August 26, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Finding free stock photos for your website

Updated August 2021.

Finding free creative stock photos for your blog posts usually feels tougher than writing the actual post.

What's more, you want to be sure you're not stealing images and that you are respecting the license (if not, it can get costly down the road!). So first, a guide to Creative Commons and its various licenses.

This comically bad stock photo is from a stunt to promote the movie Unfinished Business back in 2015. Photo via Adweek.
This comically bad stock photo is from a stunt to promote Vince Vaughn's movie Unfinished Business back in 2015. Photo via Adweek.

Creative Commons licenses

Creative Commons is "a nonprofit organization that helps overcome legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity to address the world’s pressing challenges."

Essentially, it's a tool for creators to provide access to creative works without having to waive their rights, and limit liability. There are a variety of licenses they can choose from, and I've highlighted those used by the services below.

CC0 - The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication

According to Creative Commons: "CC0 (aka CC Zero) is a public dedication tool, which allows creators to give up their copyright and put their works into the worldwide public domain. CC0 allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, with no conditions."

Attribution 3.0 United States

According to CC, "You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use."

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

From CC: "You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

You may not use the material for commercial purposes.

If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material."

Free stock image resources

Here's my ever-growing list of stock photos that you can use for free:

Burst: Provided by Shopify, these feel a bit more staid. There is some diversity, though, that's being added. Available under CC0 license.

CC Search: This image search engine is perfect for finding what you need, all CC0 images. And, they are working with WordPress to combine this into the WordPress ecosystem. I can't wait for this! 

Cupcake: All images are by Jonas Wimmerström and focus on nature. All under a CC0 license.

Foodies Feed: Just what it sounds like! These also have a CC0 license.

Foca Stock: This site includes photos, videos and even social templates! Also under a CC0 license. There's a wide variety here, less focused on having people in the frame.

Getty Images: Yes, it's true, there are free options here! The catch is, you have to embed the image on your blog and the imagery cannot be used commercially.

ISO Republic: These are licensed under CC0 license, which means they've donated the work to the public domain.

Negative Space: Interesting range of imagery. CC0 licensing.

New York Public Library Public Domain: It's a treasure trove of images of photos, illustrations, architectural drawings, menus, stereoscopic views, pamphlets and more from the 11th century to present day.  

Pexels: Free for commercial and personal use. There's also a WordPress plugin to simplify adding images.

Pic Jumbo: I do love the genesis of this site: The creator, Viktor Hanacek, started it when he was rejected from big stock photo sites because of "lack of quality" but today, there are 2.5 million downloads of images on the site! These are free to use commercially, but they all do not have model or property releases, and some photos may also contain copyrighted brands, logos, objects or personal properties. So 'buyer' beware, I guess!

Public Domain Archive: New images added weekly, and you can use them as you wish; the creators of these images have donated their rights to CC0. 

Stock Snap: A nice variety of images, both nature and office. CC0 license.

Startup Stock Photos: Not a huge collection or overly diverse, but they may fulfill your startup photo needs. These appear to be able to be used commercially, though attribution is appreciated.

Styled Stock: More "feminine" images—meaning lots of white backgrounds, flatlay images, and bright colors. Licenses give you a lot of room for usage.

Unsplash: You can use these commercially. It even has a plugin to make it easier, Instant Images. There's a wide variety here but it can stray into boring stock.

Find free diverse stock photos

Almost every client asks for diverse photos, whether it's in ethnicity, gender, body positivity... you name it! Here are some free diverse stock photo resources:

Body Liberation Guide: If you're often looking for body-positive, fat-accepting imagery, these illustrations and photos can be a great resource. Licences vary, but you can check out the overall terms.

CreateHER Stock: A great, more lifestyle-focused set of images of black women. These are not licensed for commercial use, only personal. Check out their full license.

Gender Spectrum Collection: From Vice of all places, this huge set of photos features trans and non-binary models in a variety of settings. Really inspiring and hopefully where stock is going! They use the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.

Nappy: What a great name! Billing itself as "Beautiful photos of Black and Brown people, for free," you really can't go wrong. There's a real variety of work, from office to just life. These are CC0.

WOCinTech: Diversity! Women of color in technology. A really nice set of images under the Attribution 3.0 license.

Got one you love? Share it! 

June 13, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Protect your content copyright with WordPress

Updated June 2021.

Protecting one's images and text online is an important topic, and one I tackled at my Chicago Creative Expo WordPress talk.

Read more

August 23, 2013Comments are off for this post.

