What Images Can I Use on My Website?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. You can take that advice and use images on your website. If you want an engaging and aesthetically pleasing website, you need to use images on your website, from hero images across the top of your website to smaller photos to break up text. Visuals should be a key part of your content marketing strategy. Images add flare to blog posts and webp ages, but navigating the legality of using website images can be confusing. In this article, you will learn how to find images to use on your website and the steps you need to take to legally use different images.

Why Use Website Images?

The website images you use can elevate your website design and keep your audience engaged. Not just any image will do, though. When choosing what website images to use, there are many aspects of the image that you should consider.

public domain images

Serve a Purpose

The website images you choose need to serve a purpose. Product images or images of people using your service are excellent choices. They give the viewer a visual of what you can offer them. Words can only do so much to paint a picture in the viewer’s mind. With the right website image, viewers do not need to imagine what your product or service looks like.

The website images can also serve to establish the desired mood or point of content like a blog article. It does not need to be a literal image of what is going on in the article or webpage, but it should help the viewer understand how they should feel about the content they are consuming, add clarity to a confusing topic, or show an example of something written. If your website images serve a purpose, they will be much more effective than if you just add random images without much thought.

High-Quality Website Images

The photos you put on your website need to be professional. The lighting, composition, and overall image quality need to be excellent. A grainy photo of your product taken on a messy dining room table will not do. Hire a professional to take photos for you to find public domain photos online if you do not have adequate photography skills. The public domain images you pull from the internet also need to be high quality.

High-resolution images with large pixels work best. You want the image to draw the viewer’s eye. Choose a size that is appropriate for both desktop and mobile devices. People view websites just as much if not more from their phones and tablets as they do from desktops.

Create Harmony

Your pictures should not clash with the rest of your website and other photos. If an image contains very bright, primary colors, but the rest of your website has neutral colors, it is going to clash. You want to draw the viewer’s attention, but if the image clashes too much with the rest of your site, it will draw their attention in a bad way. If you have a great image but the lighting or colors clash with the rest of your site, add a filter over the photo to maintain a consistent look across your entire site.

Public Domain Images

Any work in the public domain is free for anyone to use. You can use and edit any image in the public domain for any purpose on your website. While you are not obligated to give credit for public domain images, it is polite to do so. 

A work is considered public domain if one of these three conditions is met.

  1. The work is not eligible for copyright protection. Things that do not rely on human creativity, facts, or created by the government cannot be copyright protected.
  2. The copyright has expired.
  3. The creator chose to place their work in the public domain.

Most non-copyrighted images are considered to be in the public domain. Most of the images you will use on your website will be non-copyrighted images in the public domain. 

non copyrighted images

Non-Copyrighted Images

To understand non-copyrighted images, you need to understand what it means for an image to have a copyright. There is no internationally valid copyright law. This means that copyrighted image protection will vary from country to country. Generally, images are copyright protected for the artist’s lifespan plus a minimum of fifty years. 

A specific copyright called a Creative Commons copyright allows the owner of an image to retain ownership while also allowing other people to use and alter their property. If you find that an image you want to use has a Creative Commons license, you need to check the precise permissions the copyright holder has set. Many do not want their images for commercial purposes. Adding an image to an online store would violate the copyright in this case. There are many other permissions and caveats Creative Commons copyright holders can set so do your research to make sure it is legal to use the image in the way you want to. 

Checking for Non-Copyrighted Images

When you choose images for your website, you must check whether the image is in the public domain or if it is a copyrighted image. If it is copyrighted, you will need to pay the owner and get their permission directly or through a third-party website to use the image. It is illegal to use someone else’s copyrighted material without their permission, so choosing to do so anyway could open you up to a lawsuit. Here are some tell-tale signs that an image is copyright protected:

  1. The image has a watermark. The watermark will usually tell you who owns the image and will be placed in an area of the image that is difficult to crop or edit out. You should under no circumstance edit out a watermark. If an owner of an image places a watermark on their work, it is a clear indication that they do not want anyone to use it without permission.
  2. See if the image is listed by an official copyright registration. 
  3. Run a reverse Google image search on the image. This way you can see all the places the image has been used online. If you find it on a paid stock photo site, it is clear that it is not a non-copyrighted image.

It can not be stressed enough that it will be difficult to tell if an image you find right out of a Google search is a non-copyrighted image or not. Likely, you will not be able to tell just by looking at it. You will need to research to ensure that you are not violating any copyright laws. 

free website images

Free Website Images

While you could pay for images from a stock photo website or hunt down copyright holders for their permission, there are plenty of ways to find free-to-use website images.

The easiest way to get free website images and free yourself of the worry of accidentally using copyrighted images is to take your own website images. Any picture or art that you create automatically belongs to you. You are the copyright holder and as such, you can use your images wherever and however, you want to. If you sell physical products, taking a picture of the actual product will be more effective than a stock photo anyway. It also adds a personal touch to your website. These are your actual products, customers, shops, or employees doing actual work. 

If you can not create your free website images, many websites offer public domain images.


Unsplash offers over 250,000 free website images. You do not need to ask permission to use, modify, or distribute these images even for commercial purposes.

Old Book Illustrations

As the name suggests, Old Book Illustrations is a website of scanned illustrations from old books. If you want public domain images with an old, vintage feel, Old Book Illustrations has many options to choose from.

Realistic Shots

If you find that stock photos are too bland, Realistic Shots has a wide variety of interesting photographs. Every week they add seven more images that are free to use.

Foodies Feed

Foodies Feed can get your mouth watering with their images of all kinds of food from burgers to fruit to coffee. If you are a restaurant, their photos can help you get started. All images on Foodies Feed are free to use for commercial purposes.

Flickr Commons

Launched in 2008 in partnership with the Library of Congress, Flickr Commons offers public domain photos from all over the world. Archives and libraries commonly partner with Flickr Commons to build an assortment of free-to-use website images. 

website images

Using Images on Your Website

Finding public domain images is not as hard as it seems when you know where to look. If you are not going to create your own website images, use one of the many public domain stock image websites. While you still need to do your research to be sure that a photo is public domain, if it comes from a free to use website, it is much more likely to be public domain or Creative Commons copyright than it would be if you just used photos from a Google image search. If you do your research, you will quickly learn to identify which images are public domain and which ones are not. Soon, you will have a beautiful site populated with the best images.


  • How do I know if an image is in the public domain?
  • What is a Creative Commons license?
  • How do I find free images to use on my website?
  • How do I know if an image is copyrighted?
  • Why should I use website images?

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