Free Web Graphics: Where to Get Them (Legally!)
Free Stock Photos
Add Images, Photos, or Graphics to Your Lenses the Right Way
With all the clip art, free web graphics, and stock photography sites out there, it's easy to make your lenses and webpages look great without breaking copyright!
Some people think images posted on the web are up for grabs. They aren't, any more than beach towels on the beach. Other people think it's okay to take graphics if you're not making money with them. Nope! You still need permission.
Luckily, lots of generous people do let you use their pictures with no strings attached. Others just ask for credit and a link back in exchange.
Here's the places I go to get free graphics, stock photos, and images for my webpages.
Creative Commons: Millions of Images
There's varying levels of Creative Commons licenses, indicated by a small graphic and/or two-letter abbreviation beneath the picture on the webpage where it appears:
- BY: Available with attribution (credit) and a link back to where you found it. All Creative Commons images have this license.
- ND: "No Derivatives" meaning you can't change, manipulate, or composite the graphic. Use the picture as is!
- NC: NonCommercial. Sorry, you can't make money on these photos. That means you can't use these photos on pages that make money (like Hubpages), and of course no printing them on t-shirts and mugs for sale on Zazzle or Cafepress.
- SA: Share Alike. That means you should post your image with the same level of Creative Commons license.
Tip: If you search on Creative Commons.org, you can limit your search to images licensed for commercial use and/or adaptation/remixing on their top banner.
Flickr Creative Commons and Wikimedia
Many but not all photographers on Flickr.com offer their photos as Creative Commons. Look for copyright or Creative Commons icons under "License" in the sidebar of each photo's page. To find Creative Commons photos on Flickr, go to their Advanced Search and scroll down, choosing "for commercial use" under Creative Commons.
Wikipedia images are usually Wikimedia Commons. See Reusing Content Outside Wikimedia for the full scoop, but basically (a) For images labeled Creative Commons, do as above; (b) For images labeled GNU (or some similar) license, give attribution, a link back, and mention and link to the text of the license; (c) for images labeled Public Domain, it's no strings attached; and (d) Wikipedia doesn't recommend you reuse images labeled "Fair Use," because they're not 100% sure the person who uploaded them knew the image's copyright.
Stock Photos Are Slick!
Traditionally, you had to pay a licensing fee to use stock photography.
Nowadays, many stock photo archives offer a wide selection of free or low-resolution images that are perfect for web graphics. (They may sell the higher-resolution versions, needed for print publications.)
On stock photo archives, you still need to double-check the license. Rarely, it will say non-commercial only. Sometimes the photographer asks that you leave a message to let them know where their photos are being used.
- FreeImages - Leading Stock Photography Site
FreeImages (formerly Stock Xchng / Jupiter images) are some of the best stock photo images out there. My link takes you to their browser. Browse by category at right, or use the search box at left.
- MorgueFile Free Photo Archive
Free photos available for commercial or personal use. Browse by category or search by individual tags.
- Image * After Free Images
Free graphics and textures (great for background-images) available for commercial and noncommercial use. Lots of nature, architecture, industry, miscellaneous objects, and abstract patterns.
- freerangestock.com - Totally Free Stock Photography and Textures!
- Pixel Perfect Digital - Free Stock Photos
Great selection of sharp-looking stock photos on many categories, including some striking-looking photomanips plus a selection of "cartoon" smiley faces expressing different moods. For commercial and noncommercial use, except for use in company logos
Free photos with an unusually wide variety of categories, including not just people, travel, nature, sports, holidays, but also things like icons and even "symbols and metaphors." Terms: you must include a link & credit. Click the ? next to "attr
- FreeFoto.com - Free Pictures - FreeFoto.Com
Large stock photography library. All images available for comemrcial/noncommercial use with link and attribution.
- BigFoto Stock Photography
"themes" tab, which covers everything else -- people (with a nice collection of hands doing things), nature, food, fountains, fireworks and more! Terms: They ask for a link to Bigfoto.
Excellent photos in certain categories: Animals, Athens, Christian, Egypt, Israel, Near East, Plants, Rome, Scenery, Sky. Up to 10 may be used without fee. Must retain freestockphotos.com watermark and/or link back to site with freestockphotos.com. (
- Getty Images: Embeddable Images
You can't download and post Getty image somewhere else, but they WILL allow you to copy and paste their HTML codes so that they're still hosting (and controlling) the image, but it appears on your page. Paste their embed codes into a Squidoo Text mod
More Free Stock Photography and Public Domain Images
- Good Free Photos
Excellent and extensive collection of photos released to public domain by photographer. Includes travel photos (U.S., Canada, Mexico, China, Haiti), food, animals, fossils, and a few other categories.
Great library of stock photos in many categories, plus they're a friendly site: "No backlink required to use them, however we really appreciate it if you want to link back to us :) Enjoy!"
