Finding images to enhance your site

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Summary

There are so many images on the web, that it seems the obvious way to source a few to enhance your website. The problem of course is copyright, but with a little know-how there are plenty of ways to safely obtain images that are great looking and very cheap or even free.

Why not just Google it?

The easiest way to find most things on the web is of course to use a search engine like Google, and this applies equally to images. Google even has a specialist image search engine, just click http://images.google.co.uk to try it. You can then type in a keyword like reflexology, or counselling. Try thinking laterally though and searching for words like confidence, or ocean. Once you find an image you like, you just click on it, to look at the web page where it comes from.

The main problem with these images is that someone else owns them and will very often assert their copyright on them, making it illegal to simply copy the image. Google is still very useful though as it allows you very easily and quickly to explore ideas for images. Secondly, many of the image libraries who sell images online will include their images in the Google listing, so you may find a nice image you like via Google, and when you click the image, you'll see it is for sale. Commercial image libraries like www.istockphoto.com or www.jupiterimages.com are quite prominent in the Google image listings.

Online Image Libraries

Image libraries have been around for years, mainly serving the advertising industry, and prices were set accordingly (£10,000 upwards for a photograph would not be unusual). Although you can still pay that for a very specific image, there has recently been massive growth in image libraries serving the average website customer on a tight budget. Two things make image libraries much better than Google for image research:

  1. Their images are very well indexed, so you can search for just about any phrase imaginable and find relevant and often highly appropriate images. For example many libraries index their photos with words like harmony, confidence, peace, vision or relaxation
  2. The quality of the photographs is generally consistently high

This guide mentions two specific image libraries, one offering photographs free and the other charging a very modest fee for website usage.

Unsplash.com

Reassuringly, the first message on the home page of Unsplash.com is "Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos", so you don't need to worry about being caught out for copyright infringement. Not only are the images free, but they are often beautiful and artistic. The downside is that this image library hasn't really been built for commercial purposes, so if you type in a search for say "reflexology" you won't find hundreds of related images. In fact there are currently none.

Unsplash works best if you are looking for evocative imagery that isn't too specific. There are categories called Couples and Fitness for example which have many images suitable for therapists. If you find an image you like, click to see it full size and then you'll see a Download button in the top right allowing you to save it to your desktop. Finally before you can use the photo on your website, don't forget you will need to load it into your website image library. This is covered in section B of the Help Guide.

It once seemed inconceivable that high quality photographs professionally indexed could be purchased for use on the web, at a cost of under £1. You may find Unsplash perfectly good for your needs, but you would be advised to also try a few searches in a library such as fotolia by way of comparison. As the contributors of the images are aiming to sell them there are usually many more of the style you are looking for. Here are a few quick links to help you inspect what they have on offer:

You can search without a user account, but if you find something you like, you need to create a user account. With fotolia, you buy credits in advance and then you can use these to purchase photos and download them to your desktop as before. When casually browsing it may appear that you need to subscribe to a monthly contract to download images, but look for the button that says on demand purchase credits and you'll see you can also download images for as little as 1 credit each, which equates to about £1 - you will need to buy credits in packs of at least 10 though.

Again, before you can use the photo on your website, you'll need to load it into your website image library, as per section B of the Help Guide.