Finding Free Images for Your Website

snow roseWhether you use Google, Bing, or some other search engine’s image search, it is easy to find images of just about anything.  Some of those images are pretty cool.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have cool free images to add to your website?  Better than buying stock photos, especially when on a shoestring budget.  It is easy to download and save any image, upload it to your website.  Before you do use images you find online, here are some things you should consider.

I love photography, especially taking nature pictures.  One Valentine’s day we had a beautiful snowman.  I wanted to see how the snow would look on the rose, and gave the snowman a rose.  Took a closeup photo of the rose.  Loved the result!  Later I found several people using my image, one a photographer, and people would assume looking at her site, that she had taken the photo.

At the same time, I was a member of a photography group and we were discussing copyright issues.  How people would steal our images and what to do about it.

  • We can watermark our images.  (that little faint annoying mark on an image)
  • We can include our web url at the bottom of each image
  • We can make a cd of our images, pay a fee and mail to the government’s copyright office
  • If someone hot links to our image (linking to the image on our site, using both our image without permission and using our bandwidth) we can edit that image so they now have a stolen image message showing up on their website.
  • Request payment for use of image or removal from the website using our image
  • If not removed, hire a lawyer and start legal proceedings.

While it isn’t required to mail in the the US copyright office a cd of images, if a photographer or graphic designer takes someone to court successfully, they get more money if they take that route.   Never assume that just because an image doesn’t have a watermark or words copyright on the image itself, you are free to use it.

I’ve had people hot link my images, upload my images to their site without permission.    I’ve had people email me, asking for permission to use an image.  One nice person asked for the cost to use one of my photos.  Always ask permission before using the photo.  That takes a while, and the owner may or may not respond.

I was using my own images and images from stock photography sites.   I found a great post by Skellie about using Flickr images, and have been using them since.  Her site is no longer up, thus the video below:

A great tip from Ray Colin: “In addition to attribution and a link back to the original, I like to leave a comment on Flickr to thank the owner and leave a link to my post. You’d be surprised at the number of visits from Flickr users that have resulted from this practice.”

Your own unique images are best, digital cameras are best.  Many search engines are smart enough now to know whether it is an unique image or not.  However, most of us don’t have unlimited resources to create cool graphics and photos for our sites.  I use a mix of my own photos, stock photos, and flickr’s creative commons.

When you do any  branding, your header, fliers, ads you really have to make sure you have the right to use that photo that way.  Example, if you were doing a post about Steve Jobs, I’m sure there are public domain images you can find and use.  But if you were creating an ad for your business, header for your website, etc. and you use his photo so that it appears he endorses your product, you could quickly find yourself in trouble.

What do you use for images on your site?

Free Image Resources

Thank you  Laura Wheeler and Ray Colon for your suggestions


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Finding Free Images for Your Website — 3 Comments

  1. Although I don’t have a huge amount of experience in image protection, I find it an amazing concept.

    The question of ownership on the internet I don’t think has been answered properly yet – and I can’t think of a one-fits-all solution.

    I think the only way of stopping this (to an extent) is to manipulate your image so that if it is linked to from an ‘unauthorized’ source, it will show an alternative, forcing them to take it down when they notice.

    You could use this as a traffic source, changing the image to a banner to your site. Again you may think this is ‘black/grey hat’ but until there is a rock solid solution to these issues, you have to protect yourself.


  2. Thanks Sam,

    I also look at it this way, a link to my image is still a link to my site. What I hate is when that image is downloaded and used, no credit given.

    Never thought of using the “borrowed” image as a banner to my site.

  3. I’m a web designer so I feel for people and their copyright issues but there are plenty of awesome free photos online that you almost don’t need to worry about it.

    The easiest way I’ve found to search creative commons images on Flickr is by using photopin dot com. A lot nicer interface that Flickr itself and the quality of the searches seem to be better for some reason.

    Also sxc dot hu is a free stock site with a ton of free images.

    Those are probably the two best sources online, and the ones I use 99% of the time. Morguefile also has a decent collection.
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