Where to Find Free Stock Photos for Hubs and Blogs
Understanding Photo licensing
There are many sources for free photos and images on the web that can provide visual content to help you improve your hubs and blogs / websites. In this hub I outline the main license types and models that exist allowing use of images without payment or the need for negotiating useage, but still usually with some conditions attached.
The starting point for all creative content is "all rights reserved' traditional copyright. A copyrighted image may still be given for free use but this need to be requested and agreed by the copyright holder. The following licensing methods make using images simpler as the copyright holder has expressly granted permission for them to be used by offering them under a license allowing this.
Good photos can make your hub much more appealing
Limited Royalty Free Licenses
Images offered under standard Royalty Free Licenses are not free! The term is confusing but the word free here indicates the freedom for an image buyer to reuse an image without having to renegotiate license fees as would be the case with a traditional Rights Managed stock photograph. For a fuller explanation of RF and RM licensing see here.
For the purposes of this hub the point to note is that many sources of RF stock photography do offer some of their content for free use. These images will be available on a distinct limited RF license and their use may be restricted in some form, for instance the maximum print run of a printed product allowed may be relatively small. If you're after web sized images for a hub this isn't going to worry you overly!
A common business model amongst free image providers is to provide small versions of the images for free but charge for full high resolution file sizes. This can be seen at freedigitalphotos.net for example. Again if content for web publishing is your need many of these small images will be useful.
It is also worth remembering to check the microstock photography websites as most now have collections of free images available and these are often offered at full resolution size but with some restrictions of a more limited license. Dreamstime for example maintain a fairly extensive collection of images that are available to download for free. Shutterstock on the other hand take a different approach, with usually a couple of images being made available for free each week, so if you do regularly need fresh pictures its worth keeping an eye on the site as the offer is always changing! A guide on the best microstock sites for free images can be found here.
Public Domain Photos
Photos placed in the public domain are free to use without limitations, including commercial use. The issue to be aware of with PD images is that while the photographer may have decided to place the image in the public domain that may not make it entirely safe to use. If a photo shows recognisable individuals or property it would be wise to be careful unless relevant model and/or property releases are available. A common problem is where logos and branding are visible in a photo. In these cases the images shouldn't really be in the public domain; so don't use them.
Creative Commons Licenses
There are numerous creative commons licenses available covering a range of possible permitted uses. The basic idea behind CC licenses is to facilitate creators in easily allowing uses of their work they are happy with. Click here for more info on CC licenses. So it is important to carefully note the particular creative commons license that an image is being offered under in order to not inadvertantly break the terms. A very common CC license to be found allows use of images in return for 'attribution', which basically means linking back to the authors site or profile where you found the image to give them credit. Unless I'm missing something it isn't possible to include hyperlinks in hub photo capsules so this attribution either has to be the caption or, as I've done in this hub, you can include a credits box.
When using CC images on hubpages it is important to look out for a common restriction on commercial use. If you publish a hub that will include advertising on the page then that counts as commercial, so these CC images would no longer be available for free use.
So, where do you find creative commons photos and images? Well Flickr is the go to destination for these free photos. Here's a step by step guide with screenshots to finding free photos on Flickr.
Hopefully this hub has given you a basic understanding of photo licensing and the knowledge to find photos and images you can legally use for free in your hubs and own websites.