Royalty-Free Stock Images

The guys over at DigitalRelevance broke a great bit of news for content marketers and web developers the world over – free Getty Images!   (I should say, I think it was Bloomberg that was first with the story but it was the DR post I saw first…)

Since it’s formation in 1995, Getty quickly grew to prominence through a succession of acquisitions in the digital stock and communications space.  For as long as I can remember, no matter what I read – newspapers, magazines, online content – I was hard pressed to never see a reference or citation to Getty Images – irrespective of the content, be it sports or business.

Getting back to the point, it’s believed that Getty made the move as a sort of capitulation to the fact that their images were being used without their permission anyway. In addition to opening up their treasure trove of images they provide two ways for the images to be used: downloaded or embedded. It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that providing the embed mechanism perhaps allows them to track the use of their images across the web.

Now, before you rush off to and cherry pick your favourite stock imagery for your website, I’d like to provide you (or remind you of) a good old-fashioned alternative to finding royalty-free images:

Google Images.

Using Google To Find Royalty-Free Images

Google have long provided search access to royalty-free images.  There are two ways of finding these:

Google Advanced Image Search or Image Search Tools.

Google Advanced Image Search

Advanced Image Search ( allows you to narrow the focus and specificity of your image search over a range of filters including, for example, keywords, colour and hue, pixel size and image file type. For the topic of this post, however, we’re only interested in one of these filters: usage rights.

Scroll to the bottom of Advanced Image Search and you’ll see the usage rights filter. By clicking the drop-down menu you’ll see the various permissions and restrictions that are available.


Usage Rights: select appropriately.

Choose the one you want and click the “Advanced Search” button.

While there are five permission types listed, in summary, there are broadly only two types of usage rights:

Free to use or share: It’s in the public domain and can be reused, copied and redistributed with the caveat that you do not modify it.

Free to use, share and modify: As above but with the exception that you are allowed to modify it.

For further reading on the subject I would urge you to read Google’s page on usage rights pertaining to images.

Image Search Tools

An alternative to advanced image search, this makes use of the search tools navigation bar on the standard Google image search page. Follow the steps below.

1. Enter your keyword and hit search.

2. Click the “search tools” button in the navigation bar. (See screenshot below).


Click the “search tools” button.

3. Note the additional navigation menu that appears underneath. (See screenshot below).


Sub-navigation menu: click “Usage Rights”.

4. Click “Usage Rights”.

5. Select appropriate permissions.


Select usage rights

You should note that the type of usage right you select has a bearing on the quality of images available. Simply put: images available for commercial reuse tend to be of lower quality or relevance than those with licensing restrictions.

Additional Resources

To finish up, I’ll add another resource for free / unlicensed stock imagery: Creative Commons. Here, simply enter your search query / keyword for the theme of image you require, tick the relevant usage box and and hit the return key.

I should add, be very careful with using other people’s images and always double check the usage rights and permissions attaching to the images you decide to use.

If you have any other resources you’d recommend, please post them in the comments.