How to find images for your articles

01 Jan 2019
By Unite Students, Staff writer at The Common Room

Looking for images to include in your Common Room article? This guide covers where to find free images, how to choose them, and how you can make sure you can use them legally.

The first and best option is to take your own photographs.

Where to find free images for your article

Taking your own photographs

The first and best option is to take your own photographs. We want to get your unique perspective on the subject, and what better way to do that than by showing us something you’ve actually seen.

The camera on your phone can take perfectly good photos - just make sure you send your photo files over to us in a JPEG or PNG format.

If your image includes identifiable people, you’ll also need to confirm that they are happy for their image to be used and shared by us in the Common Room and possibly via Unite Students’ social media channels.

Using free stock image sites

There’s some incredible stock imagery out there available for free.

Here’s a few of our favourite free stock image sites:

The first and best option is to take your own photographs.


Using paid-for stock image sites

If you can’t take your own photo or find one suitable on the sites suggested above, you can also take a look at Shutterstock, a huge paid-for stock image library which we have a subscription to.

See something you like? Send us a link to it for us to download.

Choosing images for your article

When considering what images to choose, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:

Is the image consistent with others shared in the Common Room?

We try to avoid using images that are obviously ‘stocky’. For example, in this article on flat-sharing, we wanted to show a group of young people having fun together, whilst avoiding anything that looked staged or clinical. Below on the left, you’ll see what we chose, and on the right an example of an image with a similar theme, but entirely different execution.

Is the image formatted correctly for the web?

If you are taking your own photographs, we ask that you send us your files in a JPEG or PNG format. Images should be a minimum of 600 pixels wide.

If you are sourcing images from stock image sites simply include a link to the image for us to download and format.

Can you legally use the image?

It’s important to ensure that you have permission to use an image.

Images published on Pexels and Pixabay are licenced under CC0. This means there is no copyright on these images and you can copy, modify and distribute them, even for commercial use, without seeking permission.

Similarly, all Unsplash images are free under their own licence, meaning you can copy, modify, distribute and use their images without seeking permission.

If you source images from any other site, you’ll need to check that you can use them legally. There are many licenses out there, but the big three to look out for are:

Royalty free

Where you pay a one-off fee to use an image. There may still be restrictions on it, so if you’re wanting to use an image like this, it’s best to send us a link to the image online so we can check this for you.

Creative Commons

Photographers choose from a selection of licenses with varying restrictions. For the Common Room, it’s best to look for images licenced under CC0 - like the images on Pexels, Pixabay and Unsplash. For more information on the different types of Creative Commons licenses take a look at Flickr’s summary.

Public domain

This applies to images where copyright has expired or never existed. These images can be used by anyone, although attribution is still required in some cases.

Got a question on choosing an image for your article? Email it to Alex.

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Staff writer at The Common Room