Finding impactful images (for free)

Finding copyright free images for blog posts and presentations

I am really excited to be attending The Teaching Course in New York City starting today. In the spirit of that course, I thought I would include a quick post on the best websites I know of to get free, high quality, impactful images to use in educational materials. A few well chosen, relevant images can drastically transform the content you create. I use these sources almost every day, trying to improve the look of First10EM and the presentations I give. I think it is essential to be mindful of copy-right, which is why these resources are generally better than just performing a google image search. If you know of any other sources for free, high quality images, please share them below.

PIXABAY camera-820018_1920.jpg


  • As of 2018, now that it is searchable, Unsplash has taken priority over Pixabay as my go to for images, although I use both routinely.


  • This is my go to for public domain photos. There are a large number of very good photos that are excellent for presentations and websites, and the site is searchable.

Visual Hunt

  • This is a new site to me, but seem to have many high quality photos, is searchable, and allows you to sort photos by attributes such as dominant colour and orientation.

Wikimedia commons

  • A searchable way to find all the free to use images on wikipedia. Most of these require that you attribute the artist, so make sure to read the permissions.

PEXELS peacock-plumage-bird-peafowl-45911.jpeg




Negative Space

ISO Republic

  • All excellent sites with searchable, high quality, public domain photos.



Life of Pix


  • These are also searchable sites with public domain photos, but I have less luck finding great photos than with the above group.


Flickr Creative Common

  • Flickr has millions of photos, and a lot are high quality, but I rank it a little lower because although some are public domain, many are not, and it can get frustrating sorting through them.






Public domain archive


  • This group of sites has some really beautiful public domain pictures, but the sites aren’t searchable, so I find them less useful.


Medical specific photo sites

Center for disease control: Public Health Image Library

  • A decent place to look for public domain health care images.

The visible human project

  • This is a US government site that has head to toe male and female anatomical cross sections from CTs, MRIs, and cryosections. Pretty cool.

History of medicine images

  • This collection from McGill University offers links to a number of other sites that contain fantastic images from the history of medicine, and more.

National Eye Institute

  • If you need a picture of an eye, this is the site.


Other specific photo types

NASA Visible Earth

  • The images produced by NASA are generally public domain, and they are out of this world.

NOAA Photo Library

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s photos are also public domain, and there is some excellent stuff in there.

If you are looking for specific photos in other fields, there are a lot of other US government programs that have public domain photos: Department of Agriculture, Fish and Wildlife, US Antarctic Program, US Air Force Photos, Department of State


Cite this article as: Justin Morgenstern, "Finding impactful images (for free)", First10EM blog, November 14, 2016. Available at:

Author: Justin Morgenstern

Emergency doctor working in the community. FOAM enthusiast. Evidence based medicine junkie. “One special advantage of the skeptical attitude of mind is that a man is never vexed to find that after all he has been in the wrong.” - William Osler

5 thoughts on “Finding impactful images (for free)”

  1. Great post Justin!
    An alternative tip is to search from Google ‘images’ –> ‘Search tools’ (right menu bar) –> ‘Size’ (left menu bar) –> Choose ‘Large’ (suggested by @srrezaie)

    1. Thanks for the comment.
      Just be careful – most of the images on google image search are copyrighted and shouldn’t be reused without the artists permission. In the same search tools area, you can select “labeled for reuse” and you will find images you are allowed to use for free. The reason I didn’t include it in the post is that I find these other sources produce much better images than the copyright free images on google.


    These are a series of amazing images, related to the history of medicine.

    Here is a quote from the website (

    What is a free image?

    Free images are those available completely free-of-charge in high resolution under a CC-BY licence. If an image is not marked ‘rights-managed’ then it is free to use at both high and low resolution.

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