How to download images from Google legally?

By Matic Broz, editor-in-chief of Photutorial covering stock media, Adobe, and design. He founded Photutorial while finishing his PhD in computational biosciences.

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How To Download Images From Google

READ THIS FIRST: There is a widespread misconception that images you find on Google Image Search are free to use. That is NOT true. Google Image Search simply shows you all the images from the websites: those you may use for free and those you may not.

To help you download Google images safely without infringing copyrights (pay attention to steps 2 and 3), read the following guide written by a licensing expert:

How to download images from Google?

In this chapter, we will describe how to download images from Google Image Search on PC (Windows 7 ,8, 10, and 11) and on Mac.

  1. Enter your search term

    Start by opening your browser and going to Google. Enter your search term, such as “lake at sunset”, and hit enter or click “Google Search”. From there, select “Images” from the top menu to open Google Image Search.

    Alternatively, you can start from the Google Image Search to skip one step and be able to use a reverse image search.

  2. Choose Creative Commons licenses

    To make Google Image Search show Creative Commons licenses only, click “Tools” and then from the “Usage Rights” menu, choose “Creative Commons licenses”. This will show only images Google identified as licensed under the Creative Commons license, but keep in mind that Google sometimes gets it wrong.

  3. Verify that you may use the image

    When you select the Creative Commons licenses filter, Google Image Search will primarily show photos from free stock image sites, like Unsplash and Pixabay. But sometimes you will also return results from YouTube, paid stock agencies, and websites.

    Keep in mind that you may not use these images freely. To be able to use photos from YouTube and websites, you need to contact their copyright owners, which are usually YouTube channel editors and website owners, and ask permission to use them.

    In the case of commercial stock photo sites, you need to buy the image to be able to use it legally.

  4. Download the image

    If you verified that you may indeed use the image you found on Google Image Search, click on it to select the image, click the right mouse button, and choose “Save image as…”.

    Since Google often shows only the previews, the best way is to follow the link to the image source by clicking “Visit”. There you can usually get a higher resolution of the same photo.

How to download images from Google on Android (and iOS)?

Downloading images from Google on Android and iOS (iPhones and iPads) is analogous to doing so on a PC or Mac. The only difference is a slight layout shift and you can download the image by long-pressing on the screen instead of right-clicking the mouse button.

Downsides of using Google Image Search

While Google Image Search is a fantastic way to find ideas and browse photos, it is not as great for finding photos to download, especially not for commercial use. These are the main reasons why we think you shouldn’t use Google Image Search to download commercial photos:

1. No indemnity

Indemnity (also known as “legal coverage” or “indemnification”) is insurance you get when you pay for a stock photo license. It guarantees that your legal fees will be covered in case of unlawful licensing of the image by the stock agency.

Most stock agencies offer around $10,000 indemnity with the standard royalty-free license and up to $1M with the extended RF license. The problem with free stock photo sites and downloading images from forums is that you get no such guarantee. If the photo you download was unlawfully shared on the free stock site and its rightful owner decides to enforce its copyright, you will be on your own.

On top of that, many companies’ policies require a certain amount of insurance, which is why you might need to get an extended license if you work on their behalf.

2. Unknown license

Google Image Search does a good job determining the licensing of a photo, but it often gets it wrong, too. The incorrect licensing goes both ways: it will sometimes recommend commercial licenses as free and it won’t sometimes show you free licenses when you search for them.

Because of this unreliability, you must check the licensing each time for yourself by visiting the website that hosts the image. And even then, it can be difficult to determine the license. If you have a problem with that, you can contact us and we’ll help.

3. Doesn’t find the best offers

There are other free images on the internet besides free stock photo sites, but Google Image Search doesn’t find them. This applies particularly to numerous stock photo trials that grant you up to 40 free (premium) images each.

But there are other ways to get free stock photos you won’t find on Google Image Search. For example, Adobe Stock offers a collection of 770K free assets that lets you download premium images without a watermark. Similarly, you can also download Shutterstock and iStock images without a watermark with several other methods, such as with newsletter and others.

Frequently asked questions

How to download images from Google on laptop without a mouse?

The shortcut to download (and save) images from Google is by pressing Ctrl + S. On a laptop, you can also press the right touchpad button, which works as the right mouse button. Some laptops also support long-pressing the touchpad, which works the same way as the right mouse button.

Can we download any images from Google?

No, you may not download any image from Google. To legally download the image from Google, you must first identity the copyright holder and then get their permission to download and use their image. If you land on the stock image site, you can find the licensing terms next to the image.

Next Up in Free Photos


  1. Search with an image on Google. Google Search Help. Retrieved on September 3, 2022.
  2. FAQs. CopyrightUser. Retrieved on September 4, 2022.
  3. Download photos or videos to your device. Google Photos Help. Retrieved on September 4, 2022.


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