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How to Find and Insert Creative Commons Licensed Images in WordPress

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Do you want to use Creative Commons licensed stock photos and images on your website?

It is important to make sure you have permission to use images in your blog posts. Luckily, there are millions of Creative Commons licensed images that you can use royalty-free.

In this article, we’ll show you how to find and insert Creative Commons licensed images in WordPress.

How to Find & Insert Creative Commons Licensed Images in WordPress

Why Use Creative Commons Licensed Images in WordPress?

Using high-quality images on your WordPress blog can boost your engagement with your users. However, purchasing images from a stock library like Shutterstock can be expensive.

Luckily, many photographers and artists release their images with a Creative Commons license. Images with this type of license can be used legally without having to pay for them.

There are several Creative Commons licenses, and the CC0 ‘No Rights Reserved’ license is best for bloggers. You can use image with this license without any restrictions. You won’t need to ask permission or give credit.

Other Creative Commons licenses will still allow you to use the images for free but will have conditions or restrictions, such as the requirement to give credit to the creator when using the image.

With that being said, let’s take a look at how to find and insert Creative Commons images in WordPress. Here’s what we’ll cover in this tutorial:

Adding Creative Commons CC0 Licensed Images With a Plugin

The first thing you need to do is install and activate the Instant Images plugin. For more details, see our step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

This plugin offers a one-click search for images contained in the Unsplash, Pixabay, and Pexels stock image libraries. Luckily, the images in these libraries can be used freely because every one of them has been released under the Creative Commons CC0 license.

Upon activation, the plugin starts to work automatically. Now when you are adding an image to a post from your Media library, there will be an ‘Instant Images’ tab at the top of the page.

Searching for Creative Commons Licensed Images Using Instant Images

Alternatively, you can add images directly to your Media library by navigating to Media » Instant Images.

Now you can click on one of the stock library names found at the top of the page. After that, simply search for the type of image you wish to add to WordPress. You can sort or filter the images using the dropdown menus.

In the example above, we searched Unsplash for ‘tomato’ and found 2213 images.

To add an image to your Media library, simply click on it. The image will be added along with a title and some default alt text provided by the photographer.

You can now add the image to your posts as normal.

Getting a Pexels API Key

The first time you click the Pexels button you see a popup asking you to enter an API key. Start by clicking the ‘Get API Key’ link to sign up for a free Pexels account.

To Find Images in Pexels Using Instant Images, You Will Need an API Key

After you sign up, you need to click on the user icon at the top of the screen.

Then you should select ‘Image & Video API’ from the drop down menu.

Select 'Images & Video API' From the User Menu Then Click the 'Your API Key' Button

Next, you need to click the ‘Your API Key’ button. This will take you to a form where you can let Pexels know how you will be using their images.

You will also need to check the box to agree to the terms of service and API guidelines.

Let Pexels Know How You Plan to Use the Images

Finally, your API key will be displayed.

You will need to copy the key to the clipboard and then return to your website.

Copy the API Key and Paste It Into the Field on Your WordPress Website

You should see the same popup as before. Simply paste the API key into the field and then click the Verify button.

To Find Images in Pexels Using Instant Images, You Will Need an API Key

You will now be able to insert Creative Commons licensed images from Pexels.

Adding Creative Commons CC0 Licensed Images With a Page Builder

SeedProd is the best drag-and-drop WordPress page builder for businesses, bloggers, and website owners. It lets you easily add commonly used design elements such as images.

The Plus plan and above includes a library of 2 million stock images for use on your site. These images are royalty free and optimized for the web.

To learn how to install and use SeedProd step by step, check our guides on how to create a landing page and how to easily create a custom WordPress theme.

When using SeedProd’s visual editor, simply drag an Image block onto the page.

Adding an Image Block Using SeedProd

When you click on the image block, its settings will be displayed in the left pane.

Under ‘Choose New Image’ you will see two buttons, one to add your own image and the other to add a stock image.

You need to click the ‘Use a Stock Image’ button.

Press the 'Use a Stock Image' Button in SeedProd

This will bring up a search form for the SeedProd stock images library.

