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Meghan Ward

I'm a freelance writer and book editor represented by Andy Ross of the Andy Ross Literary Agency. You can read an excerpt of my memoir, Paris On Less Than $10,000 A Day, and visit my website for more info about me.



Where to Get Photos For Your Blog

When I teach blogging and social media classes at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, students frequently ask me, “Where can I get art for my blog? Can I just google images and use those?” The answer is yes, you can, but no, you may not. Because any image you find on the Internet may be copyright protected, the only way to be sure you are avoiding copyright infringement (ie breaking the law) is to either use images with a Creative Commons license or to purchase them through a stock photo or clip art website.

To use images licensed under Creative Commons, all you do is go to CreativeCommons.org, click on “Find CC-licensed Works” under “Explore,” type what it is you’re looking for in the search box, check the boxes if you plan to use your image for commercial purposes and/or modify them, then choose which library/search engine you want to use to search for your image. For example, I typed “Typewriter” into the Google search on Creative Commons and found this:

Beneath it is this little logo, which means I can use the image commercially or non-commercially as long as I attribute it to the creator: Raúl Hernández González.

Here is guide to all the Creative Commons logos and codes:

Attribution CC BY
Allows you to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon a work—commercially and non-commercially—as long as you credit the creator for the original work.

Attribution-No Derivs CC ND
Allows you to redistribute commercially and non-commercially without modification and with credit to the original creator.

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA
Allows you to tweak, remix, and build upon a work non-commercially with credit to the original creator.

Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA
Allows you to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon a work—commercially and non-commercially—as long as you credit the creator for the original work AND relicense the derivative work under the same terms, allowing it to be used commercially as well.

Attribution NonCommercial CC BY-NC
Allows you to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon a work for non-commercial use as long as you credit the creator for the original work.

Attribution NonCommerical-No Derivs CC BY-NC-ND
Allows you to redistribute a work for non-commercial use without modification and with credit to the original creator.

Notice all works licensed by Creative Commons have a “BY” requirement, which means you must give credit to the original creator of the work. If you do not want to give attribution for a work, another option is to purchase art from a clip art or stock photo library. ShutterStock is one such service. They charge $19 for one photo, or $49 for 5. You probably don’t want to spend $19 every time you write a blog post, but you’ll probably be more than happy to spend $19 for an image that will be a permanent fixture on your website. So it depends on your needs. There are many other premium stock photo services, like iStockPhoto, but they’re not cheap. iStockPhoto charges $19.50 for 12 “credits,” which will buy you one medium-sized photo. For free stock photos, try:

Stock.XChng has nearly 400,000 free photos online.

Every Stock Photo is a search engine for free photos, and tells from which source each photo originates (mostly Flickr and StockXChng).

NOTE: Beware of sites like Free Digital Photos. A “free” typewriter photo requires attribution and only comes in a small (300×400 dpi) format. To get a larger image without attribution required, you have to pay. (The maximum cost, however, is $10 for a high-res image, which is quite a bit less than Shutterstock or iStockPhoto.)

What about you? Where do you get photos and clip art for your blog? Do you use Creative Commons? Do you always attribute the image to the owner?

122 comments to Where to Get Photos For Your Blog

  • Hi Meghan. You always share such fascinating information with us! I'd never heard of Creative Commons or any of the ones you mentioned, except for Shutter Stock. Thanks so much! I'll be looking into some of these right away.

  • KLM

    Oh, dear. I'm a blog art scofflaw, I guess. I never use someone's original artwork, like something they post on their own blog. And mostly I try to get stuff that's so ubiquitous, it's almost public domain. But I must confess that I don't always look very closely at attributions.

    I are bad. I will change my ways.

    • meghancward

      I almost never use art on my blog, but I have been guilty of taking random photos from Google Images without checking to see if they're public domain or not. I'm sure we all do it. But I wanted to know the rules, so I can tell my students the next time they ask.

  • Thanks for the great post, Meghan! I've used dreamstime.com, which has a pretty good selection of very cheap photos for as little as $0.20, and gives you the option of paying more if you want a bigger, higher res image.

    • meghancward

      Laura, thanks so much for this. I remember you mentioning it to me years ago, and I couldn't remember the name. I was shocked that ShutterStock and iStockPhoto are charging $20/photo!

  • This is a great post. I wish more people understood the importance of NOT taking other people's work. As a stock photographer, I'm a little sensitive, because we get very little per sale. Conversely, it only costs a few dollars to buy an image to use.

