Last time, we wrote about plugins that help you search for stock images. There, we mentioned that dozens of other sites allow you to do the same. However, most of them require you to pay up, sign up as a regular user, or manually link back to the source – all of which can be quite a hassle when you're under pressure from multiple deadlines.
Luckily, there are a handful of places from which you can pull attention-grabbing, copyright-free and hassle-free images. They are:
Currently, Stock Up indexes photos from 21 sites, including Unsplash, Jay Mantri, Public Domain Archive, Refe, Picography, and other repositories of high-quality, public domain images. It saves you the effort of having to look through all those sites on your own, and it adds a number of new photos every week (indicated in the header as "X new photos added this week"). Each site has its own usage guidelines, however, so be sure to read these carefully before you download.
Like Stock Up, Pexels pulls from various CC0 image sites. When you click on a Pexels photo, a "Similar Photos" section pops up below, which comes in handy if you're not satisfied with your initial choice of image. Also, in case the site's daily addition of 10 photos doesn't cut it for you, you can subscribe to gain access to 40 exclusive photos, as well as a bi-monthly newsletter containing the site's "best high quality images".
If you're looking for patterns rather than photos, this is the site to visit. The Pattern Library offers a large, eclectic collection of textures you can use for your iPhone, desktop wallpaper and even your bedroom wallpaper – all for everyone's favorite price: free.
Powered by Flickr's API, PhotoPin helps you search for Creative Commons images. Just type in the keyword you need, click on the photo you want, read the license on top of the image, and copy-paste the HTML attribution link below the image. For better results, you can filter according to license type (commercial or non-commercial) and according to date, relevance and interestingness.
This is a good alternative to PhotoPin. Like the latter, ImageFinder pulls images from Flickr, and sorts them according to license type, date, relevance and interestingness. The site is mostly ad-free, so it has a sleeker appearance compared to similar sites. ImageFinder also generates "Related Images" for each picture to help you choose better and more appropriate images for your blog post.
Prior to 2014, Getty Images was famous for being a source of high-price, high-quality photos. That all changed when they decided to make 35 million photos free to use, and available for embedding. (You can check whether a photo is available to embed by looking for a button that looks like a "</>" at the bottom of an image.) Unfortunately, they've only given this privilege to non-commercial users, so for-profit companies still have to pay to use works from the site.
Granted, PicJumbo has a rather cluttered interface, what with distracting ads spread out all over the site. But it more than compensates with its wide selection of images about everything under the sun. According to the site owner, attribution is "greatly appreciated", though not required.
Like PicJumbo, EveryStockPhoto is a comprehensive, albeit clunky-looking, image search engine. If you click "advanced search", you can filter the photos according to source (e.g. Flickr, NASA, RGBStock, freerangestock, Photl, morgueFile), orientation, resolution, and whether they require accounts or not. For each image, EveryStockPhoto displays information like resolution, license and source, so you can decide at a glance whether you should use a particular photo or not.
With PicFindr, you can search through sites like Free Photos Bank, Stock.Xchng, Image*After and Free Range Stock. Hover your cursor near the header to open the drop-down menu, where you can filter images according to permissions (commercial, educational, worship/church, personal), and according to requirements for use (none, give attribution, and not alter it, ask permission).
To be fair, Google doesn't always turn up the best-looking images. But it does have more filters than the sites listed so far. If you want to find an image here that's as restriction-free as possible, go to "usage rights", click on the drop-down menu, then click "free to use, share or modify, even commercially".
BONUS: A Shout Out To Two More Photo Sites for Free, High-Quality Photos
As its name implies, Foodies Feed is for bloggers looking for realistic, yet artistic, photos of food. The site owner says that credit isn't required, though it's appreciated since "(his) largest motivation is being able to check where people all around the world use my images".
We didn't include this one in the main list, since there doesn't seem to be any systematic way to filter the images according to content. However, if you're not in a hurry, you can scroll all of Gratisography's free-to-use images until you find the one that suits your needs.
With these sites, as well as the plugins we wrote about earlier, you can find free, high-quality images for your blog posts in no time. Try all of these search engines, and see which one works best for you.