Finding affiliate marketing images can be risky and time-consuming – bloggers have the same issues. Images and other graphics play a critical role in your content marketing strategy. Visitors are skimming your content and graphics provide a way to present data in a visually appealing manner. They inform readers, reduce bounce rates, eliminate walls of text and even provide SEO opportunities. Unfortunately creating quality graphics can be time-consuming and expensive. Amazon affiliates and others also need to be careful to not use images improperly or risk being deauthorized from the affiliate program. Fortunately, there are many free sources for stock photos to help you.
Image and Photo Sources
Vector Graphic Sources
About Free Sources
Many companies create collections of images that can be freely used. Often these sites are ad-based and looking for the traffic that comes from bloggers and affiliates coming to their sites. They also may have premium packages and other fee-based products to create revenue. They often have links to paid stock libraries.
Vector vs Raster Images
Vector images are made up of lines, points, curves and mathematical formulas. They have the advantage of being smaller and resizable to any size with loss of quality. Icons, Fonts, line art are examples of vector images. Raster images, on the other hand, are larger and limited in scaling by their original size and resolution. Photos are always raster images. Fonts are typically vector graphics as are most logos so don’t just focus on image and photo libraries.
Our Image and Vector Sources Checklist
Below is our checklist of free libraries for you to use. Just check off an item that you have already visited for your project. Your selections will be remembered when you return.
Copyrights — Proper Usage and Attribution of Images
Original artwork of all kinds is subject to complex copyright laws. The best course is to either create your own graphics, use one of the free graphics libraries above or properly license them. Some images are free to use, some request attribution and some sites have both free and premium files. Just check, it is easy to confirm the license type from these sites. All the vector graphics and image sites in this post offer free vectors, fonts or stock photos. But the license may vary. There are a few types of licenses you will encounter…
- Creative Commons Zero (CC0) — These can be used for any purpose with no attribution required. Even these though may have some restrictions – not being able to sell as a collection, for instance,
- CC2.0 — these may be used for any purpose but require attribution.
It is also ultimately up to you to be sure that there are no model or product rights infringements. The best practice is to check the license type before getting started. If CC2.0 provide attribution. You can also always ask the photographer. These are opportunities to reach out and perhaps get a backlink.
No these aren’t some short ugly creatures living under a bridge … well kinda. Copyright trolls are lawyers who scour the Internet looking for images that are not licensed correctly. They are the slip-and-fall lawyers of the web. If you are contacted by one they will demand that you produce licenses for any suspected image on your site. If you can not they will demand fees for the image use. Taking down the image is not enough since they will claim you benefitted from it in the past. One of the more notorious companies for using these tactics is Getty Images. It is much like the overreach of the RIAA and downloaded music a few years ago. The RIAA has stopped this practice. Hopefully, Getty will also. In fact, Getty is being sued for some of their practices.
Rules for Amazon Affiliates
Images that vendors put on Amazon’s website are restricted. As an affiliate, you can not copy and paste them to your blog or review site. In addition to the risks discussed above, this is one of the more common reasons to get deauthorized by Amazon.
You can use Amazon listing images only if you use the Product Advertising API to embed them into your posts as products like Prosociate do.
Any affilaite can also use Stripe at Amazon.com. No need for API keys. Just log into your Associate account and start browsing at Amazon. You will see the Stripe banner in the top left-hand side. There you can download the Amazon images and product descriptions.
Graphics Creation Tools
With all of the available free vector graphics and images available you might be tempted to stop there. But of course, you need to make these “your own”. Titles are added, logos applied, color schemes changed, images combined, etc. You can hire a graphic artist to do these tasks and with all of the other needs of any site, that can make sense.
Other tasks like content creation, SEO, backlinks, hosting issues, e-mail marketing – these might be a better use of your time. But many of us are creative types. I find the process refreshing. With today’s tools, it is fairly easy to work with vectors, fonts, images, effects etc. to create unique graphics.
Free Image Editing Software
There is a great selection of free editors available to work on photos and other images.
GIMP (Mac, PC, Linux)
Gimp is a good alternative to Photoshop if you are on a budget or don’t use these tools often. It does have a bit of a learning curve but basic tasks are quick and easy. It is stable and well supported by the community.
Seashore (Mac only)
Seashore. only runs on Apple computers but is simpler to use and has most features that a blogger would need. A strong contender for Mac users.
Photoscape only runs on Windows-based PC computers. It does have a full set of editing tools and a good choice for Microsoft users.
Commercial Image Editing Software
If you are going to be doing a lot of editing or have creative tasks, premium software is often a good value.