Simply type your search term to find the image you need and then click the ‘Search’ button.

You Can Now Search the SeedProd Stock Image Library

You will now see previews of each matching image.

Simply click on the image you want to add to the page.

Matching Stock Images Will Be Displayed

Now you can use SeedProd’s image settings to add alt text, change the size and alignment of the image, or add a link.

Adjust the Image's Alt Tag, Size, and Alignment

You can change the style of the image by clicking the ‘Templates’ tab and choosing a style.

These templates change the border and spacing of your image.

SeedProd Image Style Templates

You will find additional options on the ‘Advanced’ tab.

Adding Creative Commons Licensed Images Manually

If you prefer not to use a plugin, then you can find Creative Commons licensed images manually. To start, you need to visit a stock image library site. Once you find an image you want to use, you can download it and then upload it to your site.

For sources of free stock images, see our guide on sources for free public domain and CC0-Licensed images.

Once you’ve downloaded the royalty free stock images you need, you’ll need to upload them to your Media library or blog post.

The easiest way to do this is to add an ‘Image’ block to the WordPress editor, click the ‘Upload’ button, and then find the Creative Commons image on your computer.

Adding Attributions to Creative Commons Licensed Images

Some Creative Commons licenses require that you add an image credit and provide proper attribution to the original work.

For example, the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license requires attribution. The license states, ‘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.’

Some Creative Commons Licenses Require Attribution

It’s important that you give proper image credit to comply with the copyright laws and avoid infringing upon someone’s rights.

Doing so can protect you against legal issues and liabilities, and it’s also a way to show respect for other people’s work and creativity.

If you’re not sure whether you need to give attribution, then you should carefully check the wording of the image’s Creative Commons license.

It’s very easy to credit the creator, too. In the image below, you can see the Creative Commons attribution is simply included in the image caption. For more information, see our guide on how to add image credits in WordPress.

Example of Correct Image Attribution

Creative Commons recommends you include:

  • the image’s title
  • the name of the author with a link to their profile page
  • the source of the image with a link to the original photo
  • the license used with a link to the license deed

We hope this tutorial helped you learn how to find and insert Creative Commons licensed images in WordPress. You may also want to learn how to create a custom Instagram feed, or check out our list of tips on how to increase your blog traffic.

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Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff at WPBeginner is a team of WordPress experts led by Syed Balkhi with over 16 years of experience in WordPress, Web Hosting, eCommerce, SEO, and Marketing. Started in 2009, WPBeginner is now the largest free WordPress resource site in the industry and is often referred to as the Wikipedia for WordPress.

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Reader Interactions

12 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. Syed Balkhi says

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  2. Ziv says

    Man, this plugin is fantastic. Saves time and lots of money. As a beginner I really enjoy this plugin on my blog The biggest problem is that it makes me play with pics instead of writing. LOL.

  3. Mike Gantt says

    Why isn’t there a copyright issue for Pinterest users since they are being encouraged to “pin” any image they like?

  4. Carole Rains says

    So if I use a photo that requires attribution, I can use the Link feature for the attribution, I don’t need to actually insert text on my website?

  5. Andrea says

    If I use this to insert images on my site, and someone then pins that image, does the pin link back to my site? Or to flickr? Thanks.

  6. Angel says


    Great Article. Could you please point me in the direction of where I can use/purchase celebrity photos?

    They are not for a gossip blog, but rather a type of biography site I’m considering starting.

    Thank you so much in advance for your help!

  7. Viktoria Michaelis says

    I get the impression from your article that only one option can be selected. I use both with and without attribution images on my blog, according to what is available on Flickr, so a single setting with greatly reduce the possibilities.

    I also see that images are automatically uploaded to the Media Manager, is this a default? Can it be changed? Many sites with larger quantities of images store them in separate folders – I do it by month – so searching for an uploaded image amongst a whole mess of previously used images could become something of a chore….

    • WPBeginner Support says

      Kevin, you don’t really need CC provided HTML code to fulfill the requirement of attribution. A simple link to the source would be sufficient to fulfill licensing requirements.


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