Posted by: Donna Cunningham | March 12, 2009

How to Add Impact to Your Site with Pictures

©2009 by Donna Cunningham

 If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may have wondered where I get the pictures that are so uncannily relevant to the topics. Illustrating articles, books, and websites is one of my greatest pleasures as a writer and an editor.  Today, I’ll be sharing some sites where you can get free or inexpensive images to add punch to your own website, blog, or promotional materials as well.  With sophisticated readers, visuals sell your work–presentation is everything. 

 My newest and most crocus-wikimexciting source of beautiful pictures is Wikimedia Commons, which has over 4 million high quality, vivid images from photographers and artists all around the world. They are absolutely free so long as you cite the source and artist, creating links for them. Copyright terms are clearly spelled out with each picture posted there.

For instance, this crocus is from Opioła Jerzy of  Poland and was downloaded at How I found this and 24 other crocus pictures was to enter into the Google search engine: “Wikimedia +crocus.”  (Incidentally, if you’re getting great results with that digital camera of yours and would like some exposure on the web, anyone can upload pictures to Wikimedia.)

 One general caution in using digital images is that they are HUGE, as much as several MGs, and need to be resized to 72 dpi for websites. Otherwise, they take up untoward amounts of space–your site may have as little as 10 Mgs of space total. Big images may appear outsized and distorted. They also take a long time to load, and website visitors are prone to clicking off a site if they have to wait. If you don’t have a graphics program, two sites where you can edit pictures online for free are and 

One  find at Wikimedia Commons is this collection of astrological aspect symbols available to use as graphics:

 A note about copyrights is in order. DO respect them–artists struggle to earn a living, just as you and I do. Look for copyright information, create any requested link to their site, and ask permission before using anything not noted as free.  Many artists are delighted to get exposure to a new audience. Also, in searching the internet, you’ll come across many sites that say “royalty free.” That doesn’t mean the pictures are free, just that you don’t have to pay top dollar  to the photographer. Most of these sites have search engines, where you can browse for images on specific topics before signing up or buying anything.

One other note of caution. Pictures carry a strong emotional impact, and given the level of fear and despair in the world at large, be very careful about the images you select.  Use uplifting, calming pictures, not ones that will upset the visitor and add to the mass hysteria. I’ve long viewed the web as a superb healing tool, and so I often select images that stimulate growth and comfort.  I call it metaphorical healing.  (See “The WorldWide Web as a Healing Tool” here:

 Perhaps you’re looking for art other than photos–paintings, drawings, or illustrations. I’ve encountered some priceless pictures for $1-10 on You may find a free trial subscription there.  The gems I’ve gotten there include the picture at the top of this blog, a cover for one of my ebooks, and some striking zodiac images 

 childangelph2sm-a2d My favorite source of images is, with over 10 million graphics and a killer onsite search engine. That’s where the uncannily relevant pictures you’ll see on this blog come from, including the funny clipart pieces and the photo at the right. I sometimes feel that, all unknowingly,  the artists have created the image just for me–otherwise, what were they thinking? 

The holdings include photos, clipart, paintings, web buttons, old illustrations, and 3-D objects. It includes thousands of zodiac images as well.  A year’s subscription is $160, but you can subscribe for as little as a week for $15, with unlimited downloads.  (If you ever decide to subscribe, get in touch with me, and I’ll give you tips on how to optimize their search engine to eliminate irrelevant images.)

 Here’s a list of additional sources with good pictures, most free or $1-5:

Readers, welcome to the delicious adventure of illustrating what you write.  If you have any favorite free or inexpensive graphics sources of your own, let us know about them in the comments section. 


Here’s just one more jewel from Wikimedia Commons.  I found it under astrology–a public domain image–and can’t resist sharing it.


 FREE EBOOKLET FOR SKYWRITER SUBSCRIBERS ONLY:  a 50-page excerpt from my out-of-print book, The Moon in your Life, also known as Being a Lunar Type in a Solar World.  Read more about it here: NEW: FREE BOOKLET FOR SKYWRITER SUBSCRIBERS!   If you’re already a subscriber and want a copy, forward the most recent email post to me at To sign up for a subscription, go to the top right hand corner of the blog and click on “Subscribe.”  Then send me an email with your subscription confirmation or an email post.


  1. Thank you for the very useful post. Until now, I had relied on swiping pictures from Google Images, drawing a mustache on them, and hoping they qualify as “original works of art”… like Ted Turner colorizing “Casablanca”… 🙂

    • Oh, I’m laughing! To be perfectly candid, part of the fun I have with graphics is tweaking them to fit what I’m writing. Like a few days back, when I wrote about the worry box, the guy carrying the box there is just a guy carrying a box. I added the text “WORRY BOX” to the image. And in another post, there’s a guy with his eyes crossed looking at a chart. He was just some goofy guy until I shrank a chart and put it up above him. Have fun with graphics, folks! It gets your point across more vividly than the words alone. Donna

  2. Thanks, Donna! That’s fantastic information to pass on.

    I remember going to the NY public library and searching through huge piles of actual photos and reproductions to get artwork for some one-of-a-kind books I was making as gifts. That zodiac/body image is one that I fell in love with. I had to take the photos to a color printer for copying, and glue them into the books. What a difference 10 years has made.

    Viva la web graphics!

  3. Hi, Donna,

    Thanks for the helpful tips. I picked up a few new sites I haven’t tried from this article. And I’d like to pass on one I use a lot: There are other “country-specific” portals to enter the Fotolia website for those outside North America, particularly if English isn’t your mother tongue.

    As an extra incentive to visit them frequently, Fotolia offers anywhere from 6-20 free images by contributing photographers and illustrators every day. If you sign up for a free account, and look at the bottom of the page under SEARCH INDEX for FREE IMAGES, you can click there every day and download what you want in a variety of sizes — from very small to very large. What’s offered changes every day and is a real mixed bag of high-quality and not-so-great photos and occasionally illustrations. Another nice feature of this site is that it “remembers” what you’ve previously downloaded (free and fee) and will remind you if you go to download something you already have.

    Speaking of free downloads, also offers a free high-quality photo image every week (new ones go up on Sunday), as well as a free video and editable vector image (must have Illustrator or a program like that to manipulate it) once per month. It’s well worth visiting the site to see what’s being offered every week or two. iStock also has a great “Dollar Bin” with hundreds if not thousands of photos and illustrations that are being offered for just $1 USD each for a limited amount of time — usually 30-45 days. The Dollar Bin section actually tells you how many more days the image is scheduled to be offered at that price, so you can decide how badly you want it.

    Thanks again for this and all the other great and interesting posts, Donna!


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