Photoshop is clearly the industry standard that other image editors are measured against. It is a standard part of most professional graphic artists’ toolkits. It is a large program that has lots of features. For most bloggers and affiliates it is overkill but still a good tool and skill to have. Particularly if you will be working with outside vendors and need to move files back and forth.
Lightroom is typically used by those with raw photos to “develop”. It has image editing capabilities but they are not as extensive as Photoshop’s. LightRoom also has a robust library system that uses metadata to store and retrieve your images. If like me you have had to look through thousands of image files to find that certain image I knew was there, you will appreciate Lightroom’s library capabilities.
You purchase Photoshop and Lightroom on a subscription basis at $9.99/mo. or you can subscribe to the entire Creative Cloud software suite for $49.99/month and get Illustrator plus the rest of the Adobe products.
Adobe Photoshop Elements is a great value at under $100 (it usually sells for $60-$80). It is essentially a “lite” version of Photoshop. It has plenty of features for most bloggers and affiliates.
Capture One Pro 9
I used Capture One from their earliest releases. They came bundled with many medium format digital backs like Phase One and Hasselblad. I still prefer it to Lightroom for importing and color management of my camera raw files. Like Lightroom, Capture One has a strong library system with sessions and catalogs. Capture One costs $299 there are subscription options.
Vector Graphic Editors
You need different tools to edit vector graphics than you do images. For instance, Photoshop is not used for this.
Free Vector Graphic Editors
Gravit Designer (Windows, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS)
Gravit works well for editing pdf, EPS and SVG files. However, does not support any of the Adobe file formats which may be an issue if you are working with outside graphic editors.
Inkscape (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Inkscape is a professional quality free vector graphics editing tool working with SVG, SVGZ (gzipped SVG), PDF, EPS, and Adobe Illustrator (AI) formats.
Commercial Vector Graphic Editors
Adobe Illustrator- Windows & Mac
Like Adobe Photoshop is for images, Illustrator is the industry benchmark for vector editing tools. You can license for $19.95/mo or as part of the complete Creative Cloud suite for $49.00/mo.
CorelDRAW – Windows
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite is offered as both a subscription ($18.25/mo) and a one-time purchase. This seems a direct appeal to Adobe users not happy paying a monthly fee forever. The one-time purchase price is expensive at $615 with no feature updates. However, your license will never expire.
Serif Affinity Designer- Windows & Mac $69
Affinity makes solid tools at a low cost. Serif Affinity Designer is only $69 for a perpetual license. They even have a free 10-day trial.
Mobile-Apps and Cloud-based Editors
There are now both apps for Android and IOS as well as cloud-based software as a service (SAAS) products for editing your graphics. These typically have libraries of objects and templates to get your project started.
Canva (Android and IOS)
Canva lets you quickly edit photos and create great looking graphs and charts. All on your mobile device!
Adobe has a number of editing tools available for both Android and IOS. Including – Adobe Photoshop Express, Adobe Photoshop Mix, and Adobe Lightroom.
Unlike many mobile and online apps, Pixlr is a full-fledged image editing tool that you can use in your browser.
Fotor is a fun tool for creating new images quickly. They have a free and premium version as well as a desktop tool.
Images can be indexed by Google Search. Think of how often you use the image search capability. These search results will lead back to your site and provide additional traffic. They are a unique onramp to your site. Always use Alt attributes, descriptive titles and file names. I take this a step further – using images as backlink opportunities. I create images that I want to help generate backlinks. Just like you want other sites to link to your posts, get them to link for attribution reasons. I freely distribute any image on my site as a CC2.0 licensed graphic. In exchange, I require attribution, requesting a Dofollow backlink.
Are all of the Graphics on the list free?
Many of the sites have both free and premium graphics. They use the free graphics as a preview of the paid ones.
Are the free graphics safe from Copyright issues?
Yes but ... always check the license type. It is ultimately your responsibility to not infringe.
What is the difference between CC0 and CC2.0 copyright?
The CC0 images are free to use for any purpose without credit. CC2.0 images require you to credit the original photographer or artist.
What is a copyright troll?
This is an individual or company that scours the internet looking for images being used without permission. They then send you an invoice for using their clients' images without permission. Usually, these are lawyers.
Is it ok to use images found on Google images?
It is risky. Though the images have copyright license information there is no way of knowing if the person that uploaded the image is the actual copyright holder.
Graphics are a critical part of your content’s design. They can break up text, provide in-depth information, entertain and more. You do need to be careful with your use of graphics. It’s easy to just grab something you find online but this can catch-up with you. There are so many legit free resources, simply use them. Then you or your designer can embellish these images to fit your site and content needs. But pay attention to licensing. If not, you will eventually run into a legitimately upset copyright owner or copyright troll. These are self-inflicted wounds to avoid as a site owner.