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Where to Find High Quality Royalty-Free Images to Use in Your Articles

Updated on June 22, 2018
JenniferWilber profile image

Jennifer Wilber is an author and freelance writer from Ohio. She holds a B.A. in creative writing and English.

This photo of a woman is an example of the eye-catching royalty-free images available to writers on sites like PEXELS.
This photo of a woman is an example of the eye-catching royalty-free images available to writers on sites like PEXELS. | Source

Where can I Find High Quality, Royalty Free Images on the Internet?

Quality images are a very important part of online articles. Readers expect to see high quality, relevant pictures included with every article they read online. Independent writers who write for content sharing platforms such as HubPages must provide all of the images that appear along side their articles. While it is preferable for writers to create their own images for articles on certain topics, such as instructional how-to articles, it isn’t always possible for writers to take or create their own images for every article they write. Writers are writers, after all. Only a few of us are also photographers.

While searching for images to include in your online articles, it is very important to understand how image licensing works. If you simply choose images from an image search engine, you will likely be breaking copyright laws, as most images on the web are protected under the original creator’s copyright. It is important to only use images that have been released to the public domain, or that the original creators have granted you permission to use for commercial uses (yes, any articles you publish online and earn ad revenue from are considered commercial, even if you only consider your writing pursuits a hobby).

There are websites where you can purchase stock photos to use in your articles, but if you are like the majority of online writers, you likely write as a hobby or as a side business in addition to your day job. You might not have a budget for paid stock photos, or you simply don’t want to invest money in something if you aren’t sure you will turn a profit.

Luckily there are plenty of images available for you to use that won’t cost you a cent. While you must be careful to avoid breaking copyright laws when choosing images for your articles, there are places to find high quality, royalty-free images for commercial use on the web.


PEXELS offers one of the most high-quality selection of royalty-free stock photos on the web. Photographers around the world are invited to submit images to be included in PEXELS image library, provided they are willing to allow them to be used by anyone for any legal purpose. The PEXELS editors select only the best submitted photos for inclusion in their library, ensuring that only the highest quality photos make it to the site.

Every photo on is free for personal or commercial use. Every photo offered by PEXELS is distributed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, which means that the pictures are completely free for any legal use, both commercial and personal. PEXELS allows you to use any of their images without attribution or permission (though crediting your source is still encouraged).

You are free to modify any images you download from PEXELS as well. If you find a picture that is almost perfect, but not quite, you are allowed to Photoshop the photo in question, or combine images to create your own composition.


PixaBay is another excellent source of free, royalty-free stock photos. Like PEXELS, PixaBay’s image library offers thousands of images that can be used for almost any personal or commercial use. PixaBay seems to be slightly less strict regarding the quality of images that appear on their website. Because of this, you may find a wider selection of images relating to your article’s topic on PixaBay than on PEXELS (you will also notice that many images that appear on PEXELS also appear on PixaBay, so if you don’t want to spend time looking at multiple websites, you may want to start your search for images on PixaBay).

As with PEXELS, every image on PixaBay is released under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, meaning you can use any of the images without attribution or explicit permission from the photography. You are free to modify the images and use them for almost any legal purpose.

In addition to royalty-free photographs, PixaBay also offers free royalty-free video footage.

FreeImages is another database of free, royalty-free stock images that can be used even for commercial uses, including to illustrate online articles. Unlike PEXELS and PixaBay, some images hosted by FreeImages may require you to obtain permission from the photographer and/or attribute the source. Each image has information regarding licensing displayed alongside the images.

If you find an image you wish to use on, you are responsible for understanding the licensing agreement for the particular image, and for contacting the photographer for permission to use the image if necessary. While is a good source of free, royalty-free stock images, it is a little bit more complicated to use than PEXELS and PixaBay.

While does moderate new images before they appear on the site, the quality of the images varies more across the site than with PEXELS or PixaBay. You might have to sift through quite a few images before finding one that you want to use, and that meet appropriate licensing requirements for your use.



Like PEXELS and PixaBay, every image in’s image library is free for personal and commercial use. You are free to adapt the images and use them to accompany other content, such as written articles. MorgueFile does ask that you provide a credit to the photographer of any image you use on a stand-alone basis without adaptations.

Because anyone can upload their own images to this site, many of the images offered by MorgueFile are of lower quality than those found on the other free stock photos websites listed in this article. Because of this, you may want to save MorgueFile as a last resort if you can’t find anything you can use on the other sites. Still, if you are willing to sift through a lot of images, you may find a hidden gem. MorgueFile is one of the older websites offering free images for commercial use, and their age shows in many of the images still featured on the website.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Certain topics can be difficult to find illustrations to match on regular royalty-free stock photos websites. For example, if you need a photo of the cover of a certain book to include with a book review or a photo of a historical figure for a biographical article, you probably won’t find it in a collection of stock photos. In situations like this, Wikimedia Commons can offer just the images you need.

Each photo found on Wikimedia Commons is displayed with licensing information that details how the image may be used. It is important to read and understand the licensing information before downloading and using images from Wikimedia Commons, as certain images cannot be used for certain applications, such as for commercial uses, or require a specific manner of attribution to the original photographer or creator.

Royalty-Free image library websites, such as PixaBay, offer thousands of free images for creative commercial use.
Royalty-Free image library websites, such as PixaBay, offer thousands of free images for creative commercial use. | Source

There Are Many Options for Free Images that can be Used Commercially

While copyright laws and licensing agreements for images and photographs can be confusing, it is possible for writers find plenty of images to accompany their commercial writing and online articles if they know where to look and are willing to learn about image licensing. There are plenty of images available for creatives without having to spend a dime!

© 2018 Jennifer Wilber


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