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Free Creative Commons Photos and How to Use Them Properly

Updated on January 16, 2018
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Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about diverse topics, from digital marketing to languages and culture.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Christmas Glass AngelsJuniper and ChristmasBlue and Green Lights With TreeBlue Christmas LightsChristmas Lights Through Etched GlassChristmas Berries on Main Street
Christmas Glass Angels
Christmas Glass Angels | Source
Juniper and Christmas
Juniper and Christmas | Source
Blue and Green Lights With Tree
Blue and Green Lights With Tree | Source
Blue Christmas Lights
Blue Christmas Lights | Source
Christmas Lights Through Etched Glass
Christmas Lights Through Etched Glass | Source
Christmas Berries on Main Street
Christmas Berries on Main Street | Source

Creative Commons Photos

Back at the first part of December, I started a photo project based on Christmas themes. I had so much fun with it, I thought that others could benefit from these images.

After much thought and research, I decided to make my images available as Creative Commons.

It was a bit of a scary move for me because I like to sell my images, too. However, I found out there is a lot of mis-information out there regarding Creative Commons photos.

I wanted to share my experiences with you as well as my Christmas pictures which you can use royalty free.

Creative Commons License

There are six licenses for Creative Commons, ranging from quite restrictive to “free culture.”

Though I’d read about using images as Creative Commons for hubs and online writing, I didn’t have a good idea just how important it is to use the images correctly and to give proper credit where credit is due, before I started doing so much research.

In fact, I really think that anyone who uses images online for any reason would do well to familiarize themselves with Creative Commons licensing.


There are different Creative Commons Licenses that mean different things.

Let’s switch gears and talk about "online writing" for a moment. None of us likes it when we find our content copied, especially when we’re not given credit for it.

Now think about how you’d feel if someone swiped your images that you worked hard to photograph (or otherwise create) and never gave you credit. Sadly, this happens too often when people type in a search term for Google Images and just use the image and don’t pay attention to how the image should be used.

In essence, if you didn’t do an advanced image search on Google finding only “Creative Commons” images, then you’re at risk for copyright infringement.

But there’s more to it than just searching for Creative Commons images: you must also search for images that are listed as “commercial use” if you intend to use them on hubs or blogs with ads enabled.

Creative Commons Does Not Mean "Copyright Free"

Technically, if you’re putting any image on a website that has ads, you’re using it to make money.

Thus, if you innocently use an image that's not your own on your blog and it has ads, you risk copyright infringement even if it’s listed as Creative Commons, but not actually licensed for commercial use.

If an image isn’t spelled out as a Creative Commons image, it’s best to assume that it is “all rights reserved” and that you must contact the creator of the image before you can use it.

The Creative Commons movement is working to try to help people who want to share or use images online to be able to share them without fear of getting sued or dealing with some other legal action.

Do You Use Creative Commons Photos

See results

Creative Commons Licenses

Thus, there are six main licenses. The Creative Commons page explains each license in detail. I will focus on the one which I chose to use: Attribution-NoDerivs.

When I first listed my photos as Creative Commons, I used a “noncommercial” license. But then I found out that “noncommercial” meant that you cannot use an image on a website with ads.

I changed the license to be “commercial” because I want people to be able to use my images on their websites, as long as they credit and link back to me via the image.

However, I still kept it as “NoDerivs” because if, say I have a picture of my face or hands, I don’t want those images to end up being remixed and then possibly used in sinister ways (though I do not have any images of people with my Christmas photos). Thus, I request that the image remains “whole.”

If you’ve visited the learning center, you’ll get tips on many different ways of finding images to use on hubs or even blogs.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Christmas and a PianoBlue SnowflakeSilver Star OrnamentGolden Star OrnamentSnowman With a PipePurple SnowflakesDeer
Christmas and a Piano
Christmas and a Piano | Source
Blue Snowflake
Blue Snowflake | Source
Silver Star Ornament
Silver Star Ornament | Source
Golden Star Ornament
Golden Star Ornament | Source
Snowman With a Pipe
Snowman With a Pipe | Source
Purple Snowflakes
Purple Snowflakes | Source
Deer | Source

Places to Find Creative Commons Images

There is one extra thing I have done. I am a member of Flickr and listed many of my images there with the same license that I explained above.

The advantage here is that the image will show up in Creative Commons search results both on Google and on Flickr because Flickr puts Creative Commons metadata on images you upload, according to the license you prefer. (This was a great suggestion by Simone Smith and Robin Edmondson.)

Indeed, Flickr and Wikimedia Commons are two great places to find Creative Commons images as well as lots of public domain images.


Why License Your Photos/Images as Creative Commons?

  • If people can share your images without fear of legal ramifications, they’re more likely to share a lot more, thus getting your photography/artwork out there to a wider audience.
  • Your images will show up in Creative Commons search results, garnering you more views and exposure.
  • It’s a way to give back. I’ve used plenty of Creative Commons images in my hubs and articles when I couldn’t take a photo for them.

Since the Holidays are often equated to the season of giving, I thought I'd make my Christmas photos available (and eventually lots more!).

Are There Drawbacks?

  • Sure. People can and will misuse your images, regardless of whether they are “all rights reserved” or “some rights reserved.” I think that sometimes people don’t always know the “lay of the internet land” and think they can just use any old image they find.
  • However, I believe most people are quite honest and will do what’s necessary to use images appropriately and correctly.

Christmas Photos

If you’re writing about Christmas, need to use a holiday picture, or otherwise want holiday photos to add to your hubs, blogs or websites, you can use the images in this hub.

Just please give me credit for them and preferably link back to this hub so that others can find out a little more about Creative Commons licensing and have access to some fun Christmas photos, too.

More Christmas Photos

This was a 25-day photo project, focusing on images that related to Christmas, but in a unique way.

Here are more images:

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tin Man at ChristmasIce Snowman Take 2Blue Glass OrnamentMarshall, NC at ChristmasRed OrnamentWaynesville, NC at ChristmasChristmas Foliage
Tin Man at Christmas
Tin Man at Christmas | Source
Ice Snowman Take 2
Ice Snowman Take 2 | Source
Blue Glass Ornament
Blue Glass Ornament | Source
Marshall, NC at Christmas
Marshall, NC at Christmas | Source
Red Ornament
Red Ornament | Source
Waynesville, NC at Christmas
Waynesville, NC at Christmas | Source
Christmas Foliage
Christmas Foliage | Source

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun


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