- Public Domain Pictures
An excellent collection of free photographs. They ask for credit and a link back.
- Public Domain Images
Public domain photos, fairly good quality and a large collection. No rights reserved, no linkback needed.
Yet another great public domain photo website. The site owner has uploaded thousands of his own photos of animals, places, travel, cooking, holidays and more, asking for credit and a link back.
- OpenPhoto.net -- Creative Commons Photos
Large archive of Creative Commons photos organized by category. Check the licensing for each photo (they use the CC icons I explained above).
Small but good collection of royalty-free stock photos (no terms given, so I assume these really are free for all uses). Includes some especially useful categories like "Toys and games" "Seasonal" and "Technology" as well as the usual nature, landsca
- African Wildlife Stock Photography
Three pages of safari photos of African wildlife: zebras, lions, cheetahs, etc. Terms: Credit and a link back to the site.
- Karen's Whimsey Public Domain/Vintage
Vintage postcards, old Victorian illustrations, architectural drawings, fairies, flowers, butterflies, medieval costume and design, and much more from this fun collection of Public Domain images drawn from old books.
Free Clip Art and Web Graphics
It's hard to find good-qualitly, royalty-free clip art that doesn't have a watermark and isn't limited to noncommercial use. If you're willing to pay a (quite reasonable) subscription price, you may download and use millions of excellent graphics on Clipart.com or iClipart. They allow you to use their graphics on website or for commercial purposes.
However, many of us are stingy. We want free graphics. That takes a little more hunting.
- Open Clip Art Library
The Open Clip Art Library is a stunning collection of public domain, high-quality free clip available for any use. (The camera I used in the header of the Stock Photo section is from Open Clipart.) I find it easiest to Search Clipart By Tags.
- Clker.com Royalty-Free Vector Clipart
This and Open are the clipart sites I use. Tons of good graphics, easy to search, no fuss, no backlink required.
- VectorOpen Stock
Excellent, modern backgrounds, patterns, and templates (here's the Christmas / Christmas cards category). Search lets you look for Creative Commons licensed photos or those with no attribution needed.
- MySiteMyWay.com Icons
Excellent buttons and icons on a gazillion different topics. Shiny, web 2.0, royalty-free, and they don't even require a credit or link. What nice people!
- PSDgraphics Blog -- Web Design Freebies
A limited selection of absolutely gorgeous Web 2.0 style 3D graphics, meant for blogs, but there's got to be a way to use these. The artist just gives them away!
- The Vintage Moth -- Old Images Clipart
One technique for getting copyright-free clipart is to go with vintage book illustrations and magazine clippings. This blog serves up new ones regularly. Also check her links for more vintage clipart sites.
- Barry's Clip Art Server
Good-quality clip art organized by category at left, animations at right -- middle column on homepage takes you to other websites.
More Clip Art and Web Graphics Archives
- PDClipart.org -- Public Domain Clip Art
Another good clipart collection. Not many annoying ads, and a lot of great web graphics -- free, no strings attached, no need to link back.
- WilsonInfo Free Gifs & Animations.
Animated graphics, buttons, banners. Free for any use with a link back to their website.
Good-quality clip art, but it's only for noncommercial and/or educational use. Terms: Credit and a link back.
- Discovery Education: Clip Art Gallery
Free educational clipart, but only for noncommercial, educational purposes. These are GOOD graphics. It's almost worth creating some nonprofit educational lenses just to use them!
Tip: Google Image Search for LEGAL Graphics
Have you found a website where most images are public domain?
Use Google Image Search to search images only on that site.
For example, go to Google, click the Image tab at top, and search:
"The information on government web pages is in the public domain unless specifically annotated otherwise (copyright may be held elsewhere) and may therefore be used freely by the public." -- copyright notice on NOAA.
So, basically, if you find an image on a .gov site, unless there's a caption saying it's copyrighted or has usage restrictions, it is free to use! Please DO check.
When using .gov images, you must credit where you found them and acknowledge that they're public domain.
- NASA Image Library
Space, astronomy, spaceships and rovers, planets and stars and telescopes, astronauts -- if it's up there, it's down here.
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Digital Library
Animals, birds, fish! Mostly, but not exclusively, those found in North America and Hawai'i.
- U.S. National Park Photographs
Public domain photographs from all of America's national parks. Gorgeous scenery, animals and birds.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
They don't have a nice easy-to-browse digital library, so this is a bit tougher to use, but you'll find a lot of charts and graphs on climate, plus scattered photos of weather, climate, oceans, fires, floods, storms, etc.
- White House Photo Gallery
Photos related to the U.S. government, including some of military and soldiers.
- U.S. Government Photos and Images
An index of all government agencies' photo gallery and image library sites.
More by this Author
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