Sources for Website Images

Hi. I have a question that no one seems to be able to answer very easily. I’ve been designing websites for friends and small businesses for a few years now. Over the years I mainly used pictures that I got online after doing searches for “Royalty Free” images. I’ve also used a
company called (which is now owned by Getty Images) to get a few images for websites I’ve made.

It seems that no matter where I get images I always have one or two small images that “belong to” or are “licensed” through Getty Images somehow. I’ve received several threatening letters from them trying to collect money on a few websites I have made.

My question is simply this…is there a source for truly “free” stock photography or a place that has some type of license that allows you to use images on your site if you agree to give credit to the photographer/designer? I can’t imagine everyone is buying photos for every website they make.

There has got to be a few good places that web designers go to for free (or super dirt cheap) images. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

I don’t know which country you are from, but if you are an American you are legally liable for using images without permission even if you are completely unaware. It’s absurd, really, since there is no way to tell who “owns” what.

If you want some completely free or low cost images, you could always try browsing Flickr and other image hosting sites. Some people offer images for sale, some license their images to be used by anyone for any purpose, and you could always message someone and ask about using their images or making some sort of deal. In addition to Flickr, there’s Webshots, Picasaweb, Photobucket, and a whole bunch of others.

There are also some websites where you can get free images like icons and other graphics. I don’t know any names off the top of my head. Perhaps others can chime in.

Why not pay for the images as you can charge the customer - thats what I do. There are no worries about who owns what then.

There are many stock photo galleries that offer free images in addition to those that are licensed. However, cameras aren’t free and film isn’t free. If you are not in the business of building free websites, then don’t expect collaborators, photographers or others, to gift you with free content.

Royalty Free has never meant “free”. It means that you don’t have to pay every time the photo is accessed. Most stock photo galleries such as iStock and Fotolia offer licensed images for a nominal fee, as low as one dollar.

As Linda said, “royalty-free” is not free. Royalty-free means you don’t have to pay “royalties” (a fee you pay every time it’s used) to the author. Usually those are acquired after paying a one-time fee to the copyright holder. does have a lot of truly free images, though you need to pay attention because they aren’t all free, and some have conditions (free for certain things, must notify the author before using, etc.). You need to read the licensing of every image you use. If there isn’t a license with the image, don’t use the image.

Also, to help protect yourself in the future, it’s not a bad idea to record where you got the image, and maybe a screenshot of where you got it as well.

Searching for images using Google Advanced Search and filtering images based on usage rights normally returns a large amount of images from Flickr. Flickr is a great source for creative commons images. Images licensed under creative commons can fall in one of the six categories. Each license has its own set of restrictions and requirements. Not all images on Flickr are licensed under creative commons, so always make sure you check before you use someone else’s images. If you want to learn more about creative commons, you can go to, scroll down to the footer, and click on creative commons, or you can go to

You are right not everyone pay for images used on websites. There are a lot of websites all are neither run by self made/captured images nor pays for images. You should search for images with CCL (creative commons License). You can use these images without any legal issues. There are a lot of websites which shares pictures with and without license like: Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket etc.

I guess if you want a unique concept and image you would choose a paid images… there are free images but if you are
a professional web programmer you know what is is best.

My favorite resource is definitely istockphoto, but it seems sometimes I just can’t find what I am looking for there so I’ve had to opt for some lesser known international sites.

Unfortunately your credits expire from non-usage which I think is lame.

Fotolia is comparable to iStock and [URL=“”]Stock Exchange has a premium site, [URL=“”]StockXpert, as well as the free images.

I do certainly agree that the expiring credit biz is bogus at iStock. If you don’t use them up in time, you definitely don’t get what you pay for! However, their interface is better designed than those on most other stock image sites and their selection is incredible!

StockXpert has been shut down for years, after it and stockxchange were bought by Getty, who owns iStock.

You can get truly free stock images a lot of places - try for images or for backgrounds. Or for vectors. All free for commercial use.

Well, oops then. My bad.:x

I too use iStock. They’ve got a lot of quality images and fair prices.

Thanks PhotoDesign for those stock image sources. They look great.

a good idea is to use social media to produce images. if you run a campaign on twitter and facebook having people upload images. it can really help to generate alot of pictures at a low cost

Are you inferring that then the images are yours to use with or without the permission of the owner? Like content, images are copyrighted and using them without the written permission of the owner is infringement, not only unethical but illegal.

@cheesedude ; hit the nail IMO - if you want good professional images, often it’s simpler to just buy the stock that you need, and let’s face it, a lot of stock photos aren’t so expensive that you couldn’t work them in to a project cost.

That probably depends on how the images are obtained. For example if you are running a competition where people have to submit photos and/or images you could stipulate in the terms and conditions for that competition that creating a submission gives you (the company / competition holder) full rights over any materials that are submitted. (And trust me, a lot of competitions do in fact do that.)

I use Fotolia and they pretty much always have what I’m looking for (unless it’s VERY specific), I have however used Shutterstock in the past. Image licenses are often a hassle/mess, you might think you’ve got it covered but somehow there’s always a little hick-up or the like… Most of the licenses just require some kind of mention though, in a Disclaimer or the like :slight_smile:

in short: I use fotolia :wink:

@AussieJohn ; Correct, depending upon whether or not the contributors were informed of and agreed to the intentions of the contest holder. Even SitePoint has a clause such as that regarding posts made here. However, to encourage your contacts to upload photos to your social media account for the reason of claiming them seems a bit nefarious at best. It’s certainly not something I would ever recommend that someone should do.

I 100% agree with you there Linda. Most of the time you see the disclaimer for competitions where people can win something, if someone were to just collect content from users for the sake of getting content that would definitely rub my ethics bone the wrong way.

In that case you will be looking for flickr images with a creative commons license that allows commerical use, pretty much anything you do with a website will be ‘commerical’ in some way.

“Webshots” = absolutely NOT the place to go downloading and reusing unless the author has been quite explicit in licensing the images for free use!