How To Download Free Images The Right Way

Download Free pictures

Do you know how to download free images the right way? I can imagine that you are all reading this and thinking to yourselves “what is she wittering on about?”. Now we all know that when we are creating anything at all on our websites, social media platforms or even just sending an image to a friend, we are advised to use FREE images.

On closer inspection though, I have done some research and some of these photos we could be using and thinking they are free are turning out not to be free at all.

I thought I would share some insight with you as to what is and is not suitable when using free photos so you do not get caught out in the future.

Does Free Really Mean Free?

Free Photos imageYou may or may not be aware that when we talk about images being free to use in our websites etc., some of these images are not actually free for us to use and share around with others. It should always be that when we are going to use mages, we should be looking at who has paid for the image, how much it has cost and how the image has been paid for.

Were you aware that there are pros and cons that come with using free images on your websites, social media etc.

Did you know that you can still be sued if you use an image that you have taken from another website then offered it to others as a “FREE” photo. It is very easy to infringe without even noticing, a Trademark or Copyright owners rights. Therefore, always learn what the safest way of using free images as well as learning what the proper rules of the game are instead of just jumping into using free photos and thinking everything is fine.

Do You Know How Free Photos Work?

Did you know that you have the ability to use a photograph freely in specific cases, but are you aware that images or photos may be used for numerous ideas with essentially enormous risks. When you are planning to use images, you will find that they will more than likely fall into one of the two main use cases, and these can be either Editorial or Commercial. Talking about free photos online without detailing what the use cases are can be rather risky.

Commercial Use

If you are intending on commercially using an image or photo then you have to be granted permission by the owner to use the material commercially. However, the use of things such as logos and patented designs (an iPhone photo or the logo for Coca Cola) which are considered to be trademarks have to be granted with a property release from the owner before they are able to be used.

The same thing also applies to other kinds of materials that are subject to property rights, these can be things like the Eiffel Tower’s lighting. If you are planning on using photos which already contain models, then you must be assured by having a model release which states that they accept their image being used.

This shows that out there on the web is an insane amount of features which are copyrighted but are being used illegally.

Editorial Use

Because Editorial Use allows for freedom of speech, there is no need for property and model releases when trademarks such as brands as well as people (like landmarks and cars etc) are showing up in Editorial images,

It is noted that it is mainly magazines or newspapers who tend to use the Editiorial Use for photography which is linked to the news.

Please be aware that “Editorial use” is greatly limited and only normally allows for you to give support to news articles as well as not being able to make any modifications to any of the artwork. There are also times when you will be required to give credit to both the agency and the author. You cannot use images that are labeled Editorial for anything other than Editorial Use, they can’t be used for non-or-for-profit or commercial use.

Pros And Cons of Using Free Images

I have listed below some Pros and Cons of using Free images. I will start with the Pros first.


  1. Yes, they are free! Good first pro as we all love a freebie don’t we?
  2. Choice is Endless. There are free images available that cover every kind of topic from cute bears to any kind of sports events and more.
  3. Less Hassle With Licenses. There are sometimes fewer restrictions as well as there being no licensing requirements with free images. The Creative Commons Licensing determines which images can are available for either commercial or personal use as well as letting you know if you need or don’t need to get the credit from the photographer.


  1. Yes, again they are Free. We do still love a freebie but we need to watch here as “you only get what you pay for” or so they say.
  2. Image Quality. A lot of the images you see offered on free sites are ones that have been created by either hobbyists or even amateurs. Also, at Stock Photo sites you will find that the freebie images have been the ones that have been accepted but hardly sold or rejected for the main library. You may find therefore that the quality of the images may not be as good as what you were hoping for to put into your blog. It is known that professionalism equates to legitimacy in the world of design, marketing and also journalism.
  3. Image Overuse. As most free photos are low quality, the photos available that are better quality tend to be used more and the effectiveness and power of images become diluted the more times that it’s seen. We all know that as bloggers the importance for us to be unique.
  4. Infringement of Copyright – A Possibility. There is a myth that when an image appears on the internet that it is then a public domain, but this is not right. Even when an image is posted online, it is still covered by copyright law as are all photos and images. As we all know though, if you use anything covered by copyright law without the proper permission you are doing it illegally. Always remember that even though you think you are taking images from what you think is a free site, there are still some that may be covered by copyright and even if you are not aware of any infringement you can still be held responsible.
  5. Model Release Is A Must. When anyone such as a photographer wants to use an image or photograph in either artwork, marketing or even advertising that uses a person’s likeness, they need to have permission which comes in the manner of a signed form called a Model Release. This Model Release is also required anytime that an image or photograph containing someone who is identifiable is used. We all have a right to privacy and our privacy is protected by law, even when we are in public. There is a time though when there is no need for a Model Release and this is when the photograph is related directly to an event which is newsworthy. This is referred to as Editorial Use.

Why Are There Laws?

