You need to be cautious when you download free photos that may carry licensing restrictions on how they’re used.
Who wants to pay a thousand bucks for a crappy pixelated image? Not me, that’s for sure! But that’s exactly what Getty Images demanded from Ryan Healy and countless others several years ago after they used one of Getty’s images on their website.
Royalty free images are deceptively not free of cost. Just take a look at Getty Images royalty free prices. A high quality photo will set you back $940!
“The term royalty-free means that once the content is licensed under a set of guidelines, the licensee is normally free to use it in perpetuity without paying additional royalty charges.”
“Once the content is licensed”… meaning, you pay for the license, then you can use the image “freely”.
If you’re a photographer, I’m not knocking your right to earn a living from your work. Not by a long shot. You can charge whatever you feel the market will pay for your photos.
In the case of small business owners or individuals posting to their blog or Facebook wall, I tend to think most would opt to download free photos. Not royalty free. COST FREE.
Cost Free Photos
I understand the photographer’s perspective. If you take a photo of your dog and then find the image used in a commercial, wouldn’t you feel a little peeved? Sure you would. You’d be happy to be paid for it though. But what if the image is just used on someone’s website. Perhaps you’d be satisfied with an acknowledgement or attribution, with a link to your website.
That’s where Creative Commons licensing comes in.
Images may be used without written permission from the licensor, but
- some licenses require that the original creator be attributed,
- some licenses require that the specific license be identified, and
- some licenses require that if you modify the work, your modifications must also be similarly freely licensed.
Warning: When You Download Free Photos
1. Just because you can use an image freely, doesn’t mean you *should*. For example, images containing logos, products or people that are depicted in a manner damaging to the company or person’s reputation, could get you sued.
2. Don’t search for, or use, any images that are illegal in your country.
3. Don’t rely on Google Images to source your pictures because it is difficult to know the licensing requirements of each photo.
OK, here’s where to find free images. Remember, most still require you to attribute the creator appropriately.
Flickr Creative Commons is Inscribd’s best friend for images. Photos are tagged well, making the thousands of images easily searchable.
Flickr is great for finding pictures of people, casual photographs and all manner of objects. Most pictures are from amateur photographers, but there are some great, professional looking photos available under Creative Commons as well.
Stock Xchng is owned by Getty Images, so take extra care to look at the licensing conditions of any images you choose from this site.
You’ll need to sign up before you can download any high quality images, but there are tens of thousands to choose from, all tagged and easily searchable.
Despite the seemingly morbid name, MorgueFile offers some truly awesome images free to use in your creative projects.
WikiMedia Commons is brought to you by the same people from WikiPedia.
Images on WikiMedia are sourced from around the Internet and can be used freely with attribution.
WikiMedia also hold a contest every year for the best Creative Commons photos. Some of them are truly wonderful images.
public-domain-photos.com offers over 5000 photos and 7000+ clip art images, separated into categories.
Any Government Website
That’s right. Most images used on government websites are in the “public domain” and therefore can be used freely without attribution or payment. The includes every piece of text, video and image on whitehouse.gov.
For a full list of US government sites, visit usa.gov where you can download free photos.