Digital Photography Tips, Tutorials and Resources
Using your own photos on a website or blog may be the most effective, it’s not always the easiest. Finding free images sources to use for your website or blog isn’t easy if you don’t know where to look.
Because of that, a lot of new web designers and content publishers will (mistakenly) head over to Google and grab the first image they find on Image Search.
This is a big error that can land you in some pretty hot water with copyright infringements and license violations.
If you want to play it safe and stay clear of any copyright violations, you have two options: 1) Pay for each photo at a “royalty free” stock photo site like Getty Images or ShutterStock.com, or 2) use Creative Commons photos.
Since you may not have a huge budget for photos and images, we’ll go with option #2.
First, let’s talk about “free” and what it means and doesn’t mean. When you hear the term royalty free, that doesn’t mean the photo is free. That means you don’t have to pay a few cents every time the image is viewed on your site — it is free of royalty payments.
It also doesn’t mean the rights are free. That is, you’re able to use the photo anywhere and anyway you want. You can do that with public domain photos, like those found on the US Government archives or Wikimedia Commons.
These most common kinds of “free” photos are called Creative Commons. They don’t cost anything to use, they don’t have any licensing fees, but you do have some restrictions on how you can use them.
Creative Commons photos gives you standing permission to use them without paying any licensing fees or royalties. You just have to give credit to the original photographer, which you can either put in the caption of the photo, or at the bottom of the post or page where you use it.
If you are in a pinch, you can even use Google Image Search, with one very important step: click the Search Tools button for Advanced Search, and then the Usage Rights button. Select “Free to use or share…” and then you can see the photos you can freely use (with proper credit, of course).
Here are a few free image sites that offer Creative Commons photos:
- Compfight.com: One of the biggest sources of Creative Commons photos. They also have a WordPress plugin.
- FreeDigitalPhotos.net: Lots of digital images and illustrations.
- MorgueFile: Very high-res stock photos, many of them are professional quality.
- New Old Stock: “Vintage photos from the public archives.”
- Public Domain Pictures: Public domain means there are no restrictions. The photos are not copyrighted, and you’re free to use them without permission (but it’s always nice if you do).
- SuperFamous.com: Dutch photographer Folkert Gorter produces some stunning photos.
- Wikimedia Commons: Wikipedia’s vast digital photo library; over 21 million images available.
What are some of your favorite photo sites to use? Share them in the comments and let’s see if we can find any good new ones.