Good pictures are a must for bloggers as a post without any media can be quite boring for the eye and make people bounce instead of read what you wrote. But low quality photos aren’t recommended to use as they’ll make your blog look unprofessional and professional photos can cost a lot. There’s luckily a third option – to use high quality pictures for free – yet without breaking the law.
Royalties and Licensing
To navigate online and find the right pictures for your blog, you must understand two terms – royalties and licensing. Royalties are payments giving you the right to use somebody else’s assets – in this case pictures. This means that the owner of the asset sells you the right to use it without giving you ownership of the asset. Using a non-royalty-free asset might mean that you either can use it for a certain period of time only or should pay a fee at repetitive periods for as long as you want to use it.
So, with one word, when looking for free pictures, you should avoid the ones bound by royalties.
Licenses, on the other hand, define the way in which you’re allowed to use an asset. There’re many different types of licenses when it comes to pictures, both paid and free.
If you want to find pictures which you can use completely for free on your blog or site, you should be looking for royalty-free ones licensed under Creative Commons or Public Domain. Such pictures aren’t paid for but you should be aware that their use can be restricted.
Public Domain is the one license that gives you full freedom to use assets for free. It’s applied when all copyrights are waivered.
Creative Commons, on the other hand, is a licensing system consisting of six different licenses restricting the use of assets. They span from simple mentioning of the author, the source, and the license type of an asset to prohibiting alterations and commercial use.
Alterations are understood as any change of the original picture, including adding text or effects. Commercial use is understood as any use in connection to business-related activities, for example using a picture on your corporate website or in a commercial. Commercial use is also, for example, displaying a photo on a personal blog from which you get a revenue.
The fourth restriction of the Creative Commons licenses – besides mention the author, alterations, and commercial use – is connected to the way you re-distribute a picture and requires you to share the final work in a similar manner. That is, you have to mark your page or derivate with the same license under which the original was licensed, no matter whether you use the picture as a stand-alone or as a detail in your work.
These four restrictions are mixed and result in six different licenses, which you should be aware of and obey them in order to not break the rules when using free photo materials. Here you can find some more detailed explanation of the different types of licenses.
Where to Find CC and Public Domain Licensed Pictures
There are in fact a lot of smaller and bigger websites where you can find pictures that are free to use under certain conditions – or unconditionally. You can take a look at the list at the end of this post if you’re interested.
However, the best way to find tons of CC and Public Domain files fitting your needs and intended use is to use a search engine. When I say search engine, you think Google, and this is not wrong. Google provides advanced image search tools helping you find exactly what you want. Under Search->Images->Search tools you can adjust your query according to time of publishing, color, type, usage rights, etc.
Be aware though that a lot of what can be found on Google is missing a clear license information or has already been used in violation of the original license. Therefore, in order to keep clean of pirate use of multimedia you should stick to pictures with a clear license mark, preferably from an original source.
Exactly the fact that it might be difficult to navigate in Google and be sure that a picture is free to use, I prefer a different approach. Creative Commons have their own search engine making it quite easy to look through the major CC multimedia libraries.
It’s called CC Search and allows you to choose where to look and for what type of license. The search tool is pretty easy to use and gives precise results. The only downside is that if you perform a second search directly on the website to which you were redirected, your initial license requirements won’t be taken into account.
You perform a search by writing a keyword, adding intended use, and choosing where to look. It’s a good idea to take a look at the different sites as they offer a lot of different assets and licensing options. Most of us are used to go directly on Flickr when looking for free pictures but what many don’t know is that Pixabay is the place where most of the works are not only CC but also Public Domain licensed.
By using this search engine you can not only find pictures but also clip art, video, music, and other multimedia. You can furthermore explore Google.
Using CC Licensed Images
When using a CC licensed images you should always mention the author of the work and link to the source page of the download as a minimum. You can do that as subtitles under the picture or nearby.
If additional rules apply, such as share-in-a-similar-way, you must mark your work with the same CC license as the image you’re using. You can mark a page on your blog with a CC license by using the licensing tool and copy-pasting the resulting code onto your page.
Be sure to follow the rules concerning no derivations and no commercial use. If you’re uncertain what those imply, you can always consult the Creative Commons’ website.
If using a picture where the rules for use haven’t been defined by a CC license but rather by a specially dedicated page describing allowed use you should for your own sake take a screenshot of the page and save it for future use in addition to linking to the source page. This is a good idea in case the author changes mind and starts requiring payment for their content.
As promised, here’s a list of smaller or private websites with free pictures that you might find useful:
- Unrestricted Stock
- Free Images
- Stock Photos for Free
- Good Free Photos
- Pic Jumbo
- Free Photos Bank
- Open Photo
- All Free Download
- Big Photo
- Stock Vault