    • meghancward

      How much do stock photo photographers get? I hope from places like ShutterStock, who are charging $20/photo, you're getting at least a few dollars.

  • annerallen

    Thanks so much for this! I avoid using photos on my blog because I'm not a photographer and I don't want to pay for photos (or steal them) for a non-monetized blog.

    But this explains how people get photos.that don't cost a fortune. I dropped out of a collective blog when I found out we'd be required to put a minimum of two photos in every post. It's one thing to work for no pay, but something else to pay for the privilege of giving your work away. I guess there would have been ways to get around it. Thanks for this super-valuable information! Bookmarking it.

    • meghancward

      Glad this was helpful, Anne. I don't typically use photos for my blog mostly because when I did I would spend way too much time looking for the perfect photo and it doubled the time it took me to write a post, but I admire people who are great photographers and post beautiful artwork with every post.

  • Glad you're bringing attention to this issue Meghan! I think most of us in the creative community are aware of the erosion of musicians' intellectual property in the click-and-download age, and of course photographers–whose works can also by stolen by internet–are in the same predicament. Human nature is such a funny thing: most of us wouldn't pocket a CD at a musician's table at a festival, or a paperback at Barnes & Noble, or a print off a gallery wall, but we do the same thing digitally all the time.

    I'd second Laura's recommendation of Dreamstime–an incredibly cheap way to ensure that you are blogging with a clean conscience, and not punching another creative person in the wallet. I'd also note that many Flickr users will list on their images if a piece is available through Creative Commons.

    • meghancward

      Nate, I'm going to add Dreamstime to the list! And Flickr is a great resource, too. You can search Flickr, Google, etc. through the Creative Commons website. Then you know for sure that it's licensed.

  • Roger Billings

    Thanks and just a tip that attributions matter: I had a website that ran into trouble when I was contacted by Getty Images. Turns out the original designer of the website used some images without rights. Getty Images wanted me to pay $600 per photo, even though some of them were extremely generic looking. Fortunately, I was able to track down the successor company to the original designer and they worked out something with Getty Images.

    • meghancward

      Thanks for the link – lots of great resources! And thank God the successor to the original designer worked something out with Getty Images. That would have been awful if you'd had to pay for images a designer used for your site. A great cautionary tale!

  • […] require some form of attribution. You gotta give credit where credit’s due. Meghan Ward has a great post detailing the CC symbols, and offers her own guide to free stock photos, which you should definitely check […]

  • Great information on an important topic for bloggers and self-published authors! I found the perfect image for the cover of my novel through Flickr's Creative Commons search capability, and the generosity of an Irishman who marked his photo CC BY 2.0 (attribution only). The photo was taken a few kilometers from where the Ireland part of the story is set, which made it really special. I sent him a signed copy of the novel in appreciation. I wanted to share his generosity, and his beautiful photos of western Ireland, with more folks so I featured him in a recent post!

    A View From Maree by Eoin Gardiner http://anirishmiracle.com/2012/06/21/a-view-from-

    Thanks again for the great ideas, and additional resources for finding CC licensed photographs.

    BTW, my designer found the perfect shot to crop for the back cover, and I was happy to pay the small licensing fee to use it. So, IMHO, Creative Commons or purchasing rights for use, finding the best shot to grace your blog — or your novel — is what really counts!

    • meghancward

      Those photos are beautiful, Rob! I love your book cover and website. Very nice. Thanks for sharing. And I agree – for a book cover or website, I'd happily pay $20 for a photo – just not for my blog (no offense, blog).

  • Very useful – I normally go to Flickr and tick both the creative commons boxes when I search. Never even thought of going straight to the creative commons site! Der!

  • Sierra Godfrey

    This is very timely information Meghan. I would add to your list Bigstock.com which is far, far cheaper than iStock or Shutterstock. I use it almost exclusively for graphic design clients.

    • meghancward

      Thanks so much for the suggestion, Sierra! I'll add Bigstock.com, Dreamstime.com and FreeRangeStock.com.

  • Thanks for an informative post. I use a great site for free (yes, truly!) photos called Morguefile. http://www.morguefile.com. If you’re looking for something specific then be very specific in your search terms.

  • Dear Meghan, thank you for this interesting posting. We'd like to mention about http://www.SchoolPhotoProject.com. We are a totally free stock photo site that make good quality photos available for students and public in general — we'd love to have bloggers using our photos with a small credit mentioned to us. No need to open an account or login to access and download our HD photo files – which are as big as 4000 pixels in size. New free photos are uploaded daily. Thank you!

