How to Find Free Quality Pictures Online

This is a guest post written by Jurgen Hendriksson, a photography enthusiast and webmaster of Canon 60D Review.org.

The internet contains a incredibly large collection of free, quality pictures, but it can often be a challenge to find them. If you don’t know where to look for them, finding the perfect picture can take up a lot of your precious time that you can surely spend on more important things. That is exactly why many bloggers and webmasters end up getting costly subscriptions at stock photography websites. Perhaps the largest stock photo website, Shutterstock.com, charges $10 for a single high-resolution picture! For your average blogger, that is a very big investment and it can easily be avoided.

So why does it take so much time to find the ideal free, high quality picture? The answer to that question is low quality pictures. The number of free, low quality pictures far outnumbers that of high quality pictures. This is because most free pictures were taken by entry-level and amateur photographers. If you look at an average search result page on a photography website like Flickr.com, you will notice there there an awful lot of low-quality, poorly-shot, blurred, dull, and often very pointless pictures that make you wonder why anyone would want to upload them the internet.

Luckily, there are also many advanced and professional photographers who freely share their pictures with others. In order to find exclusively pictures that were taken by advanced photographers, you have to find a way to filter out all of the junk. I will show you how to do exactly that for the only two (gigantic) free pictures sources you will ever need.

Flickr.com

For myself, Flickr has proven to be the very best place to find free, quality pictures. At the moment, Flickr’s Creative Commons section contains over 170 million pictures. There are a few different ways to filter out quality pictures in this section. Let me show you the two easiest ways.

1. Search on Behold.cc: Behold is an awesome picture search tool that “attempts to catalogue Creative Commons images with quality comparable to that of professional image archives such as Getty Images or Corbis, by using the social structure of Flickr and image content analysis.”

2. Search on Pixel-Peeper.com: Pixel Peeper gives you the ability to search Flickr’s pictures by camera or lens model. All you have to do is filter your search by selecting a high-end camera or lens model and it will only return pictures that were shot by advanced and professional photographers who actually own such expensive equipment. (Flickr itself also has a feature for this, but it’s not as good as Pixel-Peeper at showing only quality pictures.) Unfortunately, Pixel-Peeper does not have a “filter by license type” option, so you will have to manually check if a picture is licensed under a Ceative Commons license or not.

Google Images

In July of 2009, Google Images incorporated a new feature that allows searchers to filter search results by license type. This turned Google Images into a very powerful tool for finding free pictures. With this new feature, you can tell Google Images to show exclusively Creative Commons and Public Domain pictures for your particular search query, or to show pictures that are licensed under one Creative Commons in particular. Because Google Images searches pictures from many different websites, you will usually get a lot of results. Once again, there are several different ways to set apart the quality pictures from the low-quality ones.

1. Go to the Google Images Advanced Search (to the right of the normal image search button). In the drop-down box at the very bottom, set the usage right from “not filtered by license” to a free picture license of your choice (to get the most result, choose “labeled for reuse”). With Google Images, there is no easy, direct way to filter out low-quality pictures, but you can difinitely get rid of a lot of them. There are a couple of advanced search features that you can use to accomplish this. Which feature or combination of features will return the best results usually depends on your specific search query. First, you can set a minimum picture size or MP (megapixel) resolution. Typically, the higher the resolution means the better the equipment used to take a picture, which in turn typically means the better the photographer who shot the picture is. Another thing you can do is limiting the search result by filetype. JPG and PNG images are most often of much higher quality than other, less common filetypes. Lastly, you can tell Google Images to only show pictures from a specific website. This can be quite useful when you know of a website that offers free, quality pictures that are related to the primary topic of your website or blog.

2. Search on Google Image Ripper: This is a very nice little search tool that also works on the concept of only searching for pictures of a certain size. However, unlike Google Images itself, this tool will show you the original sizes of the pictures, rather than small thumbnails which can make it very difficult to determine the quality of a picture. Google Image Ripper doesn’t do a very good job at filtering out low quality pictures, but it definitely speeds up the process of finding the high quality pictures you’re looking for.

Thank you for reading this article! I hope that these picture searching tools will save you lots of time (and perhaps even money) the next you’re trying to find the perfect pictures to complement your articles or other online projects.

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  • I thought it’s about how to spot a quality images on those site

  • sweet ! thanks for the heads up =)

    • your welcome Diana

  • cool article..keep the good work…

  • Karl Craig-West

    Thanks for such a superb list. I often struggle to find decent free images.

    Cheers,
    Karl

  • Bjorgvin

    I don’t recommend Google image search, because you often don’t know if it’s legal to use the photo or not.

    There are a lot of really great sites that provide free stock photos and illustrations with different usage restrictions, for example http://www.stockvault.net, http://www.morguefile.com and http://www.rgbstock.com

  • picdrome

    Thanks for this list!
    I can add http://www.picdrome.com, a growing Public Domain picture collection, free of copyright and licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication. All items are free to download for personal and commercial use, without restriction and are available in high definition. New photos are added on a daily basis.