How to Get Free Images for Your Video Thumbnails

The images you use for your online video thumbnails are an important part of the marketing of your video on demand store. Without an eye-catching image that attracts attention and convinces someone to click, conversion rates won’t be nearly as good as they could be.

But stock photographs from the major marketplaces like iStockPhoto or Shutterstock can be expensive, and still frames from your videos may not perfectly convey what you want.

You don't have to break the bank to find great video thumbnails.Click To TweetFortunately, there are a number of options when looking for free images that will work well for your video thumbnails.

Public Domain Images

There are thousands of images that belong to the Public Domain and that you can use with no copyright restrictions. These are often offered for free by photographers or graphic artists on websites such as MorgueFile, FreeImages, PicJumbo or the Public Domain Archive. Public Domain images do not require attribution and can be used freely both for commercial and noncommercial purposes.

Creative Commons Photographs

One of the most common and easiest ways to find the images needed for any online activities is through creative commons directories.

Creative Commons is a form of license assigned to a photograph when it is uploaded by its creator. By default, any photograph uploaded online has a copyright attached to it. The photographer or artist owns that photograph and has sole legal rights to the distribution of it on other sites. If you take it without the right license, you are breaching copyright. In many cases this can lead to a takedown notice. Worst case scenario, it is owned by a large company like Getty Images and could lead to a fine.

Creative Commons is a way for the owner of that photographer to give permission to use the image without these fears and without payment. Creative Commons means that only some rights are reserved. The photo can generally be used for non-commercial purposes as long as the source and photographer are attributed. This can be done in a caption or in small print below the images. It’s common on blogs where images are in high demand.

To find Creative Commons licensed photographs, you can look on Wikimedia Commons – the image repository for Wikipedia (where most photos are CC) or on Flickr, where users have the option to tag an image with Creative Commons, something you can search for.

Make Your Own Images for Online Video Thumbnails

The second way to find a free image for your thumbnails is to create one of your own. Many posting services offer these for social media purposes but you can use them just as easily for your thumbnails.

Canva is one of the best on the market right now. It offers a library of more than a million stock photographs, and while most of them cost $1 for a single use, there are several thousand that are free. You can also use the free layouts, text effects, icons, and illustrations that the Canva team has created to build thumbnails of your own.

Other sites offer similar services. Buffer, for example, recently launched Pablo – a tool that creates images out of preset backgrounds and text tools. It’s not as powerful as Canva, but it is also free and even easier and faster to build images with.

In both cases, the options for free are more limited, but if you combine a Canva layout with a creative commons image you find on Flickr, you can create some powerful, high quality thumbnails that look incredibly professional.

Ensuring the Best for Your Thumbnails

There are a number of small decisions you will make related to your video on demand library. This is one of those decisions, but it is also highly important. With the right resources and tools at your disposal, though, you can create or find high quality thumbnail images for your online videos without having to spend a fortune.


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