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Need Free Photos for Social Media?

Morguefile Image:

A picture is worth a thousand words. —Arthur Brisbane

But we’re writers, and we’d rather write the 1,000 words. Still, our social media marketing efforts require us to use visuals. We need photos for our blog posts so that links on Facebook will pick up the picture, drawing attention to the FB post. Not to mention Pinterest and Instagram. Even Twitter is accommodating photos now.

The Photo Copyright Challenge

Most photos online are governed by a license agreement. Always read it. Some presented as “free” will still have restrictions, such as requiring an attribution statement or link to original source every time you use the photo. Others are less strict but still have limitations. For example, on MorgueFile, the license agreement states that you can use the photos for just about anything without attribution except resale. Others might allow you to use the photo online but not print. Update (7-14-16): Morguefile has made some changes since this post was written. See the new license information here.

I would pass up photos on sites like Google Images, Bing, or Flickr. It’s hard to determine exactly what the copyright requirements are, unless you follow the photo link back to the original site. Even then, there might not be a a copyright notice or owner information. Some sites have a statement saying that the photos “may be subject to copyright” or that they are not responsible for copyright infringement if you use the photos.

Royalty-free does not really mean “free,” as in you don’t pay for it. Here’s a detailed explanation. It just means that you pay for it one time and use it as many times as you want. I was frustrated beyond description when googling for free photos because “royalty-free” kept coming up.

Recommended Photo Sites

  • MorgueFile: Mentioned above, this site has great photos with few restrictions. The search feature is a bit frustrating, but it depends on what you’re looking for. I always provide a link in my blog post to the photo location on Morguefile.
  • The search feature gives better results, I think. I searched “frustration” and here’s what I got. See a typical license agreement for free photos here. Some of the free photos require you to notify the copyright-holder. Read the fine print under licensing. Notice on my search result that there’s a link to premium (not free) photos on Pricing for those varies by size.

Just Take Your Own Photos

Sometimes it saves time to take your own pictures with a digital camera or smart phone.  No copyright worries here. The best solution by far. For example, I needed a photo to go with my post, Do You Need to Take Inventory? I couldn’t find any free photos online that I thought would work. Here’s how I made my own:

  1. I assembled my inventory tools (market guide, file box, portfolio of published work, and a couple of pens) on a desktop.
  2. I took several shots to be sure I’d get a good one.
  3. I imported the files into my photo software to crop and adjust exposure. (This step is not absolutely necessary if you have the opportunity to crop in the blog editor or other venue).
  4. I uploaded the photo to the blog and sized it to fit my post.

I did not time myself, but it did not take very long to do this. Try it yourself. Don’t waste too much time looking for other people’s photos with the accompanying copyright worries.

How about you? Where do you get the photos for your social media?

Photo in this post is from MorgueFile. Notice the credit in the caption.

One Response to Need Free Photos for Social Media?

  1. M.N. Stroh July 15, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    This was very timely, Emily. Thank you for the post. I can’t tell you how many times it has frustrated me to hunt down pictures for blog posts. I’d much rather write and let somebody else worry about the media images. You are right too, sometimes it’s just easier to take your own pictures.

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