Words still underpin the world wide web, but humans like images too. Search engines also like images, not because search bots have suddenly developed an appreciation of art and design but because it’s widely accepted that images improve the web user experience. It helps to make the text more readable and illustrates the content. This keeps the user on the page for longer and improves your engagement indicators such as time on site and lower bounce rate.
This then helps boosts SEO (search engine optimization) for your website.
You should write the content for your web pages carefully, selecting the best words and phrases for SEO, readability and good writing.
Accompanying images are important and not just for decoration. They can help illustrate content, grab attention and generally make it more likely that your content will be discovered and read.
Selecting images to use for your website or blog can be a minefield. It can also potentially land you in trouble if you misuse a copyright image as it’s so easy to find images on the web.
If we accept that adding one or two images to each web page or blog post is generally good for readability and SEO then where can you find suitable images to suit your budget? We cover some of the best sources below.
Paying for images
Sometimes paying for images can be justified if you have a particular requirement. In that case it pays to use a professional photographer or take an image yourself.
But remember, even with the quality of modern cameras, getting great images of a particular event or location can only be guaranteed using a reputable professional photographer. Also, if you send out a member of staff to ‘grab a few snaps’ their time will have an opportunity cost associated with not doing their main work.
There are many commercial sites selling good quality stock images, but these end up looking like just that: staged images that are generic and without any personality or strong message. Some of the best include iStock, Shutterstock etc and expect to pay anything from £1 to £10 per image. Current event are big business and there are several agencies like Getty, Rex Features or Contact Music that provide images for considerably more than royalty free photos. You can also use a portal site like Photoshelter to buy direct from photographers.
Gone are the days when you can simply use Google image search to find an image as there are bots that scour the web for unauthorised use of copyright images. This can result in the copyright holder charging retrospectively for using an image. The ethics of this behaviour are beyond the scope of this blog post!
If a colleague, contractor or associate does hand over some images always question where it has come from and what are the permissions regarding their use. Fortunately if you know where to go then there are some excellent sources of free images stock images on the web.
Best sites for free stock images
There are some excellent sources of free stock images, but always factor in the time it might take you to find a suitable image.
The commercial royalty free websites may charge but also have good search facilities and images that are keyworded thoroughly which may save time. That said, if you’re looking for something straightforward here are some good sources:
This is an excellent source of images of specific places and areas. Enter your details in the search box and see what comes up. You’ll generally be able to use the image without charge but you may need to add a credit. Click the ‘Use this file’ link to find out the credit or conditions for using the images.
Flickr started out life as a simple photo sharing website, but it is now the place where pro and amateur photographers upload examples of their work. While you may find similar images on social media, the quality of images on Flickr is often excellent. If you find an image you want to use then you need to contact the photographer. Sometime they may want to charge, but others just want a credit and link.
This has some excellent, high quality images, backed up by an effective search engine.
Again, this is another site with excellent images and search engine. It will show some results from Shutterstock too alongside its free images.
Over 750,000 stock images, vectors and illustrations.
The search engine is poor, but the breakdown of categories and quality of images is good.
Excellent search engine, some images feature on other websites.
A large Public Domain photo repository with high resolution free photos and vectors. At the time of writing 12525 free and public domain photos, images, clipart, pics and vectors and counting.
We will add further good sites to this list as we find them. Please feel free to suggest more.