  • Sharon

    Meghan. Thank you for the post. In addition to using Dreamstime, I also use http:// http://www.123rf.com, where there's a range of free stock photos and some available for purchase.

  • […] tale of what can happen and how to avoid it. Roni links to Meghan Ward’s (@meghancward) Where to Get Photos For Your Blog, which has good info, especially on how to read the Creative Commons logos and codes associated […]

  • jbw0123

    THANK YOU. I've been sloppy, frustrated, and inconsistent with photos usage. I'm turning over a new blogleaf, and fixing my blog photos.

  • […] you want to understand a little more about how this all works, you should read Meghan Ward’s Where to Get Photos For Your Blog. Ward teaches blogging and social media classes at the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto, so she […]

  • Oh dear.. good to know!

    Question though… I had read an article where they mentioned that it was alright as long as you provided a direct link to the sight since that would count as contributing the rightful artist.. is that correct?

  • Lia

    What about using images on Facebook Fan pages?

    • meghancward

      I don't think it matters, Lia, where you use them. You can't take photos from the Internet without giving attribution to the photographer. I would stick to using Creative Commons-licensed photos (or your own) to be safe.

      • Samantha

        How would you give credit to the photographer for a CC photo through Facebook? Do you have an example?

  • Hi, Meghan! Thank you for sharing this information.

  • […] on meghanward.com Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  • […] Where to Get Photos for Your Blog by Meghan Ward. This post has a great listing of Creative Commons logos and codes that you’ll want to look at. […]

  • […] other places where you can find free photographs.  Meghan Ward has written a blog post called:  Where To Get Photos For Your Blog.  Here are a few links that she […]

  • Danielle

    Can someone change their photo's "status" from creative commons? If so how would you know if you got it legit say 6 months ago and then the owner changed his/her mind?

    • meghancward

      Great question, Danielle. Here's the answer from the Creative Commons website: (The short answer is no, a photographer cannot change the license of a photo):

      What if I change my mind?

      This is an extremely important point for you (a licensor) to consider. Creative Commons licenses are non-revocable. This means that you cannot stop someone, who has obtained your work under a Creative Commons license, from using the work according to that license. You can stop offering your work under a Creative Commons license at any time you wish; but this will not affect the rights associated with any copies of your work already in circulation under a Creative Commons license. So you need to think carefully when choosing a Creative Commons license to make sure that you are happy for people to be using your work consistent with the terms of the license, even if you later stop distributing your work.

      For some creators and/or licensors, this is not an important issue. And most educators who put their their educational resources online do so with the idea that they will be widely shared. But if you depend on controlling the copyrights in your resources for your livelihood, you should think carefully before giving away commercial rights to your creative work. For example, many musicians have discovered that offering work for noncommercial use can be quite rewarding. But anything beyond that requires careful consideration. We all admire generous souls. But if you want to be generous, we want you to think carefully about it before you are.

  • akamissi

    I would like to know if, I take a picture from my ipad of an internet site. Which would give me an image of someone's site would that fall under copyright law infringement?

    • meghancward

      Good question, akamissi. And sorry that I didn't reply to this sooner. I guess it depends on what you do with that photo, but truth be told, I don't know the answer.

  • beautifulmess7

    I have a hard time figuring out how to correctly attribute the photographer. Is there some "standard" attribution line I can use?

    • meghancward

      Beautifulmess7 So sorry for this late reply! And that's a great question. I just wrote "Photo by xxx" on mine.

  • driansmith1

    Hello Meghan,
    Great article – cheers.
    Can I ask a question? Any idea what the implications are of screenshots of other peoples webpages, and using them on our own site?
    There are a lot of screenshot plugins for all browsers now.

  • emily

    Thank you!
    Best, Emily xoxo

  • […] Where to Get Photos For Your Blog « Writerland […]

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  • Will

    For all you info! I am not a lawyer but here is my experience with Flicker and Creative Commons. Users may upload their photo without consents of the subject and or tradmarks then release the copyright. In many cases if their photo is a portrait of a person or group of poeple you will need the subjects consent as well. This is a privacy issue and could cost you a fortune. Trademarks like a coke bottle can be even more difficult to deal with because did not share your opinion. The best best is to get a model release or blur the faces, logo and or trademark. Creative Commons could set you up if you don’t read the fine print. With all the facial recognition software it not worth the chance of violating someone’s privacy rights.

