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Where to Find Free Website Images

Published on 6/25/2010 by

Adding images your website gives visual appeal and entices readers, taking them along on your journey. Telling a story about your recent parachuting adventure is exciting, but adding pictures of your free fall to earth allows readers to come along on that thrilling jump with you.

Contrary to popular belief, you cannot simply find an image on Google or another website and use it as your own without risk of being sued or discredited. You are free to use some images, but not all. Let’s take a look at the different types of image licenses.

Copyrighted

Copyrighted works give legal protection to authors, photographers and artists. A copyright in the United States gives the owner exclusive rights, which means it’s illegal for you to copy, reproduce or use the author’s work without their permission.

Never assume that just because in image does not have a copyright symbol (©) next to it that it’s not copyrighted. As of 1989, the U.S. Copyright office no longer requires the displaying of copyright symbols on original work. When in doubt, always check with the U.S. Copyright office to find out whether an image is copyrighted.

Public domain

Public domain works have no legal owner, either because the copyright has expired or wasn’t renewed, or because the work has been donated for public usage. Images in the public domain are free to use, reproduce, copy and alter.

Royalty-free

Many photos in online image banks are labeled as royalty-free. Royalty-free images are not copyrighted, but must be purchased for a one-time fee. Once the image has been paid for, the user may alter and display that image however they like, and on as many websites as they desire.

Open license

An open license grants users certain permissions to use or display photographs and images, provided a set of conditions are met. Creative Commons images are a type of open licensed works. There are six types of licenses in Creative Commons, which you can learn about here. Most open licensed works are free to use, as long as you link back to the image owner.

Now that you understand what images are OK to use on your website, let’s take a look at where you can find free images online.

  • Flickr Creative Commons: Many Flickr users have given their photos a Creative Commons license. These images are free for you to use as long as you give credit to the image’s owner.
  • Morgue File: Morgue File is an online image bank that features free, high resolution public domain images. According to Morgue File’s free license, users may copy, alter and post images, but may not sell or distribute them.
  • We Blog Cartoons: Cartoon images can send a powerful message. We Blog Cartoons gives away their images for online website usage. Images may not be used in print form without permission.
  • Free Foto: An online image bank, Free Foto hosts thousands of images for website usage. Photographs are free to use as long as a link back is given to Free Foto.
  • Big Foto: Big Foto has a repository of images donated to the public domain by amateur photographers. All images are free to use without giving credit to the owner.
  • Greek Philosopher: All Greek Philosopher photographs are free to use on commercial or personal websites, but may not be redistributed or sold.
  • Free Digital Photos: You’ll find more than 2,000 images here, all free to use, as long as you don’t claim them as your own or redistribute them in any way.
  • Image Base: This is a small collection of photos that may be used on commercial or personal websites. All images are free of charge and donated to public domain.
  • Open Photo: This project was started by the stock photo community and features Creative Commons Licensing works. You’re free to use any photograph from the website as long as you give credit to the original owner.

Remember to always doublecheck the licensing terms of any photo you download. Whenever possible, it’s good practice to give credit to the photographer, just as many National magazines and newspaper do.