How to search for images you can (legally) use for free

Published Date:  09 Mar, 2023 | Updated Date:  09 Oct, 2023

It can be intimidating and frustrating to find non-copyrighted images for your website and marketing campaigns.

The gold standard is original photography, but this isn’t always possible.

How to search for images you can (legally) use for free

Before we dive into WHERE to find great images there are a couple important things to address.

  1. Avoiding copyright infringement
  2. Types of images to use and where to get them

Disclaimer: This content is meant for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

Copyright infringement lawsuits and threats are big business.

Litigation firms may be fully dedicated to this.

Settlement and awards can range from a few hundred dollars (uncommon) to several thousands and tens of thousands of dollars (common).

In fact, when I used to live in Ottawa, Canada, one of the fastest growing companies in the capital was a firm dedicated to image and copyright infringement.

The typical approach of these firms is to locate websites that are infringing on copyrights, reach out to the author of the image, and propose to represent them at no cost in exchange for a percentage of the money awarded.

The challenge with finding public domain images on Google

You might be thinking, “I’m fine, I used the copyright image tool on Google”.

Be careful.

Many people looking for images will do a search on Google and download what appeals to them.

Others will go on image websites that provide free licenses but they don’t realize that the fine prints exclude commercial use from the free license.

This means if the image is used on a personal blog that doesn’t generate revenue there is no issue…

…but if you use the same image on a business website you’ve now infringed the copyright.

Free Masterclass to Avoid Regulatory Fines

You’ll want to read the license terms on the image website to ensure there is a commercial use license.

You’ll also want to read inclusions and exclusions.

For example, it may exclude the use of the image for printed material while allowing its use on a website… or the reverse!

Other free image services require you to publish attribution on your website.

You’ll need to read how and where to place attribution to ensure you comply. My recommendation is to avoid these as an error could end up being very costly.

This leads me to our next topic…

Where can I find non-copyrighted images online?

Where can I find non-copyrighted images online?

I highly recommend purchasing your images.

In relative terms it isn’t expensive while eliminating most of your risk.

When using images you’ll want to have a consistent look and feel.

Not to mention, most commercial image websites provide a search function that makes it easy for you to maintain the same look and feel.

Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Is it real-life photography or illustrations?
  • What is the tone of the images, professional, funny, colorful, grayscale?
  • Is it line drawings? Are the lines thick or thin?
  • Do the colors match your website UI Kit?

6 ways to find non-copyrighted images that aren’t Google

These are paid and unpaid services I’ve found to be great for finding images:

The question is…

Do you already have written and video content to go with those images?

Tons of our clients were struggling to create incredible landing page content when they came to us.

In fact, that’s how we came up with our High-Converting Landing Page Checklist, which you can download free below.

High-Converting Landing Page

In the meantime, I’m always around if you want to go ahead and schedule a complimentary consultation to ask more web design questions for your business website!


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[PDF] High Converting Landing Page Checklist

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