Finding great free images for your blog can be difficult. There are plenty of options, but knowing which to go for and what is legal is not such an easy task. As a good, relevant image can make all the difference to a blog post, and is increasingly an important factor for search engines such as Google, it is a good policy to take some time to search out a great image for your latest blog post.
Finding Great Free Images – General Rules of Thumb
Creative Commons is one of those wonderful internet innovations that just make the web a happier place to be in. You’ve no doubt heard of it and, in case you are one who hasn’t, it is a licence for content (images, articles etc.) that allows anyone to use and reproduce that content without further permission or payment. Of course, there are restrictions, and often attribution (crediting the original artist) and reproducing the Creative Commons license is required. If it is asked for, be sure to give credit and meet the criteria!
There is another danger with Creative Commons, especially on Flickr (one of the sites I’ll be showing you) and although it doesn’t use creative commons it also applies to the second site I shall cover, SXC.hu (or stock.xchng), although to a lesser extent. This danger is simple but you do need to be aware: some unscrupulous persons may try to pass off another artist’s work as their own, giving it a Creative Commons license, or similar, when they do not even own the work themselves! In these cases the Creative Commons licence is invalid.
Another matter to bear in mind is that a lot of those images you can use under a Creative Commons licence prohibit derivative works. This means that you are not permitted to alter the image in any way, except to resize it. This is especially important to bear in mind if you want to create a photo badge or a Scripture Picture.
Great Free Images on Flickr
Flickr is a huge community of photographers and other artists, and is the largest free photo-sharing site I am aware of. It is free to join and you get 1 terabyte of storage. (There is a premium option with greater functionality available.) Because it is so huge it contains a lot of great free images. It also contains many poor ones. A good search keyword or phrase is helpful to find just the right image for your blog.
There is one aspect to Flickr which can save you a great deal of time: the Advanced Search. Because a basic search will show all images relevant to the search phrase it will usually show a whole ton of images which are not available for use unless you specifically get written permission from the artist (which is sometimes worth taking the time to do for a great image).
Because not all images are free for you to use, after you have done a basic search you will be wise to click on the Advanced Search text to the top right of your browser window to narrow down what is presented to you (see screenshot below with the Advanced Search link circled).
Once you click on the Advanced Search link you will be taken to another page where you can scroll down and select to display only Creative Commons photos. Once you have checked the “Only search within Creative Commons” check-box, click Search to repeat your search but with the filtered results. Also, if you want to create derivative works you can check the appropriate box. (See the following screenshot.)
Great Free Images on stock.xchng
Stock.xchng is another fantastic resource for great free images! Whereas sites such as iStockPhoto and Getty Images have a vast array of high-quality images, they also charge a price for you to use those images. Stock.xchng, however, is a similar site but all images are available for use free of charge.
The site is huge and the general quality is good, if not in the league of paid-for images (obviously a great photographer wants to gain an income from his images, but there are many almost-as-good photographers willing to share for free, and stock.xchng is one of the leading sites for free stock images). SXC.hu, as stock.xchang is also known by, requires images to be approved by a moderating team before appearing on the site.
I also upload some of my photos to this site and can confirm that the photographs are properly checked and that sub-standard images are rejected – this means much of the work in filtering out the inadequate images has already been done for you!
Searching from the home page is easy and the layout and navigation is quite a breeze to use. You do get suggestions from iStockPhoto, Getty Images’ way of pointing you towards giving them some money, but these suggestions are clearly separated from the stock.xchng free images.
One great aspect of this site is that the usage options are very wide – especially note that all images can be modified and edited to create derivative works, which is a great plus. Do just check the restrictions and disclaimers, however, as you are entering into a contract when using an image.
Don’t be put off by photos that say to give credit and notification – it is easy to notify a user in site and it is always good to give credit anyway. In my use of this site over some 5 years I haven’t had any bad experiences in my notifying, and often get a warm thanks for the notification and my including a link to where I have used a user’s image.
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