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Free Creative Commons Photos and How to Use Them Properly

Updated on January 16, 2018
cclitgirl profile image

Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially languages, art 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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    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Rasta - oh, I think you can and you have. Your HOTD yesterday was incredible and you had so much awesome info about Jamaica. I have a lot of friends from there. :) Thanks so much for coming by!

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 

      8 years ago from Jamaica

      I will be bookmarking this. I need to link to it from one of my hubs. I would not be able to put together an article like this with so much information.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Deborah - thank you so much. :) I am enjoying sharing these and have had lots of great feedback about these photos. Thank you also for the shares. Have a wonderful day!

      Annette - thank you! I have learned a lot on my photographic journey and hope to continue to learn a lot in the years to come. :) Happy New Year to you, too!

    • Annette R. Smith profile image

      Annette R. Smith 

      8 years ago from Ocala, Florida

      Beautiful photos and great article, Cyndi. Thank you for sharing this valuable advice. I'm going to pass it along through social sharing. Happy New Year!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      8 years ago from Iowa

      Your Christmas photos are gorgeous and you are so wonderful to share them and your great advice. I will share this!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Sharon - thank you so much! I loved this photo project and I thought other people could benefit from some pretty photos. :)

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 

      8 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Really beautiful photos CC. You make me want to buy a new camera and experiment. I also appreciated reading about the process you went through to decide on offering your photos through Creative Commons. Thank you for the details and tips that helped me understand and I'm sure will help many others.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Julie - hehe, I know, right? I love the Christmas ones. It's more challenging coming up with stuff for "January" haha.

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      8 years ago from Clinton CT

      I think the tin man is one of my favorites...or the snowman...or the star ornament..or...sigh. I can't choose. The article was very helpful too!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Yes, crystal figurines delicious, exquisite lighting, beautiful pictures.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Vinaya - Thank you for your feedback and congrats on being an Apprentice! I hope you have a happy, prosperous and peaceful 2013, too.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Teaches - aw, thank you. :) Thank you for your feedback on my photos, too. :) I hope lots of people can use them.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      8 years ago from Nepal

      As an apprentice, I'm learning different types of license and how to properly attribute images.

      Thanks for the reminder.

      I wish you happy, prosperous, and peaceful 2013.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      Cyndi, your talent is amazing! Love your photos. Thanks for the advice and info on using creative commons. Well done and a great help.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Randomcreative - aw, thank you! I have learned so much this year and it's definitely fun to share. I hope to continue doing so in 2013. :)

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      8 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great job with this topic! I appreciate all of the detailed insight. This is still a fairly new world for me, and I need all of the help that I can get. Your last photo with the color touching is fabulous.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Aviannovice - but you have such beautiful photos that you always use I LOVE them! I'd say keep on just using your photos because they're simply amazing. :0)

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      8 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks for giving us this info. I had no idea. I thought that I could use everything, as long as I attributed it to the owner.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      MO - aw, thank you so much! Yeah, I got into photography as if I needed another project, lol, but it sure is fun! I love all the images and pretty things I can come up with. :) Thank you so much for your feedback. I do love that Christmas piano picture, too. Hehe.

      Om - though I did a Christmas project, it was you who inspired me to share them and make them Creative Commons. I have you to thank and I'm so glad I did this. :) Happy New Year to you, too!

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      8 years ago

      Gorgeous! Some of my favorites are the photos of Christmas berries, Waynesville, and the Tin Man. But seriously, I like them all! Thanks for sharing your amazing photos. Happy New Year, Cyndi :)

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Oh Cyndi this is beautiful! You have an amazing eye and you truly know how to bring out interesting details with shade, depth and color. It would be hard for me to pick a favorite, but the Christmas piano really captured me. Very well done and congratulations on completing this compelling project. You make me want to take up photography (as if I really need another project) :) Again, beautiful work, voted up and thanks for the creative commons benefits.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Janine - you are so sweet! Thank you for everything - EVERYTHING - you're such an amazing writer, supporter and friend. :) I'm in awe of your talent to comment and always offer support. :)

      RTalloni - thank you so much for coming by. :) My pleasure.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      An interesting and helpful read. Thanks for sharing your work and your insights.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      8 years ago from New York, New York

      I have learned so much from you already Cyndi and keep learning daily. You know whenever I have a question that pertains to any of this, I always do defer to you first, because you truly are the Queen here. By the way, your Christmas photos were just completely awesome and I still am in awe of your talent!!!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      BB, YOU'RE cool, dude. :) Drive and determination, yes, I have those. One year ago? Holy moly, I didn't even KNOW about photography. Ha! Thanks BB - I appreciate you so much!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's cool that you made them creative commons. I'm so impressed with your drive and determination. Last year when you began, who would have guessed how far you would go in such a short span of time. Bravo lil' Sis!


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