How To Use Free Images Like A Pro

Photo credit: Morguefile.com
Photo credit: Morguefile.com

Adding images to blogs and newsletters is like adding seasoning to your favourite food. A pinch of salt (or hot pepper flakes, if you’re like me) can turn a flat dish into a memorable experience.

Images are readily available from a number of paid sites like Shutterstock and iStock Photo, but what if you have little or no budget? You’re in luck. There are many free sites from which to choose — and if you have a smartphone with a camera, your options are limitless.

It’s All In The Editing

Since the focus of this article is on free resources, I’m going to highlight two that are tried and true: Morguefile.com for free images and PicMonkey for image editing. There are many others but I’ve used Morguefile for years and PicMonkey for about 12 months—so I’m confident that you’ll have a good experience.

The Least You Need to Know About Copyright Law

All online images are subject to copyright unless the owner has made other licensing arrangements or they’ve fallen into public domain (which means they’re old enough that the intellectual property rights have expired—70 to 120 years after publication, depending on the country). The Morguefile photos that have a download button are free to use in the creative process, meaning you need to alter them in some way. This is good news as it guarantees you’ll never see the exact same image show up on 23 other websites.

Never use Google search to find images for your website. Some bloggers do that and insert a phrase that says they don’t own the copyright and intend no harm by publishing the picture. That’s not going to help them when they get hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit.

What Can You Do With A Photo Editor?

Take a look at the two photos below. I needed an image to go with my post on Social Media Obesity. It took me all of 10 minutes to find a photo I liked, upload it to PicMonkey, crop it, adjust the brightness a bit, then add a filter to make the edges slightly darker.

Before Editing

Unretouched photo of a hippopotamus
BEFORE: Unretouched photo of a hippopotamus.
Photo credit: Morguefile.com

After Editing

Fat hippopotamus
AFTER: Same photo after edits using PicMonkey.com

As you can see, I cropped the photo to eliminate areas that don’t add anything to the story. (I did the same thing with the image of the photographer at the top of this post.) Additionally, I edited the lighting in the hippo photo to take away some of the darkness and then applied a vignette filter to add a slight border.

Ready to start playing?

Here’s a video to get you going.


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