Images With People

These laws for the use of free images are set to protect people’s privacy. This means that if you decide to use images or photos with people as your subject, you may find that they have not consented to their resemblance being used freely on the internet or elsewhere either by signing a Model Release. Therefore, if a publication is sued by anyone for the wrong use of photos which are covered by copyright, the responsibility for using them falls on yourself as the publisher rather than on sources such as Pixabay, Flickr or Unsplash. There are a lot of countries who will not let you use images from sites such as Unsplash or Pixabay if they are showing people.

Read this article and get yourself clued-up on not getting sued when using free photos with people.

As most free photos websites tend not to check that a person has signed a Model Release, if you make the decision to use the free photo then it is up to you to make sure that the Model Release has been signed or the other option is to just stay away from images that have people in them.

PixelRockstar plugin information

Landmark Images

If you are looking for an opportunity to get yourself sued as well as an example of a risky photo, then the Eiffel Tower is what you are looking for. It has been stated by the French law that the Société Nouvelle d’exploitation de la Tour Eiffel are the legal owners and have the copyright for the lighting. Therefore, you need to contact this company to get permission from them if you are looking to use the lighting in your photos. If you choose not to get permission and make improper use of the photos containing the light’s installation on the Eiffel Tower, there is a very good chance that you could be tracked down by the company and sued. They have already sued people all over the world for wrong use of the photos.

If you are curious then, here is a guide you can use for checking out why it’s not suitable to use the Eiffel Tower landmark in your photos. As there is still a chance that you may or may not get sued depending on whether you are using your images for commercial or editorial, it is always good to be on the safe side especially if you are selling things on your site.

As with the issue of the Eiffel Tower, it is the same for brands or recognisable and famous designs as they also carry trademark and copyright issues with them. If you choose to use images that contain famous brand logos or products you will very likely run into legal trouble. I would therefore recommend that you click on the button below and read the Guide on trademark brands and logos. This will help you understand reasons why it is not wise to use this sort of image in either your corporate or personal blogs.

PixelRockstar Info Button
For most of us then it appears that Famous Design plus brand photos equals legal trouble.even

No Protection From Creative Commons or Public Domain

It could be so easy to argue that “the image is labeled as being Public Domain/Creative Commons Zero (CC0)/GNU, meaning the image is free to use for everyone, but why are we not able to use it? The main problem with this, we do not know if these people who are putting these images online and sharing them know anything about trademarks or copyright. Even though these people feel it is OK to share the photos using the free use licenses but, they cannot give away copyright that they do not even own, nor can they allow use for the image of people who have not signed a Model Release and they may not be aware of this.

Why not make sure that you are using your photos legally by checking this guide.

Are You Ready For The Copyright Laws Headache?

If you find that the thought of Copyright Laws could land you with a headache then you can always turn to PixelRockstar, you will be guaranteed to have lawful safe pictures in your WordPress. You are able to search plus insert any images or photos into your blogs and posts in a matter of seconds as well as being able to focus on composing great content as opposed to worrying about the free photo getting you sued.

Brief Summary

Unsplash Word imageEven though you may choose to make use of free images in your blogs, as well as being lucky enough not to run into any problems by knowing just exactly where you have got your images from, as well as having permission to legally use them will definitely help you be able to sleep better at night. It is yourself after all who is responsible legally for the material goods you have used on any of your blogs. If it is a necessity for you to use free images, it is best to make certain that you know the source of them as well as acknowledging what usage terms have been allocated to them.

As well as quality, you will find that stock photos which are licensed are also low cost. For a price of $1-5, you will find that there are a lot of places who will offer you web resolution royalty free stock photos. You can also subscribe to some stock photos for a fraction of a dollar and this will give you access to a lot of images each month. By making use of images that are already licensed can assure you that the photos are legal and at a low price.

We are all aware that we all love free photos and you can find some of the trendiest photos you can get free online are on the site known as Unsplash. There are also lots of others on sites like Pixabay or Flickr as well as other free photo sites plus you can also use WP plugins which offer you “free” photos by way of an API.


After finding out all this information on stock free photos, it makes me wary about what are and what are not good images you can use on your blogs.

When using images on your blogs always make sure that you check everything out and that your photos are legal before you insert them into your blog.

I would recommend to you though, that it seems safer to stay away from using images with people or landmarks on them. However, if you do use either of these then make sure that you stick within the laws and prevent yourself from being sued.

If you have any questions or feedback on this article, then please leave them in the comment section below or contact me at and I will be more than happy to answer them.






16 Replies to “How To Download Free Images The Right Way”

  1. I knew the were restrictions on using images, but I did not know that I could still be using images that could get me in trouble even though I thought they were free.
    After reading all the informationyou provide it might be in my best interest to use stock photos. Would you know of a good placeto get them?
    I use pixabay but they don’t always have what I am looking for.
    Thank you for providing this information to us.

    1. Hi Lee Ann, thanks for your comment and I was very surprised as well when I was doing this post to find out that there are still free photos which are not actually free and it was rather scary to think that although you think you are doing the right thing but really you aren’t. PixelRockstar was the one that stood out for me as being good to use and I am going to look at them better. You are very welcome.

