UPDATED 2023: Your Guide to FREE Stock Images – Part 1/3

Categories: Web Design

You’ve seen websites, magazines and ads, and there was a part of you that connected to it. There was a big beautiful crisp image that caught your attention, followed by the text that got you thinking about what the business wanted you to focus on. Simply put, the correct image can be a captivating and powerful tool in your marketing arsenal.

If you’re anything like our clients (or any business owner for that matter), you’ve wanted to emote the same response in your marketing. To Google you go, but where to start? It can be easy to get lost in the online ocean. Don’t worry, we’re going to let you in on a few of our secrets.

There’s so much to consider when selecting marketing images. It’s not enough to find stunning imagery, you also have to consider licensing rights, sizing and costs. Unfortunately, there is a stigma with free images. Many people assume free images means low quality or a lack of commercial rights. This simply isn’t true.

With all of this in mind, we were inspired to write a 3-part guide to cover the ‘must-knows’ of Free Stock Images. This series will cover:

  1. Licensing Rights: what you need to know to make sure your images are used within their legal allowances
  2. Sizing: What are you going to use this image for, and what size should you buy
  3. FREE: Our Top 10 list of FREE Stock Image websites.

Licensing Rights

Whether you are purchasing or downloading FREE stock images, you have to be certain to use the images within your legal rights. Here are the things to consider when using FREE stock images:

1. Is the FREE Stock Images being used for personal, commercial or both?

Don’t know what the difference is between personal and commercial? General rule of thumb: if you are going to make money off of using the image in any way shape or form, consider it commercial.

Make sure to double check the licensing rights for the image. Some images are only free if they are being used for personal use. How can you tell if you can use the free image for your purposes? If you go into the image it will tell you the terms and use of the image.


Instead of falling in love with an image and realizing you have to pay for commercial use, or that it’s personal use only, use the website’s search filters, this will avoid running into this issue.

2. Are there additional copyrights, property rights or trademarks that need to be considered?

The stock image may contain copyrighted materials such as logos, brands, or artwork that require additional permissions or licenses to use. It’s important to check the license agreement and ensure that any copyrighted materials in the image are being used in compliance with the appropriate laws and regulations.

Finally, there may be trademark or property rights associated with the image or the subject matter depicted in the image. For example, if a recognizable building or landmark is shown in the image, you may need to obtain permission to use the image for commercial purposes.

In general, it’s always a good practice to do your due diligence and carefully review the license agreement and any applicable laws and regulations before using a stock image.

Every watch a movie or TV show and someone is clearly using a MacBook, but the Apple logo is covered by a sticker, that’s an example of rendering the BRAND unrecognizable.

3. Do the photos require attribution?

The attribution requirements for stock photos depend on the specific license agreement that accompanies the image.

In general, most stock photo licenses do not require attribution for their use. However, it’s always a good idea to carefully review the license agreement before using the image to ensure that you are following any specific attribution requirements or guidelines.

Even if attribution is not required, it’s often considered a good practice to credit the source of the image to give proper credit and recognition to the photographer or agency that provided it.

IE: Photo by John Cast

4. Is the website you’re using licensed under the CC0 Creative Commons 0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication?

First off, what does that even mean? Here’s the technical answer:

  • The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
  • In no way are the patent or trademark rights of any person affected by CC0, nor are the rights that other persons may have in the work or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights.
  • Unless expressly stated otherwise, the person who associated a work with this deed makes no warranties about the work, and disclaims liability for all uses of the work, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law.
  • When using or citing the work, you should not imply endorsement by the author or the affirmer.

So, you’ve:

  1. Found your image
  2. Know it can be legally used for your purposes

Now what?

  • You need to decide what image size to download and use in different settings!

There are a LOT of different things to consider when it comes to what size you need to download. We’ll cover image size in the next segment of our 3-Part FREE Stock Image Guide.
<Read part 2 now>