Websites and ways to get royalty free pictures
Where will they be used?
The first question you need to answer is where will the photos be used. If you are going to use them in your blog, hub or for personal use, then a lot of options are available. If you plan to use them in a commercial approach such as a self-promotional brochure then you may or may not require permission or a licence. Each site seems to choose its own approach to this so it isn't as simple as a yes or no answer. Some provide lower resolution photos for free and charge for higher resolution images.
Most of my use of photographs comes with "borrowing" form Google a image search. Most of the time, I don't worry about where it comes from because if I am using a company's product in a positive light, they aren't going to object to free advertising. I have taken the approach of sending an email to the company to ask for permission but most don't even bother to respond. So, unless they say no, I really don't see any problem with this approach.
If you are looking for something else like scenery, or an animal, or one of the other billion things you might want a picture for, then start with the old search engine approach of "free photos". That will keep you busy for a few months as you try to understand what each one expects you to do.
Some want a link back which means you paste some HTML code into your page so that any one who views that page sees their advertisement. Personally, I don't like most because they are animated and much too large, so I don't use this kind of sight.
I have only attached myself to two sites so far that I like to use. Most of my approach is playing with the photo to create a completely different graphic to use as part of story lead since most hosting sites are just too busy. One day, I will have been successful enough and have a large enough following that I might even consider creating a simple and uncluttered website. But for now, like all of you, the hosts are in control and you play by their rules or they send you home crying.
Keep in my mind that virtually all of the sites are in the business of selling images, so not every image you see is free and royalty free. Read the fine print or contact the source if you want to use the image commercially.
I just happen to like playing the game Hammerfall RPG via Facebook. It's browser version has been disabled while it attempts to ask its players for help in supplying new graphics to get the game operating in Facebook and MySpace with images. This all came about because the designers bought graphics from a source that didn't own the rights. Meanwhile, uneducated game players were supplying new graphics that came from other games which of course was in violation of copyright rules. So it continues with attempting to improve the game.
I have submitted a number of graphics and provided the original source URL (web address) but most of the one's I chose to submit were highly altered versions of the original and should have no problem working. The reward for an image that gets approved and is not infringing on some copryright gets you points that can be redeemed in the game. So many other Facebook and MySpace games use this as their primary funding approach. My reason for doing it was that the game is fun and it would be a shame to see it disappear for lack of funding. I make a small contribution on a monthly basis because I used to pay more money for an over-the-counter game of this quality. If you like a game of application that provides a way to make a donation or buy points, consider making a small contribution to keep the quality ones alive.
The lesson is make sure you have approval if you plan to use a photograph commercially. Otherwise, it isn't likely to be much of a problem. Remember how the legal profession works. They like to sue the deepest pockets. So, if you are like me, and your pockets are really shallow, keep using image search and just keep right on "borrowing". When you get deeper pockets, pay the royalty fee because you can also afford it.
And before I forget, here are the two sites that I like to use for online image search. As a bit of advice. If you plan to use these in a blog or hub, scale them down to a smaller size so they load quicker. I usually go for 400-500px. Hosting sites usually have some sort of a limit on graphic storage and I know I don't end up using a lot of space this way.