Self-publishing low content books is one of the best ways I know to earn money online. Over the years, I’ve learned that there are plenty of online resources where I can find images to use in my books.
You may already have some resources of your own, but in this post, I’ll share some resources that you may not know about – including some that were surprising to me when I first found them. I’ve broken them down into paid and free sources. If you have the budget to pay for images, you can do so; but in my experience, it’s possible to create beautiful low content books using only free images.
Paid Image Sources
There are many sites online where you can pay for royalty-free images to use in your self-published books. As you probably expect, some are better than others. Here are some of the sites you can check out. I’ve included my thoughts on each.
Fotolia used to be a separate entity from Adobe Stock, but now the two have merged. That makes this site one of the largest online image resources available. In addition to high-quality photographs, they also offer:
They’re also one of the priciest options with plans starting at $29.99 per month for 10 images.
Stock Photo Secrets
Stock Photo Secrets has what they call the 99Club, which lets you download up to 200 XXL images in a year for just $99. If you’re planning to publish in print, you’ll need to be sure to use high-res images and this is a good site to get them.
With over 4 million images in their database and as many as 80,000 more being added each month, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find what you need here.
Deposit Photos has a massive database of images that include stock photos, illustrations, vectors, 3D images, and videos. You have the option of buying images one at a time or subscribing.
The prices are lower than some of the other options. For example, you can get a monthly plan for $29 that gives you 30 images a month. Unused images carry over into the next month, so you’ll never lose what you’ve paid for.
Dreamstime is a site that has both paid and free options. You can browse their huge catalog of public domain and Creative Commons images for free. Or, if you prefer, you can sign up for a premium plan and get images for as little as $0.40 apiece.
They offer a one-week free trial. After that, subscriptions start at $71/month for 50 images. The one thing I don’t like about Dreamstime’s plans is that they jump from 50 images per month to 750 per month with nothing in between. However, their free library makes them a great resource despite that.
Other Paid Options
In addition to the resources I’ve listed above, here are some other paid sites to check out:
- Shutterstock – more than 35 million images, subscription and pay-per-download options
- iStockPhoto – millions of images with unlimited download plans available
- 123RF – millions of images, vectors, and stock footage with on-demand and subscription options
There are more sites than I can list here, but this is a good representation of what’s available.
Free Image Sources
Now, let’s review some of the most unexpected and interesting places you can find public domain and Creative Commons images online at no cost to you.
New York Public Library
The NYPL has created a digital collection that includes book pages, graphic designs, illustration, vintage photographs, and much more. It’s become one of my favorite sources to find unique and beautiful images to use in books.
The database is searchable and has everything from medical illustrations to vintage posters and patterns and more. They also have a print store where you can buy prints of the images online. My only advice here would be to check the image quality before including a vintage image in your book. Some of the older items are grainy and won’t translate well to print.
Like the NYPL, the world-famous British Museum has created a searchable database of more than 4 million images from its collection. Most are licensed under Creative Commons and are free to use.
It’s important to note that many of the images in this collection are licensed only for non-commercial use. Be sure to check the status of each image before using it. There is an option to email the museum directly to get permission for uses not covered under the Creative Commons license.
For any self-published items focusing on food, you’d be hard pressed to find a better source for images than Foodies Feed. They have thousands of high-quality images featuring food – with everything from fresh apples to elaborate sushi rolls.
The images are free for download and most are licensed under the Creative Commons for personal and commercial use.
New Old Stock
If vintage photographs are your thing, check out New Old Stock, which has a large collection of vintage photographs for free download and use.
You will need to be cautious using this site for two reasons. The first is that while the photos available are free of copyright restrictions, some are licensed only for non-commercial use. Clicking through to the photograph will give you access to additional information about uses. You’ll also need to make sure that the images you choose are of good quality, since not all vintage photos are.
Old Book Illustrations
Old Book Illustrations has an extensive collection of – you guessed it – illustrations from old books. Their selection includes beautiful Victorian designs and illustrations from a wide variety of books.
One thing I like about this site is that you can search by subject, artist, or book title. It’s easy to find a wide array of images that are unique and free to use.
In many ways, Wikimedia Commons is the great-grandmother of free photo sites. With a collection of more than 53 million images, it’s a fantastic resource for self-published authors.
You can search their database by topic, year, author, license and source. In addition to photographs and illustrations, they also have audio and video files available.
Flickr Commons isn’t quite as comprehensive as Wikimedia Commons, but they have a huge collection of vintage photos and images as well as user-contributed images.
They have a convenient list of participating contributors, which includes notable institutions like the National Library of Ireland, NASA, and the Swedish National Heritage Board.
Public Domain Vectors
Vectors are very useful for self-publishing since they can be easily resized to suit your needs. Public Domain Vectors has a searchable database of more than 60,000 images that are free to use.
You can search by keywords, categories, or tags. They also have a free online SVG editor that you can use to manipulate the images you find.
These are just some of my favorite and unexpected online image sources. As you can see, it’s easy to find compelling images online if you have the patience to sort through what’s available. Just remember to double-check the licensing requirements and stick to high-quality images for your books.
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