In the post, kick off 2009 with more useful blog images I promised to be back with some good places to find free blog images. I’ve also included a guide with each place so you’ll know if the image site is worth your time, or a major energy drain.
1. Stock.xchng is my favorite basic free image site. It’s not always chock full of what you need, and because the site offers free images, your blog will have images that possibly many other blog do, but overall, it’s a great random stock image site.
Ease of use: A+ = Head to their advanced search option, type in a keyword, click on not restricted (i.e. free), and off you go. At stock.xchng you can also hold your mouse over an image to enlarge it; which might seem like a petty feature, but when you’re working fast, it’s lame to have to click an image to see it large. Not all image sites offer this. PLUS images come in various sizes so less editing may be needed. Lastly, you need to register to download images, but it’s a one time deal.
2. Morguefile: Ok, but not great. Seems to have fewer images.
Ease of use: C = Advanced search options don’t allow you to separate credited images from non-credited OR which pictures need email permission first. It’s a huge time waster. I always credit the site I get an image from (if it’s a free stock site), but I don’t always have time to email every photographer. No browse over enlarger either, and images are rather large on each page so editing is almost always required. This is a last ditch image site for me.
3. Vector Stock – free vectors: Decent but not large selection.
Ease of use: B = Browse over enlarger included. There’s an oddly long registration process, which seems like overkill.
4. Convention & Visitors Bureaus: Many visitor travel sites have a press area that will allow you to download great images for free, so long as you give credit. One I like, as an example, is the Redwood Coast Bureau.
Ease of use: B+ = Can take a while to find the press or photo area of a visitor website, but if you need a very specific image, it’s worth it.
5. Free Pixels: Small selection, but on the up side, there’s some stuff you won’t easily find elsewhere like lots of basic household items. For example, say you need a shot of just a computer mouse or camera; you’ll find it here. They also have a very nice selection of food items and architecture. Also images here are rather ad-like and crispy; no blurs or weirdness. This is not an artsy image site.
Ease of use: A+ = No registration. No browse over, but images are clear and easy to see anyhow. Great tags, organization, and well-named categories make it fast and easy to find what you’re looking for.
6. Image*After: Weird image site. Good I guess if you’re looking for oddball abstracts, textures, and close-ups of nature items. I rarely find useful images here; but most of my blog topics need basic not abstract images. Many of the images here are fuzzy.
Ease of use: C- = I almost always end up accidentally clicking some ads when I’m at Image*After. It’s a free image site, so I get the ads, but they’re incorporated SO well into the site, that I end up clicking them and it wastes my time. It’s very hard to find what you’re looking for. The categories don’t always serve up what you expect, and all in all, I rarely, if ever use this site. If you’re looking for random abstracts, I’d check them out though.
7. Images from PR folks (and other sellers): If you review products (or want to) or need logos from companies, make sure you socialize with lots o’ PR folks, heads of companies, and online shops you like. They’ll send you scads of images you’ll need for your posts right to your in box. The downside, is that of course these images are for products or services, but if you ever blog stuff like this, it’s easier to have it sent to you rather than go searching. You can always discard offers you hate.
Ease of use: B = Some company and PR folks can be a pain, (but so can anyone). Hook up and stay hooked up with the right people, and life is easy. We posted about finding and hooking up with PR folks before in 10 places to find unique products for your blog and Where To Get Blog Contest Prizes.
8. U.S. Government Photos and Graphics: These are images you won’t find elsewhere – national parks, eco-issue (like cotton crop spraying), NASA, volcanoes, maps, and more. If you need something obscure and government or health related you might just find it here.
Ease of use: B = Well thought out categories so it’s easy and fast to search. Most of the images and graphics offered here are public domain, but some are licensed. I always read this disclaimer on each site, which eats my time. But it’s worth it for a unique image you can’t find elsewhere.
9. Flickr – creative commons: Skellie wrote this legendary post, A Complete Guide to Finding and Using Incredible Flickr Images, which, in my opinion, is the best tool for fast tracking your Flickr use. If you want to use Flickr images give that a read.
Ease of use: C = Flickr is usually too much trouble for me. Many people find great, unique images there, but I don’t tend to. Here’s why; first you have to make sure you’ve got a creative commons image which yeah is not a huge deal, but still I always feel to need to double and triple check. Also, while there are amazing and unique finds on Flickr, they’re stuffed between a bunch of blurry, boring, or just plain poor images. Finding something good AND free can take more time than a productive blogger should give. People tag their images with some truly odd tags, which does not help the search process. That said, many folks love Flickr, so give it a whirl if you’re so inclined.
10. Your own camera: I am hands down the world’s worst photographer. However, if I’m hard up, even I can take a picture of a specific flower or the park or a process – such as making a recycled wreath. If you rock with the picture taking, you can really increase blog readership by using your own images. This is not totally free, because of course you need a camera, but if you take a lot of blog pictures, it’ll pay for itself in short order. People will come to see your beautiful and totally unique images and your traffic will rise. One blog that pops to mind, is my pal Marye’s blog, Baking Delights. She takes most of the highly edible images you see there, and people adore that aspect of her blog. It adds a personal touch as well (like in this post).
Ease of use: D if you’re me; A if you’re anyone with more skills
Coming up, possibly a few more free image site, tools that can help you make the most of images, and some helpful random blog image tips.
Do you use any of the image sites above? Which is your favorite, or if you’re in a mood tell me your least fave and why…