How to Find Images for Your Website, Blog, and Social Media Posts


It’s a common saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, and as web designers have discovered, no website is complete without images. Images, pictures, and photos add color and dynamism to your website, blogs, and social media posts. Supporting images that underscore a message should be incorporated at every opportunity. The challenge facing most people is that they may not know exactly where to turn when needing to review a variety of legitimate images.

Even if you are not a pro photographer do not despair because there are plenty of ways you can obtain quality images to add to your website.

What Are You Trying to Convey?

The first thing you need to do is work out exactly what message you are trying to convey to visitors to your website. A photograph should be eye-catching, and it should also strengthen the message that you are trying to get out there. If you are searching for images to accompany a story or blog post then there are a few actions you can take in order to find the best images for your needs.

First, write down the main points of the story. If you had to sum up the most important factors of it to someone, what would they be? You can also look at your subtitles to see if there are any clues as to what images would fit in. If the article is a travel article, then you will want to use images that show the beauty of the place, or the main attractions you are writing about. When you have 5-10 words that describe the main story points on your list, associated image ideas should become clear.

Image Colors, Sizing, and Quality

Vivid colors are important in an image. If you are placing a prominent image on your website, such as a hero image, then you may want to choose images that have colors that complement the rest of the website theme.

The sizing and placement of the image is also important. Images should add to the text, not distract from it. You can embed the image within the text and write around it, or you can use it in a break between paragraphs. Many people choose to have a clickable image, so that when a visitor clicks on it, they can view it full size if they wish.

High quality images will give a great first impression to visitors and encourage them to believe that you have a great story to tell.

Photo-Sharing Sites

If you don’t have a personal collection of original images, you may want to visit online photo-sharing sites. A stock photo library is a great place to get clear, professional images. These are usually backed by creative commons licenses. Such sites offer free or royalty-free photos and fee-based photos. Check on the permission of an image before downloading from a photo-sharing site.

Additionally, the best place to find stock images is online. You can typically browse photos based on keywords and those images related to your keywords. The image results will have copy rights listed, so you know which images you can legally use on your website.

Most of the time we don’t think about the use of audio or video we find on the web. Those of us in the multimedia communications industry may have heard about how X company got in trouble for not properly giving credit for a video clip or how Y company was sued over not acquiring the proper license for a music bed in a commercial.

But images? There are thousands on the web. Aren’t those fair game?

Steps to Compliance

Here are simple guidelines to ensure that your internal practices are not robbing a starving artist seeking to get paid for his or her quality work as well as putting your business and reputation at risk:

  • Never use images directly from image search engines (such as Google Images) without first securing permission from the image owners.
  • Permission must come in the form of a written document, signed and dated by the owner, providing specific instructions for the licensing and usage of the images.
  • It should also clearly contain the terms – how long the license/usage is good for.
  1. Use stock photography from quality sources. Some of our favorites include:

Each of the reputable companies above provides documentation of their usage policies with your account setup and image purchase.

  1. Keep a paper-trail for the purchase of any images used on your website.
  2. Retain ownership of your images

If an agency (like Gate 39 Media) designs your website, blog post, or social media post, you can be sure that the ownership of the images belong to you.

  1. Use a qualified photographer if you need an image that is truly unique.
  • Take your own photos or hire a professional photographer for bespoke photos that you can direct.
  • Remember that if you use a professional photographer, the licensing belongs to the person who took the image, so always get written permission or see if providing written credit for usage will suffice.

Following these simple guidelines can help protect you from ever receiving a fraudulent complaint or cease and desist letter. Or, if you do receive one, you will be able to demonstrate a clear paper-trail to help prove that you are using the images legally.

Royalty Free vs. Rights Managed

Stock images also come with a Royalty Free (RF) or Rights Managed (RM) designation.

According to the American Society of Photographers, royalty-free images are licensed for you to use multiple times in any circumstance without incurring additional fees. The benefit is you can get high quality images to use for your media without extra expense. The downside is that since they have a much larger appeal and overal wider usage, it is likely that an image you select has already been used by other people/companies. Also important to ntoe is that these rights are not transferrable. So, even if you are using a royalty-free image, it doesn’t mean you can pass it to a friend for them to use without going through the proper purchase channels.

Rights-managed images, on the other hand, are licensed based on strict and exclusive usage. While more expensive and requiring a clear outline of how and where these images are being used, if you want to ensure that no one else can use a particular image for their branding, then this is the right licensing option for you.

The downside to using free images is that many sites will likely be offering the same images, so if originality is important to you, free may not be the way to go.

What If I’m Not Doing This?

If you haven’t been following these guidelines, you need to review the images on your website or media property immediately, and confirm that the images used are not violating copyright. Watch for images that you may have used from other websites – especially ones that originated from a for-pay stock photography source. You should remove or get permission for these photos immediately.

Want More Info?

If you would like more information on image copyright and licensing issues, here are some sources we’ve found to be helpful:


Sarah McNabb is Chief Marketing Officer at Gate 39 Media, a financial services marketing firm providing online marketing and application development for financial services across futures, equities, alternative investments and insurance.

Follow Sarah on Twitter at