Your Guide To Finding & Using Free Royalty-Free Multimedia


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"Man, images are expensive. How do I get started?"

Incorporating high-quality multimedia is a great way to make your website stand out to visitors and search engines alike. Using images or making informative videos can take a blog article from being a helpful resource to being an enjoyable viewing experience that your audience will want to share. With this being said, acquiring multimedia for commercial use can be expensive. In this piece, we’re going to take a look at a few sources for free royalty-free images, videos, and music. We’re going to wrap it up with the importance of understanding licensing as well as the benefits of networking with multimedia creators.

“What does ‘royalty-free’ mean?”

Before you start looking for multimedia to incorporate into your content, make sure you understand what “royalty-free” means. Just because some media is “royalty-free” doesn’t mean it is free to use. Understand? Royalty-free does not mean free! What this actually means is that once you have purchased or have been granted official permission to use the image for commercial purposes, you do not have to pay the owner of that media any additional “royalty” fees. A royalty fee is an ongoing amount paid to the owner based on exposure, sales, or some other agreed-upon metric. For this reason, most royalty-free media is quite costly, as the owner is seeking the value of the media up front. In this article, however, we're going to discuss finding and using free royalty-free media.

How Most Free Royalty-Free Sites Function

When you look at the cost of a Shutterstock or Adobe Stock photography subscription plan, you may get a slight jolt of sticker shock. For this reason, it can seem too good to be true. How can it be that these websites can offer up free royalty-free images? Aren’t the paid stock-photography websites livid?

Nope. In fact, the high-dollar royalty-free media websites own most of the free royalty-free sites or at least advertise on them. The appeal of free royalty-free images bring in visitors to these sites. Once an image is selected, a wide array of related images are presented on the same page from subscription-based royalty-free photo websites.

Still, if you’re willing to tolerate a limited selection of free images, you can find some great multimedia at no cost to you.

Free Royalty-Free Image Sites

Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Pexels

A partner with Adobe Stock, Pexels is a great source for stunning photography and graphics. While some of their images lean into the mannequin-like campy stock scenarios, most are of superior quality. All of this is possible without having to log in or even make an account.

2. Burst

An affiliate of Shopify, Burst brings a variety of high-quality images, but without any ads for a paid stock multimedia service. Like Pexels, there is no required enrollment process necessary in order to begin downloading high-resolution images. While you may not find precisely what you’re looking for, using the “Collections” function will help you find something that will work in a pinch.

3. Unsplash

When it comes to emotive photography and images fit for a gallery, Unsplash is the king of free royalty-free image sources. While it is unlikely that you’ll find a safe-yet-clunky photo of an elderly couple researching a reverse-mortgage, with enough digging, you’re likely to find a piece that fits the vibe and texture of your piece. We especially like the creator community within the platform instead of rampant ads for paid services. You’re often given the creator’s website details where you can interact with them about their pieces.

Free Royalty-Free Music For Videos & Podcasts

When creating a video piece for your business or organization, the choice of background music can change the entire feel of the piece. From whistling and ukeleles to deep-fried country, the tune playing beneath your message can draw your target audience closer to your brand or can make them quickly bounce.

Though the internet is fairly filled to the brim with free royalty-free images, it is increasingly difficult to find free royalty-free music for videos. Let us share our two favorite sources for free royalty-free music.

1. YouTube Audio Libary

YouTube, technically the second-biggest search engine in existence, sensed that video creators were hurting for quality music to use in their creations that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. In order to help creators make better videos that would draw in more traffic, they commissioned a variety of musicians and producers to create free royalty-free music. The result is the YouTube Audio Library.

Armed with a Google account, you can search through one of the largest databases of free royalty-free music and sound effects on the web. Search by genre, mood, instrument, duration, or artist. This database is also constantly expanding.

2. Wistia’s Music Collection

Just to illustrate how scarce access to free royalty-free music has been, one of the most popular sources for it is literally only 13 songs. Video marketing software company Wistia created three short albums for the cost of your email address. The result has been thousands of videos utilizing these songs for their videos. While these musical tracks are of high quality, they have almost completely saturated the video and podcast market. Despite this fact, they’re still fairly solid, palatable tunes.

Free Royalty-Free Video

Stock footage or b-roll video is a great way to beef up an explainer video or a video expressing the culture of your organization. In order to do this on the cheap, there are a handful of free royalty-free video websites available.

1. Stock Footage 4 Free

Stock Footage 4 Free is an example of paid services advertising on free media websites. For a cost of your email credentials, you can download a wide variety of stock video clips. Still, for the quality of free royalty-free b-roll that you can download from this site, it may be worth tolerating being constantly sold to.

2. Pixabay

A favorite source of free videos as well as images, Pixabay stands out from the rest. Even though most video downloads serve up Shutterstock ads with similar sponsored videos, Pixabay boasts of some of the highest quality free videography available. While we still encourage that you search according to themes and collections, the variety of free videos available make their search function (and I’m hesitant to say it, but) usable. A word of caution, though; keep a sharp eye out for ads. Previews for free videos and links to paid sites are nearly indistinguishable short of watermarks.

Ok, you’re armed with a few good quality free royalty-free media sites. What now?

Carefully Read Licensing Details

When using media found on “free” media websites, always make sure that you completely understand the licensing agreements. Most will give you free use of the media without the need to state a source. Others may require that you attribute the media to a creator or owner wherever the media is featured. Understanding the requirements of using a piece of media can help you avoid potential lawsuits in the future. When in doubt, research, read, and re-read. If you still have questions, consult a legal professional.

Make Sure Your Multimedia Isn’t Overused

One of the most beneficial aspects of free royalty-free multimedia is that it’s free and easy to use. With that being said, one of the least beneficial aspects of this multimedia is one and the same. Free images, videos, and music are popular, thus they can become overused. If your target audience has likely heard the same music from your video or seen the same images in other ads or articles, it will make your entire piece feel like it's lacking in originality. Before you use free royalty-free multimedia in your pieces, consider researching how many other brands are using that same multimedia. It’s ok to find a few, but if the media seems to have saturated the market, consider using media that is less common.

Use Networking To Increase Exposure

One of our favorite aspects of using this type of multimedia is that we’re often helping budding photographers and videographers increase the exposure of their work. For this reason, if you know who created the multimedia you’re using, it doesn’t hurt to attribute them to their good work wherever you use it. Consider listing their name and a link to their site that opens in a new browser window. If you want to go one step further, feel free to reach out to them via email or social media. Let them know how you used their multimedia along with a link to your finished piece. There’s a good chance they will also share your piece on their own social media platforms. It can be nice to see where your work ends up.

In this piece, we’ve covered…

  • What “royalty-free” entails
  • Where to find great free royalty-free images, videos, and music
  • The importance of understanding licensing agreements
  • Making sure your multimedia isn’t overused
  • Networking with media creators

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