How to Find Photos for Web Pages

Get Photos to Use on Your Web Pages

Jennifer and Jaryth
Jennifer and Jaryth. Image Copyright 2009 J Kyrnin

Imagery is important on the Web. Look at any website today and you will see images and photos used in a variety of ways. 

Photographs are a great way to dress up a website. They add color and liveliness to pages, but unless you're a professional stock photographer, chances are you don't have a lot of photos of anything except your family, friends, vacations, and pets. Those kinds of images may be great in family photo albums, but they aren't really what you will use for web site design. Don't despair, however, there are lots of ways to get photos for Web pages.

Start With Your Own Camera

You don't have to be a professional or have a fancy SLR camera to take pictures for a Web page. One of the first pages I designed for Symantec I went out with my standard point and shoot, took a picture of the building, and put it up on the page. Sure, a professional could have done a nicer job, but my picture was up within 10 minutes of taking it. That simple photo turned a dull page that no one thought twice about into a page that I received compliments for all the time, just because I added a photo.

One of the nice things about the huge megapixel cameras that are available today is that you can take a photo of your dog, and then notice in the background a beautiful flower. The flower might be perfect for your website, so if you just crop the photo and optimize it you can use your dog photo without actually putting your dog on your website. So the first place you should look for photos is in your personal collection. Look at backgrounds and extraneous sections, you might find a great texture you could use or a portion of the photo that works perfectly.

Here are some tips for using your own photos:

  • Make sure to keep the image size small. 10 megapixels is a great camera for printing photos, but awful for Web pages. No one wants to wait for a photo to download.
  • Don't limit yourself to the main subject of the photo. Web images can be really small, so if a portion of the background fits your page, use that and crop out the rest.
  • Be picky. Don't use images that are blurry or badly lit, even if you love the expression on baby's face. Your website is a public place and you want to put the best photos up for view on it.

Flickr and Other Online Photo Sharing Sites

There are a number of online photo sharing sites where people load photos and share them with creative commons licenses. Depending on the person, the photo may be available for anyone to use royalty-free. Be sure to check the permissions on the photos before you use them, and always credit the author and your source even if they are royalty-free. That is just polite.

Some photo sharing sites include:

Stock Photo Companies

Stock photos are a great way to get more generic photos for use on your Web pages. They provide photos of people, products, places, and animals and are well lit and shot. And while most stock photo companies are not free, there are a few free ones and there are also some that provide high quality photos for a low price. And remember, since you're buying photos for a Web page, you don't need to pay for resolutions that would print well. This usually lowers the price. Some stock photo companies include:

Public Images

Finally, you can use public images on your website. Most photos taken by the government can be freely used. Be sure to check the copyright before you use them. Some public domain image sites include:

Edited by Jeremy Girard on 2/3/17