April 27, 2022

How to Find and Use Website Images

By: Shelby Dias

The quality of your website images can make or break the first impression you make on potential customers. Poorly sized images, random images that don’t match text, or overly cliche stock photos can make your business look unprofessional. Additionally, using certain images without licensing could pose legal challenges for your website.

High-quality images tell a story and elevate your website design. If you’re planning any DIY website work, you must know where to source quality photos that you truly have permission to use.

Why Your Website Images Matter

Research shows that our brains process visual cues in less than a second – which is faster than we can recognize text. Because of this, your website images and illustrations suggest a theme and tell a story before someone reads your words. This is why visual elements are such a key part of any design.

While your website text may vary in readability, readers of all skill levels can interpret your website images. Thoughtfully choosing photos that support your text can communicate themes and emotions. Your audience can instantly connect with photos of people, places, and things related to your business. For example, a chiropractor’s website might have a photo of the doctor and a child patient. This visually signals that children can be seen as patients at the practice.

Besides being powerful tools for communication, your website images also affect your site’s reputation with search engines. Properly formatted and titled images can improve your search ranking, leading to more traffic and potentially more customers.

Where Do Web Designers Get Photos?

Photos can be used throughout your website as a part of different design elements. For example, your website design might call for:

  • Hero (top of page) photos
  • Background/theme photos
  • Product photos
  • Title photos of blog articles
  • Icon photos

Even if you aren’t a website designer, several resources are available to you to find professional images for your website. You can choose the resource that best matches your goals and budget.

Company Photos

Original photos taken for your business are the most unique and authentic images you can use on your website. Photos of your business, customers, team, or products can be great assets to your website. If you can’t budget for a professional photographer to be on-site for a day, you could also do this photography yourself.

Paid or Free Stock Photography

This photo source will likely be cheaper than a custom photoshoot for your business. You can search for photos corresponding to your industry, product, or page text. Because free stock images are accessible to everyone, the same photo may also appear on another website.

Website Images From Free Stock Photo Sites

If you don’t have the budget for custom photography, we recommend using the following free photo sites.


Pexels has a huge library of free stock photos on various topics. It’s also a great source for free videos. All images and videos are free for commercial and non-commercial use without attribution or credit to creators.


Unsplash is likely the most popular source for free photos. More than 2 million free, high-quality images are contributed by photographers worldwide. All images are free for commercial and non-commercial use without attribution.


Canva is a popular tool for creating graphics for social media posts, presentations, etc. Part of its design software includes a free image library that you can use as a resource for your website images. Canva offers free and paid access to its photos. All images can be used for commercial and non-commercial purposes without attribution.


Pixabay offers a large collection of stock photos, illustrations, videos, and vector graphics. The entire library is free for commercial and non-commercial use without attribution.


Burst is a free stock photo platform powered by Shopify. All images are free for commercial and non-commercial use — from school projects and desktop backgrounds to website images and Instagram ads. Giving credit to creators is encouraged but not required.

Know Which Images are Legally Safe to Use

There are plenty of professional photos available online – not just on the sites listed above. The biggest challenge is determining which images can be used on your website and under what conditions.

You should always double-check the licensing and use of stock photos before using them on your site. Some images may not be available for commercial use, and some may require attribution of the source. The sites listed above have licenses that allow you to use any of their images without attribution.

You should understand the following license types if you look for free website images elsewhere.

Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons (CC) licenses allow creators to retain the copyright of their work while still giving others the right to copy and distribute it. CC licenses assure that creators get credit for their work. There are six different types of CC licenses with varying rules.

  • Attribution (CC-BY)
  • Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)
  • Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND)
  • Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)

Attribution (CC-BY) licenses are the most relaxed. You can share and adapt images with this license so long as you credit the original creator. You can use the image for commercial and noncommercial purposes.

Public Domain Images

Work in the public domain usually includes creative work in which the copyright has expired. However, some artists may choose to dedicate their work to the public domain. There are no restrictions to using images in this category, but confirming they are in the public domain might be tricky.

If you find images with the Creative Commons license CCO, this is essentially the same as the public domain. This “no rights reserved” license allows you to copy and distribute the image without permission or credit.

Royalty-Free Licenses

Royalty-free stock photos are not free from copyright. You purchase the rights to use these images. Typically, you use a royalty-free image multiple times but only pay for it once. For example, you would purchase rights to an image in Adobe Stock and use it as many times and in as many places as you like.

Tips for Using Photos in Web Design

As you search for great images to include on your website, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Start with high-quality pictures. You can always make a large image smaller. Making a small image larger won’t work.
  • Use the right file type. Photos should be saved and uploaded as JPGs. Your logo should be saved as a PNG.
  • Use the right image size. Too-large images overwhelm the page and slow loading speeds. This is especially frustrating for mobile users. We suggest keeping large images or full-screen background images to no more than 1 MB.
  • Be consistent with sizing and style. Follow a theme with how you size and orient images on a page.
  • Optimize the image for SEO. Use a descriptive filename. Search engines also reward photo captions and ALT descriptions that improve accessibility.
  • Choose relevant images. Don’t include random pictures on your site. Let your photos convey a message to your website visitors and support the rest of your content.

Want to Skip the DIY Photos?

Choosing the right photos for your website and navigating licensing can be time-consuming. The easiest solution is to let our experienced Best Websites designers choose them for you. If you want us to take the website work off your plate, schedule a call with our team.


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