Save this “Images and More” List

If you need images for your church website, worship slides, communications materials, and social media, there are several options:

  • Take photos yourself or use ones created by church members.
  • Pay a lot for high-quality images from stock photo and image websites.
  • Pay less for low- and medium-quality images from stock photo and image websites.
  • Find free images that will work well-enough for your needs.

Before we get to the list, let’s get one thing perfectly clear: you do not want to use images on your church website that don’t fall into one of these categories:

  1. Images you have paid for AND which have usage rights appropriate for your context (e.g. personal, business). These may or may not require attribution, so pay attention to the licensing restrictions.
  2. Photos you have taken yourself or that other staff or volunteers have taken for you.
  3. Images that are in the public domain, such as old images and images on Wikipedia.
  4. Images that you have created yourself, such as illustrations. (Note: this does not necessarily include taking someone else’s photo or illustration and editing it.)
  5. Images which are covered under a Creative Commons license appropriate to your setting.
  6. Images which are royalty free and OK to use in your setting. (Note: “royalty free” is not the same as “free.” Many royalty free images require a payment first.)

Please read a few of these examples of lawsuits against businesses and organizations for copyright infringement. Could your church afford an $8000 bill sent to you by a lawyer claiming you had used an image without permission? I didn’t think so.

Next, bookmark, read, and circulate this page to all of your church staff. It’s a terrific overview of all things related to stock images.

So, what should you do to find legal photos?

First, if you’re looking for graphics and photos which relate specifically to churches, see our article, Where to find free church-related graphics.

Now, here’s the thing. There are literally hundreds of free photo sites out there…but you don’t have time to go searching through dozens of them, and we don’t either. Instead, stick to a few that are really good, and that will probably suffice most of the time.

We recommend The Stocks, which allows you to check out a whopping 16 free stock photo sites in an easy-to-use interface and easily download the photos. Occasionally, the photo sites included change, so here’s the list from the day I wrote this. For your convenience, I’ve included what each site says about their images.

  1. PixabayAll contents are released under the Pixabay License, which makes them safe to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist.
  2. Free Range – Photos and illustrations licensed for commercial use. No attribution required! 
  3. Little Visuals – Use them anyway you want. (NOTE: No further images will be added until further notice.)
  4. New Old StockFree of Known Copyright Restrictions.
  5. Visual Hunt – Most of our photos are CC0 license (do whatever you want).
  6. Superfamous – The Superfamous Images are available under the conditions of a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. This means that you can use the work for your own purposes as long as credit is provided.
  7. Startup Stock Photos – Free photos for startups, bloggers, publishers, websites, designers, developers, creators,
    & everyone else.
  8. GratisographyFree high-resolution pictures you can use on your personal and commercial projects.
  9. Get Refe – Always free high-quality imagery for your projects. Perfect for aspiring designers, bloggers and freelancers. NOTE: Site contains both free and low-cost photos.
  10. PexelsIt’s hard to understand complex licenses that is why all photos on Pexels are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose. The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use. You can modify, copy and distribute the photos. All without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. So, attribution is not required.
  11. Jay Mantri – free pics. do anything (CC0). make magic.
  12. Magdeleine – Some are CCO (Public Domain). Others require attribution.
  13. Travel Coffee Book – All photos are listed under cc0. That means you can do whatever you want with them.
  14. Moveast – This is a journey of a portuguese guy moving east that decided that every photo should be used for free. Help yourselves and use them wherever you want (CC0).
  15. Barn Images…every photo published in our Free collection is completely free of charge, but please consider contributing whatever amount you feel is appropriate, to support our website. (p.s. The images are NOT just of barns!)
  16. Shot Stash – New photos for your projects are added every day. No royalties, no fees, no worries. Enjoy !

But wait…there’s still more!!

Why is The Stocks so awesome? Because you can quickly browse 5 additional categories of freebies:

As long as we’re at it, here are 6 more photo sites worth checking out (especially the first three):

  1. Unsplash – Over 200,000 free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos brought to you by the world’s most generous community of photographers.
  2. Stock Exchange – Yes, they are free as long as you stick to the rules in the Image license Agreement. Also, in some cases you may need to notify the artists about using the images and sometimes you need to give credit to them. You can see these restrictions under the image previews, right next to the Download button.
  3. Creative Commons search – A wonderful site that searches several sites with free photos that have a Creative Commons license.
  4. MMT – Free for commercial use stock photos by Jeffrey Betts. CC0 license.
  5. Free Nature Stock – Royalty-free Nature Stock Photos. Use them however you want.
  6. Stock Up – Stock Up is a search engine that searches across many free stock photo websites— each with their own individual usage guidelines. So refer to each individual website for usage guidelines.

Bonus Search Tips

Some of these and other image websites don’t make it easy to search for photos by adding a toolbar or an easy-to-locate finder tool. No worries! There are three simple hacks to try.

  1. Add /search after the URL, such as www.pexels.com/search. This is very frequently where you’ll find the search tool if there is one.
  2. In Google, try the search operator site: followed by the term you hope to find in order to search for keywords on a particular website. So, your search term would be something such as site: site:magdeleine.co/ moon (http:// is not required, by the way, but you can use it). Assuming the photos have been tagged or titled, you’ll almost certainly find results in this way.
  3. When all else fails, turn to social media for help. On Twitter, for example, search for #cc0 (and a keyword if you wish) to find current images without restrictions. Or Tweet what it is that you’re looking for, being sure to include the search term as a hashtag plus #cc0.

Where are your favorite places to get free images? What questions do you still have about how to use or find images? Let us know!

p.s. Aboundant subscribers get access to a free, growing media library that you can use for just about any purpose.

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