The other day I was looking for a picture of a swimming pool for a mobile app I am writing (more on that later). Much to my excitement, I stumbled upon an online image catalog called Pixabay.
Pixabay claims to have over 1,800,000 images that can be used free of charge. Their terms of service indicate that every image is bound to the CC0 Public Domain license, which puts them into the public domain, and thus can be used for any legal purpose.
As of August 2020, Pixabay offers a variety of media types:
- Images: photos, vector graphics, and illustrations.
In this post I focus on images, but videos and music work the same way.
The site is attractive and easy to use. I typed “swimming pool” into the search box and was quickly rewarded with more than 1900 images to review.
When searching for an image, you can choose a single image type or all. I changed my search to include only photos, which reduced my search results to just over 1800. Obviously most of their images of swimming pools are photographs.
There are more search options available. You can search by portrait or landscape orientation, which Pixabay calls vertical or horizontal. You can also search by category, dominant color, transparent, or even black and white images. The end result is that it is easy to find the right image for your needs.
The search results are conveniently organized into a grid resembling a light box that most people will find intuitive. The first row of images are “sponsored” by iStock. I get it. That is how they make their money. Quite frankly, the free images are of no lesser quality than the sponsored ones.
Navigating the search results is simple. There are pager controls at the top and bottom of the grid. It irritates me whenever I see a website that only has pager controls at the top or bottom. How hard is it to do both? Further demonstrating their understanding of how most people will browse the search results, there is a big “Next page” button at the bottom. As you hover over an image, you can see its tags along with the number of people who have “liked” or “favorited” the image.
Some images may be identified as “Adult Content.” You cannot see the image until you click on it and accept the warning. You can turn this feature off, but I tend to leave it on. Though there are some nudes on the site, I have yet to see anything I would consider pornographic. Their opinion of what constitutes adult content errs on the side of caution. That said, you have been warned.
Clicking on an image takes you to its detail page, containing the artist name, how long ago the image was uploaded, how many times it has been viewed and downloaded, and its license. So far, I have only seen public domain licenses that are “Free for commercial use / No attribution required.” Some images include the details of the camera that took the pictures and its settings (shutter speed, lens focal length, aperture, etc.) Below the image are thumbnails of similar images from the site. There is also a small collection of iStock-sponsored images that I found to be somewhat related to the image selected.
At one time, Pixabay required you to register if you wanted to download any of their images. That seemed fair, but appears no longer to be the case. I have been a registered user for about five years now. Registration is free and quick. They do not even require any personal information other than your email address. In the years since I signed up, they have never sent me a single email or bothered me in any way. Nor have I suddenly and mysteriously been inundated with ads for the types of images I have searched for.
Registered or not, you can download an image from its detail page. Simply select the image size you want. There are usually four options. Then click the big green Download button. The actual image dimensions and file sizes are conveniently displayed, so you will be sure you get the exact image you want.
Thank the Artist
Pixabay appears to be trying to make itself a social network of imaging, and it has all of the tools you’d expect to make that happen. You can “like” images, leave comments, mark an image as a favorite, or share it on Facebook and Instagram. You can even follow or message a favorite artist. Intelligent hyperlinks throughout the site let you immediately find other images by the same artist, taken by the same camera, etc.
One of my favorite features is the Donate button. On an image detail page is a green button labeled “Donate.” When you download an image, you are presented again with a similar button. Clicking it will take you to PayPal.com, where you can contribute any amount you feel appropriate to the artist. I presume many of their artists use Pixabay as a portfolio, and as a way to get noticed.
Pixabay for Artists
If you are a fledgling artist, or even a seasoned professional, Pixabay makes it easy for you to upload your own photos. They have a full page describing their image quality guidelines, along with plenty of examples of what not to submit. There is even a list of image tags their users are searching for. If you upload ten or more photos, they say they will remove all ads. I haven’t tried this yet, but I might.
If you have your own portfolio of images, Pixabay is a great way to set up an online portfolio. If you decide to upload your images, let me know on Twitter. I would be happy to help you show off your work.
In summary, Pixabay contains an impressive collection of high-quality, beautiful and useful images, all free of charge, that can be used for practically any purpose you can imagine. Not only did I find the perfect background image I needed, I found an image to use as a splash screen, and even a mobile application icon. The process was quick and simple. And it sure beats paying tens or even hundreds of dollars for a “professional” image.
Do you have any comments, questions, or just want to see more? Please follow me on Twitter and let me know.
Did I make any mistakes in this post? Feel free to suggest an edit.