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  • Keep up the good work. I love the pics!

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  • […] let you use them if your making money from your blog for example). This is a great post listing the breakdown of creative commons licenses and includes some other ideas of places you can get photos that are OK to […]

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  • WP Sch rijver

    Hi Meghan, thanks for the clarification on Creative Commons. I take a lot of images for my blogs from http://imageafter.com/index.php and modify or build on them.. The have a very liberal terms :-) http://imageafter.com/terms.php

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  • Thanks SO much for this awesome post of explanations! (I came here by way of Roni Loren’s excellent/scary post about using photos).

    I am a little confused as to the definition of “commercial”.

    For instance, I write a blog for my business.
    If I am writing a blog post which is purely giving information, and not selling anything, does that count as non-commericial?
    Even though it’s the blog of my business (which currently doesn’t run a profit, but I’m hoping will soon)?

    An example is this http://www.yesyesmarsha.com/confidence/

    If anyone was able to shed light on this, I would be ENORMOUSLY grateful. Thanks!

  • Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think which you can do with a couple of pics to drive the message home slightly bit, but other than that, this is outstanding blog. A great read. I will certainly be back.

  • An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who was doing a little homework on this. And he actually bought me dinner because I discovered it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this subject here on your website.

  • […] Meghan Ward’s Blog Writerland covers Creative Common logos and codes, while providing some places to safely get photos. http://meghanward.com/blog/2012/06/21/where-to-get-photos-for-your-blog/ […]

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  • […] so if you’re committed to doing the right thing when it comes to web images, check out these resources Angela shared on Monday, and consider sharing some of your pictures at Flickr. The more images we […]

  • My advice to those photo owners is to watermark their photos, in that way they can protect their photo being used by another person without prior permission.

  • Damn good blog post. I always get confused on finding images these days and end up buying them instead to play it safe, but after seeing this, it looks as though if I pay a little bit more attention to the attributes, I can save a little bit of $$$. Thanks Meghan.

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  • […] another post on Where To Get Photos For Your Blog that might help. Becca and I will be changing how and what we post for pictures to make sure […]

  • […] that are under Creative Commons license. And there are actually really great photos available.) Meghan Ward did a fantastic post on the breakdown of creative commons licenses plus listed some other photo […]

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  • The best license to go for is Public Domain. Look at:
    pixabay.com http://www.goodfreephotos.com

    For these kinds of photos.

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    Great post! I'm just starting off to write a blog and this is a very useful and important thing to know!

  • […] Creative Commons (Here’s a post explaining Creative Commons rights.) […]

  • Forgot to mention Bigstock.com

  • Ernesto San Giacomo

    Under the Attribution ShareAlike CCBY-SA, you said "…AND relicense the derivative work under the same terms…" My question is how do you go about relicensing?

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    Gogobot (www.gogobot.com) just launched a feature to allow bloggers to use their collection of 4MM travel related photos to enhance their blog. Just search for a destination or a point of interest (e.g. the Eiffel Tower), and click on the share icon in the lower right corner of any photo. It gives you blog-friendly embed code and includes proper attribution for creative commons so you don't have to worry about running afoul of the law. Nice feature.

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  • Well, I either use stock photos from Flickr or make my own photos. Anyway, thanks for the info!

  • Where to Get Photos for Your Blog by Meghan Ward. This post has a great listing of Creative Commons logos and codes that you’ll want to look at

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  • lalalalise

    This is a great post! Thanks for the information. I followed the directions; however, I do not see any creative commons logos on the images that are returned through the creative commons search. I've tried through google images and Flickr. Is anyone else having this issue? Maybe I'm not doing something right… Thanks!

  • […] is a fantastic breakdown of all the Creative Commons license types by blogger and author Meghan Ward. Some sites offer size or file restrictions and only let you download small sizes or a certain […]

  • Kristin

    I'm following your instructions regarding searching the Creative Commons site. I found the typewriter photo that you used and attributed to Raúl Hernández González, but I don't see the CC logo anywhere around the photo that tells me how it may be used.

    Also, once I choose a Creative Commons "approved" photo, how do I credit the artist? Can I do that at the bottom of the blog post, or does it have to be right under the picture?

    Thanks for your help!!!

  • […] For an excellent guide on the different kinds of Creative Commons licences, read Meghan Ward’s informative blog post. […]