How to Save from Pixabay Without Accidentally Stealing

Pixabay search is a great tool for anyone who writes content for paid to write web sites. Pixabay offers over 600,000 public domain photos and graphics to illustrate your articles. All the images are completely free to use, and the quality of many is very professional. It takes just seconds to use a Pixabay search to find a suitable illustration for your content – but you do need to know how to avoid the pitfall of accidentally choosing a copyrighted image from the site!

Pixabay Search Includes Copyrighted Images

Every Pixabay search result includes a top row of high quality photos that are labelled “Sponsored images.” You’ll also see that same phrase on the image page itself, next to the related images at the side.

If you look carefully, you’ll notice that each of these sponsored images is watermarked “Shutterstock.” That’s because Shutterstock is a sponsor of the Pixabay web site and is serving up some alternative, royalty-free images that you could use them in your article if you wanted to.

But you’d have to pay for a license!

That’s because Shutterstock content – unlike Pixabay’s content – is not public domain. You generally have to pay a one-time licensing fee to use royalty-free graphics, so they aren’t free to use. And unless you want to pay that fee, you aren’t legally permitted to use these images in your articles.


Never Save Directly from the Pixabay Search Results

If you save an image directly from the thumbnails on a Pixabay search results page, you risk not seeing that an image is copyrighted. If you click on the thumbnail to open the image on its own page, you can avoid that problem.

Because clicking on a public domain Pixabay image will open a page with the photo and the licensing info (the page you’d want to link to, in an image credit!)

Clicking on a Shutterstock image will open a page that is clearly marked “Shutterstock.” The image will be larger and the watermark more obvious. This warns you that the Shutterstock image is protected, and that you need to fulfill some kind of requirements before you can use it. (In this case, it’s paying to use the image.)

Always Use the Download Button

After you’ve clicked on an image from your Pixabay search, always use the download button to save the photo to your computer for use in your article. This offers you even more protection. Never use the right-click to save photos from Pixabay!

Why? Because even if you’ve somehow managed to miss all the other signs that your preferred image isn’t safe to use, Shutterstock will prevent you from accidentally downloading a copyrighted image. Instead, you’ll be taken to the page that gives their subscription fees. I think that’s a pretty clear sign the photo isn’t yours to take for free!

Using the precaution of always loading the image from your Pixabay search into its own page and always using the download button, will keep you safe when choosing images to illustrate your articles. Be sure you’ll always find a free to use, public domain image on Pixabay. And avoid the problems associated with accidentally downloading a copyrighted photo that you don’t have permission to use!


Featured Image Credit: Beware the watermarked photos in Pixabay search results! by Michal Jarmoluk, courtesy of Pixabay; CC0 1.0

Header Image Credit: Choosing free-to-use images by Michal Jarmoluk, courtesy of Pixabay; CC0 1.0

Banner Courtesy of Pixabay

Note: This article was originally published by me on the now defunct EliteVisitors web site


26 thoughts on “How to Save from Pixabay Without Accidentally Stealing

  1. Hi Kyla,
    Great article. I have started using BeFunky which allows you to bring in a Pixabay photo. Usually I take my own photos, but just yesterday I brought one in from Pixabay. I love the graphic but I’m nervous. Your article was perfectly timed for me.

    1. I really have to check out BeFunky. I hadn’t heard of it until you mentioned it the other day, Janice. I love that you can import images from Pixabay!

  2. Helpful information regarding saving from pixabay, it can be confusing, as it is easy to assume that all pictures are free to use. I usually sign in at the website and search for what I need, like the photo and buy the photographer a cup of coffee whenever I use 4 of their photographs.

    1. It’s great that you do that, Susan. I think we should all look for ways to help the image creators, whether it’s buying a cup of coffee or some other kindness…

  3. Thanks for the great info. I usually use my own photos but if I need something other than what I have, this is very good information.

  4. Ever feel we’re banging our heads against a brick wall? :) All good advice of course but there is one thing I must mention – the Shutterstock images on Pixabay only appear if you are not a member. Members get a page with only Pixabay images on it. Keep up the good work!

    1. You know Bill, I’d forgotten about that! I do have an account, but I rarely login there…

  5. Great post! I have always right clicked and saved. I just tried your suggestion, left clicked, hit download. It didn’t let me name the image. I clicked “save file.” Is that right? Thanks for your help.

    1. OK, if you want to name the file you can use the “View” option instead of hitting the download button. This will open the image in the size you choose, and you’ll still save by right clicking to “save as.” The difference is that it’s a second step, AFTER you’ve clicked through to the actual image page. You want to avoid right clicking from the image search results, or any page that isn’t the info page for that one specific image.

      Does that help any?

    1. It’s easy to make a mistake if you do it that way! Glad you’re going to switch to a safer method :)

    1. Pixabay is a really useful resource for any web writer. Whether you use it as a primary image source or as a backup, it’s important to know how to save images from there safely :)

  6. Normally the top row of photos are off limits. As they are the shutterstock photos you need to purchase. This is great advice.

    1. Yup! I think a lot of us know that, but there are always newer folks who are unaware of this, and who right click to save directly from the search results – they don’t realize these aren’t free graphics!

  7. Thanks for this information. I am glad that I have not done it the wrong way since I have only downloaded pictures as you have said.

  8. Thanks for the heads up. Sometimes we don’t realize there are wheels within wheels even on free photo sharing sites; when we try to download we see that we have to attribute the author etc – siva

    1. Attribution for Pixabay is not a must, but I do recommend it anyway. First of all, it’s just a courtesy to the person who created the image. But it also prevents accusations of copyright infringement, and a good image credit will help your readers find images they might want to use, so they don’t try to hotlink to the ones in your articles!

  9. Good information. Since I started writing here, well and that other one, I have learned to use my own photos and that way I know I am safe.

    1. I must have said this a hundred times by now, but I always have to remind folks that even your own photos can pose a problem. There are literally hundreds of places, events and logos you are NOT allowed to photograph for use in a public forum. There are also the privacy rights of individuals to consider.

      You can violate plenty with just your own photos of a DVD cover, yourself wearing clothing that carries a protected logo or brand name, a public scene in which you’ve accidentally included other people, a landmark like the St Louis arch or the Eiffel tower, etc.

      There are lots of really great reasons to use your own images, but it’s wrong to assume they’ll always be safe because you took them.

      1. When I include recognizable faces in my shots, I ask the people (or their parents) if they mind my posting on the internet before doing it. Usually only famous people care. It’s my understanding that politicians are fair game. Trademarks can be iffy, because sometimes you have no idea if some local building is trademarked. I know Zazzle is really picky about trademarks.

      2. As far as I know, if you’re any kind of public figure, you’re fair game. Otherwise, people have privacy rights. A lot of parents are not OK with images of their children being posted online, for safety reasons.

    1. It really can be confusing! It’s important to check the copyright and usage info for each image before downloading it, and to be familiar with the site rules for giving credit. Often, veteran web writers can be a big help in learning the ropes. I know when I first started out on Associated Content it was other writers who guided me through a lot of the confusion I was experiencing!

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