Using compelling, attention-grabbing images with WordPress and social media posts is one of the best ways to increase engagement and drive traffic. But licensing images isn’t cheap — if you publish frequently and use a stock image service like Getty Images or ShutterStock, you can end up spending hundreds of dollars a month on images. If you’re running a small business blog or personal blog, it’s really not worth the investment.
But You Can’t Just Take Any Image
Some bloggers choose the less than noble route of Googling for an image that suits their purpose and using whichever one takes their fancy, and while a few don’t understand the implications of this, anyone writing professionally for the web should have a solid grounding in copyright law. It’s quite simply illegal to take a photographer’s work and use it in ways that don’t conform to the licence under which the photographer published the image. The chances of getting caught are minute, but it does happen and it can expose you and your clients to both legal action and public shaming.
Free Image Licensing
Luckily, it’s not difficult to find images with permissive licences — licences that mean you can use the image with the blessing of the copyright holder (if there is one).
Free-to-use images tend to fall into two categories — public domain and Creative Commons. Public domain images are not protected by copyright and you can do whatever you please with them — usually these are old images that have fallen out of copyright, but there are some photographers who release their images into the public domain.
Creative commons licences are somewhat more complex. The photographer retains copyright but licences the images in a way that permits use by others. There are several different CC licences, and you should familiarize yourself with them. The most permissive allows you to do whatever you like with an image, the most restrictive allows you do nothing more than publish the image in a location that is not of commercial benefit to you — and most require some form of attribution. You need to be careful to verify which licence the images are published under, because if you break the terms of the licence, you’re at risk of the same consequences as someone who breaches copyright.
That said, if you know what you’re doing, you’re just a search away from millions of images that you can use without paying a cent, many of which are of very high quality.
Among my favorite sources are:
All these image sources are great, but having to trawl through each site to find what you’re looking for and then importing it into WordPress and inserting it into your posts can be time consuming. ImageInject is a handy WordPress plugin that takes most of the hassle out of the process of finding decent images for articles. It allows you to search for CC-licensed images on both Flickr and Pixabay, and directly insert them into your article or set them as a featured image. It’ll also insert attributions for images that require it.
Finding free images to use on your WordPress posts isn’t difficult, and so long as you pay careful attention to the licences and respect the photographer’s wishes, you’ll be able to publish media rich posts without financial cost or risk to your reputation.