Last updated: Apr 27, 2022

Sourcing Images for Your Small Business Online

Whether you’re looking for images for a blog, website or social media, knowing where to begin without breaking the bank can be challenging. It’s common knowledge that blogs and websites with photos are much more attractive to audiences, help to boost SEO and lend credibility to a business. But did you know that relevant imagery can also help people to remember your business as well? When people hear information, they will usually only retain about 10% of it 3 days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retain up to 65% of that information in the same time frame. (Brain Rules)

Not only that, but utilizing shareable content such as infographics can help to create exposure for your business as well. Web content that includes images gets up to a staggering 650% more engagement than content that includes text alone. (Webdam) In a limited window to grab an audience’s attention, solid visuals may just mean the difference between your business being noticed or lost in the noise. 

The question is, where can you find images that won’t put break your budget? The internet has an abundance of resources, but knowing where to find them without violating any copyright or usage rights can be tricky. Here’s what you need to know about safely sourcing imagery online for your website or blog. 

Images taken from search engines are most likely copyrighted
Images taken from search engines are most likely copyrighted
(Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash)

Why You Can’t Simply Take Images from Search Engines

As lovely as it would be to type an idea into a search engine and choose whatever image we’d like to suit our needs, we’d probably be violating copyright laws. You may be wondering how to know if an image is copyrighted. The quick answer is that most images are legally copyrighted from the moment they’re created. Therefore, unless it’s public domain (not licensed or the creator is deceased), a free source or has a certain creative commons license, you’ll probably need permission to use it. (Copyright Laws) In most cases this also involves paying for a license to use the image as well. Failure to do so might land you in some serious legal trouble, with hefty fines attached.  (Pixsy)

You can learn more about copyrighted images and how you can trace ownership with this article from Pixsy

Artists work hard on the images you see online, using them without permission is essentially stealing someone else's work.
Artists work hard on the images you see online, using them without permission is essentially stealing someone else’s work.

Properly Crediting Images that You Have Permission to Use 

First and foremost, it’s imperative that we stress that giving credit on an image does not mean you have permission to use it. Giving credit on an image is generally seen as a polite “thank you” to its creator and in some cases may be a requirement of using the image. You’ll often see this stipulation in creative commons licenses.  

Crediting acknowledges the creator of the image while also providing two clear underlying messages. First, that you do not own this creative work, and that it belongs to the accredited individual. And second, that anyone who sees and wishes to utilize that image must also seek permission from that individual. 

If you’ve already secured the right to use the image, be sure that the credit includes any information specified in the creator’s terms and conditions. A good basic list of items to include would be the creator’s name, the title of the work and date of creation, and a link to the creator or source. Make sure that it’s clear and readable, and positioned in a visible place (the side or bottom of the image are common.) Again, crediting isn’t always necessary but it’s a good idea, especially if you purchase a license and you’re not sure what the creator would prefer.

Crediting an image isn't always necessary, but it's a good idea.
Crediting an image isn’t always necessary, but it’s a good idea

What Type of Images to Choose for Your Website or Blog 

A great way to consider what images may be best to suit your purpose, is to think about a few words that describe your business, service, or the goal you wish to accomplish. Many types of imagery are versatile enough to cross a few things off your list at once. Photos with people in them tend to offer a more authentic feel, especially if it’s of your actual team or business. Nature photos can be a great way to set a feeling or mood, and icons can also help with more abstract ideas. If you offer products, showcasing your product is always an ideal choice, of course. Infographics, charts and graphs tend to be ideal for social media, and for conveying information in short and digestible groups.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, what are a few that you might like to convey? 

We created the infographic below using Canva. You can also learn more about how to create staff photography on a small business budget here.

The right image can convey a mood and illustrate information or abstract ideas to fit your purpose.
The right image can convey a mood and illustrate information or abstract ideas to fit your purpose

The Basic Dos and Don’ts

When it comes to selecting imagery for your website or blog, there are a few good dos and don’ts to follow. 


  • Choose your images with your audience in mind. 
  • Select images that are relevant to your business, message, channel or product. 
  • Use images that have concise, digestible information (if applicable.) 
  • Opt for high resolution, or larger images to work with. This makes editing them much easier later on. 
  • Curate content based on where you intend to use it. Certain images, such as infographics can be highly effective on social media. Infographics receive more likes and shares than any other content on social media. (NN Group


  • Use copyrighted or images with unknown sources. 
  • Select images that may date your content (unless it’s relevant.) 
  • Use low-quality, pixelated or blurry images. 
  • Choose images that feel fake or staged – authenticity is key when building a relationship with your audience. 
  • Pick images that are too busy, or overpower your content. 
  • Use clip-art. Like bad fashion, it looks dated, cheap and it can hurt your image. 

Your imagery should be clear and relevant to be most effective. Taking the time to make sure you’re choosing quality photos to represent your business will make your website or blog look professional, credible and more attractive to potential clients.  You can learn more about what you can add to your content for engagement in this article as well.

Free and Low-Cost Resources for Images Online

When it comes to images on a small business budget, you can purchase them just about anywhere online. However, many of these services can be pricey and some only offer limited use of a photo per license. Always be sure to read the fine print if you decide to purchase an image. Some stock sites also offer a free trial or certain number of images, but be sure to know what their usage limit is if you opt for this route.

There are also plenty of free and lower-cost options for those of us with small business budgets. If you’re looking for free stock photography, these sites can be a great place to start your search:

If you’re looking to make some infographics, charts or the like on a budget, there are free and upgrade-able options as well. You can check out services like these:

Most of these resources are also very user-friendly and they walk you through how to use them. Whatever you budget, there’s an option out there to match.

Put Your Images to Work for You

Once you’ve picked out your perfect image or images – put them to use! Most licensed images can be used in many places including your website, social media, online ads, digital presentations and even some print materials. Be sure to read the licensing agreement for details before hitting publish.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your images. Overlaying your logo or brand message on an image is an effective way to make a stock image more personalized. Changing the coloring (ie, black and white) or crop of an image can breath new life into an old asset. A good image can give your business value for years to come.