List of resources for finding Public Domain, Creative Commons or otherwise free images

I’ve been using Pixabay for a while ever since a colleague told me about it, it’s amazing. I also came across Pexels and periodically gather other things together. I’ve known about NASA images and CDC PHIL for years and Flickr of course as resources of images but I keep finding more. This excellent blog post (10 Sites for Free Stock Photos (Updated for 2018) by Sean Filidis) lists a whole load of ones I’d not heard of.

I’ve added some extra ones to Sean’s list (mine are asterisked) but you should definitely go and look at Sean’s post because he says a bit more about what each site offers.

Further reading at the end 🙂

  1. * CDC PHIL (Public Health Image Library) – public health image library (example of CDC’s request for acknowledgement “This image is in the public domain and thus free of any copyright restrictions. As a matter of courtesy we request that the content provider be credited and notified in any public or private usage of this image.NB these include medical images and search results may not be suitable for children.
  2. * Creative Commons search
  3. * Flickr Advanced Search – change the ‘Any licence’ option to suit. The obvious white search bar in the middle is, curiously, not the actual search bar despite the cursor arriving there first. The minute you start typing in it the secondary grey search bar at the top will immediately take over, so you might as well write there anyway. I cannot account for it!

    Flickr advanced search showing where to access licence options Screenshot 2018-10-16 14.23.53.png

  4. * Freebies Gallery (formerly Public Photo)
  5. * Google Images (handy tip: use -pinterest in your search, then adjust the licence you want, Tools » Usage rights)

    Google Image search for flowers showing Tools and Usage rights aka License options Screenshot 2018-10-16 14.20.35.png

  6. Gratisography
  7. Morguefile
  8. * NASA – I think almost all US Government department images, when taken as part of publicly-funded work, are free to use though they might like credit too. Here are NASA’s media-use guidelines.
  9. Picjumbo
  10. Pexels
  11. Pikwizard
  12. Pixabay <– I’ve used this one a lot
  13. * Public Domain Review – a collection of collections, eg this lovely one on comets aka Flowers of the Sky.
  14. Rawpixel
  15. Reshot
  16. * Science Museum Group collection – use freely, but only for non-commercial projects. Images are from the Science Museum in London, Railway Museum etc
  17. Stockvault
  18. Unsplash
  19. * Wellcome Collection images – free to use with attribution (credit) but check for individual photos

An * just means I’ve added this resource to Sean’s list (also reordered alphabetically).

1. What terms mean and how you can use images

Images that are labelled as Public Domain (or CC0) can be used for any purpose including commercial and you don’t need to credit the person who took it (but it’s still nice if you do) or pay for it. Creative Commons-labelled images have different ‘levels’ of how they can be used – they don’t cost money but you may have to credit the author, and you may not be able to use them on commercial projects. Some image repositories (like Pixabay) share images that can be used under a very relaxed license but also include a tip jar so that you can ping the author the equivalent of a cup of coffee.

See also Best practices for (Creative Commons) attribution

2. Embedding images into blog posts (for example)

Obviously if you’re printing a brochure you’d need to be able to download a high-res image and attribute as appropriate (or not needed if CC0, or no attribution requested).

Flickr, for example, generally takes care of attribution itself.

  1. Autoembedding from link: For a WordPress.com blog like this one simply pasting the link into the post will result in the image appearing, already linking back to its page on Flickr for people to find out who took it.
  2. Embed code: For Blogger.com sites this auto-embedding doesn’t work so for things like that you’d use the embed code. The code carries attribution info and a link back so is just another way of doing (1)
  3. Downloading: You can save a copy of the image then upload to your site – doing this means it will no longer carry any info about author attribution (beyond the filename, unless you change it). You would need to add a caption or find some other way of referencing it appropriately.

3. Further reading

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