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Where to Find Free Creative Commons Photos

Updated on August 4, 2013

If you simply do an image search using a search engine and grab a photo to use for you blog or website, you are most likely violating copyright laws.

That is because all photos are copyrighted by default, unless they are licensed otherwise. One such license is the Creative Commons license. For photos that are marked with the Creative Commons license, you can use the photo as long as you abide by the conditions stipulated on the license. And there are various forms of the Creative Commons license with various stipulations. Most licenses will have the "Attribution" stipulation. That means that at the location where you are using the photo, you have to put a photo credits line next to the photo.

For example, the photo above is a Creative Common licensed image found via Google image search with advanced license filter. The image originated from a the site geograph.org.uk linked here. As you can see the photo is still copyrighted by the photographer. However, he has licensed it for anyone to reuse as long as you put an attribution or credit line next to his photo.

Creative Common does not mean that it does not have copyright. It means that the copyright-holder allows you to re-use it while still maintaining the copyright.

So how do we go about finding these Creative Commons photos? Here are three ways ...

1.  Creative Commons on Flickr

a.  Click Explore on the front page of Flickr.com

b. Click "Creative Commons" link at the bottom of the page.

c. You now see a page with photos grouped by the type of Creative Commons licenses.  In each group, you will find a link that says "See more".  Click that link and you will get a search box enabling you to search Flickr for photos of that license type.

2. Google Image Search by license type

a. Go to http://images.google.com

b. Click the "Advanced Image Search" link.

c. In the Usage Rights selection, you can filter your search results by the license type that you are interested in. Here is more information about the Usage Right filter

Google is just a search engine, it is not a photo repository. Once you have found the photo, it will provide a link to the website on which the photo originated. You should click on that link to the website to see the photo's copyright information and to see if there are any conditions attached such as requiring attribution.

3. Search Wikimedia Commons

a.  Go to http://commons.wikimedia.org
On It is Welcome page, it says "Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) to everyone"

b.  Do a search in its search box. 

c.  Check the copyright information and usage conditions of the images found.  Some images will have conditions such require photo attribution.  And other will say photo is released into public domain (in which case you can use freely).


4. MorgueFile

If you want photos that you do not need to provide attribution credit, you can download photos from morguefile.com. However, as per its license, you can not use the photo as-is. You need to edit the photo yourself -- either by cropping, adding text, or merging it with another photo, etc.

Here is a nice photo found on PixaBay.com
Here is a nice photo found on PixaBay.com

5. PixaBay.com

Another place where you can find free photos that does not require attribution is from PixaBay.com

When you click the "download" button on the site, it says ...

"You can freely use any image from this website in digital and printed format, for personal and commercial use, without attribution requirement to the original author."

Note:

This article was last updated in August 2013 and information is only relevant at the time of writing. Policies may have changed since then. So check the licensing information at the photo sites just to be sure.

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