for starting out with the words “DO NOT JUST GRAB ANY PICTURE” and continuing to explain about copyright. Being also a photographer I appreciate that. So many people don’t. (Try Pixy and you will find out.)

    You have indeed found some great sources.

    However, a word of warning, or rather two (or more):

    On those kind of sites there’s always a risk that some of the pictures are already stolen and put there…

    Cont’

    • Caroline Geven

      You’re welcome. Do you have tips for us to make sure the stock photo we use, is not stolen?

  20. Michiel
    Michiel  • 1 week ago

    Unsplash and Pixabay are also two of my favorites! Other ones that I like are Pexels and StockSnap :). And for paid images I usually turn to Deposit Photos. Shooting pictures yourself or creating them with a tool like Canva also works really well.

  21. Cirphrank
    Cirphrank  • 1 week ago

    You’ve spoken only of the bests in the game, and I so know no other than them, Pixa is bae(pixabay) though unsplash has been tickling my fancy recently.

  22. Adrian
    Adrian  • 1 week ago

    Anyone else baffled by the irony that this post contains no images?

    • Caroline Geven

      You’re right. It has a stock photo now :D

  23. Sarah Stenhouse
    Sarah Stenhouse  • 1 week ago

    I would also suggest you try out Pixey.io. It’s a platform that allows you to find and license content from Instagram.
    Images are such an important feature in your marketing efforts to connect with your audience. Pixey.io takes the pain out of having to use cheesy stock and instead use authentic UGC! With Pixey.io’s service, you can license content from Instagram at the click of a button, search Instagram content by more than one hashtag, colour and image orientation.

    It is cheap and easy to use. Give it a try.

    (Disclosure I work there)

    • Caroline Geven

      Awesome, I’ll be sure to check it out!

  24. Sandra Muller
    Sandra Muller  • 1 week ago

    Pexels.com is another good stock photography site where you can use the images for free – but there is a lot of duplication between Pexels and Unsplash. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a blogger or not and I notice it more, but it gets a bit tiresome seeing the same Unsplash images again and again on blogs. I don’t mind paying a few dollars for an image that my readers are unlikely to have seen before, so I mostly buy images from Deposit Photos these days.

    • Caroline Geven

      I haven’t heard of that one yet, thank you for the suggestion!
      I notice a lot of duplicates as well, it’s probably we’re more active as bloggers and keep up with our colleague bloggers.


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