Friday picks: Top takeaways from #SXSWV2V

This was a tough post to write. Coming back late last Thursday night from SXSW V2V, the premiere event in Las Vegas from SXSW, I've been bubbling over with ideas and motivation. Like the Austin version, there was so much going on, and so much to see and do — and I wanted to see all of it. Unlike Austin, the relatively small size (1500 as opposed to 30,000 registrants!) contributed to a friendly, welcoming vibe. Here, some things that I gleaned from all that time.

1. Be mindful in your social media. I was unhappy with a pricey swag bag from an event, that ended up including very little. The response to my disgruntled tweet? A "sorry" with no response to my follow-up question, and another tweet thanking me for having a great time. Clueless, anyone?

No one is perfect, but treat people with some respect, especially if they've invested in you (and ostensibly, your brand). I had previously signed up for this organization's website, but I'm going to deactivate my profile. There are far more organizations who appreciate the individual.

2. Create more collisions. Downtown Vegas is undergoing an amazing renaissance with quite a bit of thanks going to Zappo's Tony Hsieh. His idea of "colliding" conversations that enable fruitful ideas and partnerships is amazing, and from meeting a few of the downtown entrepreneurs this past week, I can see the effect it is having on the downtown Vegas economy and its people. It's positively inspiring, especially to someone who works alone most of the time!

3. Celebrate your achievements. From Tech Cocktail founder Frank Gruber, it's important to celebrate your achievements, even the smaller ones. It's easy to get bogged down in the minutia of the everyday grind, but taking time to acknowledge your wins makes it much easier to push forward.

4. Be selfish. As Micah Baldwin of Graphicly said in his talk, "You are not your company. Be selfish." In short — take care of yourself, because very often, we are our company. And we need to be in good shape to keep it going.

5. Always be learning. In my sessions with my mentees, I was so impressed with the energy and options they saw. It's a problem so many of us have: We have so much we want to do, but where to focus? My feeling has always been that you do what makes you money and in your spare time (great concept anyway!) work on your passion projects until they can become the focus.

But overall, I was inspired by their eagerness. It reminds me of where I've been and where I want to be — and keep striving for.


Kudos SXSW V2V! I was honored to be a part in 2013, and can't wait for next year.


July 26, 2013Comments are off for this post.

Friday picks: Personal assistant apps

I've always been a fan of good lists, like Brit + Co. In that spirit I'm introducing a series of Friday blogs on my favorite tools, plugins, apps and tips.


I'm fawning over three particular personal assistant apps this week. I had a heck of a time finding a decent task app that could also be a bit CRM and project manager AND look good (and I'll get to that one next week) but I've always been doubtful of the PA apps. How can an app really help me?

As it turns out, it can help quite a bit. My favorites are Osito (no longer available in the US iTunes store) and Donna, and I'm still crossing between them till one gets the better of the other. My third is EasilyDo, which brings in the social component. Osito and Donna are only for  iOS, but I can easily see their use expanding.

I did try Google Now, which was useful, but didn't fit my exact needs. We all have our own quirks dictating  how useful an app will be, and for me, much of that lies in meetings and traffic.

More than a calendar

Each reminds you of your appointments — but better than a calendar, they assess current traffic and tell you when to leave for your appointment (when that comes up for a conference call it's just... odd). If you do have a conference call, each asks  if it can dial in for you.

If you have a "usual" home and work address, it alerts you to the best time to leave to beat traffic.

All allow you to email,  call or text colleagues if you're running late — but only if you put the person's full name in there. If someone doesn't show, their contact info (via your phone book) is available for the same treatment. And directions are pulled from Google Maps or Apple maps, depending on which you prefer, directly from the app.

Mostly, I love Donna because it appeals to my designer sensibilities.

Predictive intelligence

Osito's marketing says it relies on "predictive intelligence" — and though it has all the features above, it excels in travel and weather.

Your air travel info is updated on the fly, pulling data from your email. And weather updates are uncannily precise, telling you to the minute: "It will begin raining in Chicago at 12:55 pm." Even meteorologists can't do that.

Osito didn't overwhelm me on design, but it's clean and clear.

EasilyDo is more social

EasilyDo is rather cool for connecting to your Facebook or other social network (or just email) and scheduling personal greetings and even gifts from you. They'll even tell you how much time you saved by going through their app rather than doing it yourself (is it accurate? Hmmm...).

It scans your contacts and prompts you to update or merge them, a nice service I tired of with Plaxo a while ago. Easily Do is very graphic and you feel as if you're accomplishing something — even if it's just bday greetings.


Some of these features may not seem noteworthy if you aren't traveling (by any mode), but they've saved me from overly-long meetings with alerts, and pulling important data when I failed to do so. For free apps, I'm more than sold.

I'm waiting to see what others like Jini and Sherpa (only on Google Play) will do — but some of those frustrating tasks? Are now a memory, as long as my phone is charged.

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