bloggers · copyright · images

Free images for bloggers

helena fairfax
Penguin from Pixabay

When I first started this blog I’m ashamed to say I took a very cavalier approach to illustrating it. I copied and pasted quite a few images that weren’t mine to take (I know, I’m sorry!) It’s so easy to see a great photo on another website and think, oh that looks brilliant, I’ll use it.  My reasoning at the time was, it doesn’t really matter because no one reads this blog anyway. But my thinking was wrong (as it so often is!) Besides not being entitled to copy other people’s photos willy nilly, my blog has grown in the meantime from a handful of family and friends to close to 400 followers, and besides that, those pages with “borrowed” images are still up there getting hits every day.

So now I’m going to have to go back through those early days and put right the wrong – you’ll be glad to hear. In order to do this I’ve had to have a good look at what images I can use, and which not, and so I thought I’d share a list of cool places I’ve found that let you download. (And PLEASE NOTE: these are places which allow you to copy the image as is, without altering it, and to use it on your blog. They are not necessarily images you can use for book covers. If you are wanting to use these images for anything other than a blog post, please DOUBLE CHECK the source to find out whether you’re entitled to do so, and please check whether you need to leave an attribution in the caption.)


Helena Fairfax
Source: Free Digital Photos/Khunaspix


Free Digital Photos

Public Domain Photos

Creative Commons


Microsoft Office Online Gallery

There are also some museums that are offering free downloads from their fabulous collections. The terms of use for some of these museums need careful study, though, so please check them out before using the images.

The Metropolitan Museum, New York

The Te Papa Museum, New Zealand

The Rijksmuseum, Holland

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

helena fairfax
Te Papa Museum 1950s design

Hope you’ve liked the images I used in this post. I’ve discovered there are so many beautiful free images out there to choose from, you can get quite carried away looking through them all!

Do you ever use any of the sources I mentioned? Or do you know of any other good sources for free images? If you have any comments or recommendations, I’d love to hear from you!



25 thoughts on “Free images for bloggers

  1. This is great–I will definitely check out the links. I have to admit that I do what you said you originally did: just take whatever pictures I want (unless they explicitly say copyright) since no one except my aunt reads my blog anyways! But now that you’ve given us such a nice list, I have no excuse :)


  2. Mary, Suzanne and Matthew – Thank you! Hope you find the sites useful! And Mary-Jean, I wrote my first blog posts over a year ago. No one read them at the time, but I’m really surprised to find they’ve had quite a few hits since then. I never imagined they would! So now I need to go back and change my “borrowed” images. Hope your aunt likes my pictures! :)


  3. This is a very helpful list, Helena. I mostly use Microsoft online if I can’t find a pic of my own, which is really my favorite. I’d been warned by a writing chapter member about not using just any old photos. She’d begun the way you did, and got sued. It was a big mess. She shared her experience and I’ve always been a bit paranoid about it sense. You’re wise, though it’s a pain in the rear, to go back and change all those you “borrowed.” I’ll Share this is super. Thanks so much.


    1. Oh it’s my nightmare to get sued, Marsha! I try and use my own photos now, if I can, or book covers, which are OK to copy. But there are some superb images on these free sites, much better than any I could come up with myself. Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope your friend is OK now.


    1. I hope you find it useful, Leona. Some of the sites are easier to use than others – but they’re all better than being sued! Thanks very much for your comment! On Jun 6, 2014 4:13 PM, “Helena Fairfax” wrote:



  4. Thanks so much for these suggestions. I had no idea museums let you use images. I’ve used BigStock, but I have to purchase the image. It used to cost very little, but it’s gotten more and more costly. I tend to use images over and over because I don’t want to purchase another (too cheap!). (The clip art offered free online is pretty ugly).

    As for images on the web. I have a questions. Many celebs post their images on their sites. If I blog about them, is it okay to use the image? Do I need to get permission? What has your experience been?

    And, what about Pinterest? I’m assuming it’s okay to pin a celeb to a board. Right?

    My gosh, it is confusing. . .


    1. Hi Joan, you’re right, it is confusing, and a bit of a minefield. First of all, not all museums let you use the images on their sites. The ones I listed have an online collection that people are allowed to use, but it’s probably best if you check their terms and conditions first before downloading.
      As for images of celebs, I”m no expert, but I’d say it’s best not to copy them from their sites. The photographer probably holds the copyright. It’s a shame, as I’ve often wanted to put the photo of an actor on my blog – but I’m not confident it’s allowed, so now I don’t do it.
      Microsoft free clipart is quite dull, I agree! I’ve had another suggestion from author Chris Mannino, and that’s , which you could also check out. He says the images are entirely free to download and alter.
      Regarding Pinterest, it’s fine to pin a link and choose a picture from that link to illustrate your board. But uploading pictures directly onto your board is a tricky area. I’d say, if in doubt, pin a link, and not an image.
      It is really confusing. I bet lawyers struggle to make sense of copyright, now the internet is open to all. Hope some of my suggestions mean you don’t have to pay for images now.
      Thanks for commenting, Joan


      1. Hi Helena. After posting this question, I contacted Joshua Bell’s PR person who was listed on his site. I asked for permission to use a photo. She gladly gave permission and asked that I include the photographer, which she provided.

        So, if you want to use a celeb on your blog, contact them. Bell’s PR person answered by request immediately.



  5. It is confusing Helena and when we started our blog I was quite worried about even using images of book covers to illustrate book reviews, I’m a little more relaxed on this now though as this seems to be OK as long as a photographer is not cited as holding the copyright. If in doubt and especially if a book has not been sent by the author or publisher for review I use the thumbnail image. I’ve used Shutterstock in the past but it can get expensive unless you use the image more than once. Your list is really useful though and it is good of you to share it with us all. :)


    1. Hope you do find the list of use, Tina. Book covers seem to be OK to share. I’m sure most authors are happy to have the free promotion! Shutterstock have some great images, but they are expensive just to post to a blog. I hope the links are useful. There are some great images on some of the sites. Hard to believe they’re free! Thanks very much for your comment!


  6. Thank you very much Helena for this very informative post and the great links. It’s very useful to know where to get images from!


  7. Great post and list, Helena – thanks. I’ve always used my own images where possible and a couple from Wikimedia Commons but this is very useful, especially the V&A one!


  8. Hi Joan, that’s great that Joshua Bell’s PR was so helpful! And at least now you can rest easy that the photo use is legitimate. I’ve contacted a couple of people in the past to ask for permission, and they have always been helpful, too. I expect they appreciate our honesty! Thanks very much for letting me know. Next time I want to use an actor’s photo, I’ll try that route. Thank you!


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