  2. Thank you for your response and your help.
    I will give PixelRockstar a go the next time I need photo’s that aren’t available in Pixabay.
    I really appreciate your help.

    1. You are very welcome Lee Ann, be careful because although PixelRockstar offer us safe photos when I double checked yesterday they are a subscription service that gives us cheap photos when you subscribe without any hassle of having to worry about copyright they are not free. I will send you a link that someone else has given me though that may be better. Thanks again for your comment.

  3. Many thanks for this Cheryl, most of us just download the so called free images only to face the tough side of the law. Your article has really cleared up the difference. Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Lanu, thanks very much for your comment and I have to agree that we think we are getting something for free but never really thinking about the consequences.

      I found this a very interesting post to do and did think that this is something that we should all know about to keep us all safe in the long run and to avoid being sued.

      Thank you and I Will certainly do my best.

  4. YIkes! That’s scary, I can’t believe you can actually get sued just for taking a picture of the Effiel Tower. When you are talking about being sued, do they just go after professional photographers only? Also damn, seems like you can get sued for having people in your photos too? I guess I better start taking pictures of my own now, seems like the safest and least hassle way of putting images on your website.

    1. Hi Levon, yes it is very scary to see what you can be sued for. No they tend to go for the publisher for using the photo unless if you are taking the Eiffel Tower lighting you need to get permission to use the image or make sure that if you have people in the image you need to check they have signed a Model Release to say they are happy about their photo being used. 

      I would certainly agree with you that it is easier to take and use your own photos but it is not always possible to get the shot you want. I think we just have to be careful and not use people or landmarks unless we know they are ok to use.

  5. Hi Cheryl
    The use of photos seems to be very complicated. Are there any photos or sites that can be downloaded risk-free? Or do you have to read the fine print on every photo downloaded?
    Otherwise, I really don’t know which photos are ok or not ok to use.

    1. Hi Tom, I know exactly what you mean here and it is very confusing. One site that was suggested to me was and the person who suggested them said that they are excellent for copyright and royalty free images. Give them a try, if you are a premium member of WA we also have the free photos in Site Content that we can use as well. I hope this helps you with your confusion. If not please come back to me.

  6. Thanks Cheryl, You explained some of the finer points of image use and legality really well. I always wondered about the copyright laws on some of the so-called ‘free’ image websites out there. Had not heard of unsplash either, so thank you for mentioning it. I would rather pay a little it of money now to ensure my images are legal than deal with the possible legal issues down the track!

    1. Hi Dan, thank you very much for your comment and was pleased that you were happy with my explanation of the finer points. You are very welcome and I feel the same as yourself Dan that I would rather pay a little and be able to feel safe than dealing with the chance of being sued later on. 

  7. Hallo there,

    I have to say this article was very educational for me. I am just starting our with blogging and have heard that there are free images some of which come with tough terms.

    And you have broken down everything I wanted to know here.

    Thanks a lot. It makes me realize that I may want to invest in paid photos in the future to keep the quality of my site high and unique. Thanks a lot.

    1. Hi Dave, you are very welcome and thanks for your comment. I have to say that when I did this post I found it rather scary to think that what we refer to as free photos are not always exactly free. 

      I am glad that this has given you clarity as well as helping you to decided what may be the best way for you to go in the future. 

  8. This was a really detailed and useful post on how to download and use ‘free’ images that are so prevalent these days.

    As you say, free is not really free in many cases, and there have been cases where people have had to pay dearly for using these free images improperly,

    It is a tricky world that takes constant vigilance on our parts as publishers of content online (I am an online marketer who is involved in affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and selling of training/products)…

    So far in over three years of online activities, I have had 2 incidents where I have been asked to remove an image of or remove a business address.

    In both cases, there was some gray area but rather than fight the requesters, I immediately complied and removed the content in question.

    As you say, it can be quite expensive if you do not watch what you are posting or how you are using what you are posting.

    Also, in regards to this subject…

    About a year ago, I had an extensive conversation with someone on the other side of the equation. He was regularly looking for violators and charging them.

    At that time, I let him know that from my side, I do what I can and even have a lawyer whose job it is to watch my activities to make sure I am not in violations.

    At the end of the day, the lawyers and firms that look for and protect from such lawsuits are making money. There is a good reason behind the whole set up though…

    I have chocked it all up to a cost of doing business. A necessary piece to consider when running an online business.

    It is good that you have published this and it likely will save people who mean no harm from getting a cease and desist notification or having to pay some money out. A good thing!

    1. Hi Dave, thank you very much for your comment and it is good to hear this from someone who has been on the receiving side as you are able to give the advice that you were able to remove the items. Unfortunately though there will be people that don’t get the chance to do this and will not realise they have mis-used till they receive that fine and by then it is too late.

      I had to share this after reading all about it and seeing that what we regard to as being free is not always free. It does show you though that there are people out there who are always going through our things with a fine tooth comb. I am glad that you got the option to remove the item rather than just being faced with the fine.

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