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Public Domain Photographs For Your Websiite

Updated on August 11, 2009

The task of finding images that can be published legally on websites, including blogs, Squidoo lenses and Hubpages hubs, to name a few, is a major challenge for some webmasters. Especially those putting up hobby sites, personal pages and community pages where to all intents and purposes the budget is zero. Searches for "stock" or "royalty free" photos and images will often provide some sources of art to illustrate a point or simply break up lots of text. But there are sometimes strings attached. The images may be royalty free but attribution needs to be given to the author and sometimes it can just spoil the feel of the page if there are credits for photos everywhere. An alternative is to consider public domain photographs which are truly in the public domain and, if that is the case, can be used freely on websites without having to give credit.

From creativecommons.org

Dedicator recognizes that, once placed in the public domain, the Work may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, used, modified, built upon, or otherwise exploited by anyone for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, and in any way, including by methods that have not yet been invented or conceived

Even when images are listed as truly public domain photographs, the situation is not absolutely straightforward. There are issues concerning trademarks, copyrighted items and identifiable people. I'm not a lawyer and am not qualified to give legal advice but my understanding is that when public domain photographs contain trademarks or other copyrighted items, or identifiable people, others may have legal rights that may be enforceable. You should always assume that no model release has been obtained, and images featuring known property or products should only be used with some care. But having said that there are many, many public domain photographs out there of landscapes, cities, animals, food, and many more categories which can be used legally without any attribution or back links.

Here are a few sites with galleries of public domain photographs which you may find useful to bring a bit of colour to your website or blog. All the photos on the right are from these sites.

Great Beach Shot
Great Beach Shot
Lovely Flower Detail
Lovely Flower Detail
Artistic Fruit
Artistic Fruit
Fireworks
Fireworks
Dramatic Lightning
Dramatic Lightning
Apoll 11
Apoll 11

photos8.com is a great collection of public domain photographs. To quote the information on the site - "These images are public domain, and that means they can be used and edited for whatever purpose you wish, personal or commercial. No attribution or linking is required - although a link would be nice". These public domain photographs are generally very high quality with the galleries of sunsets, animals, plants, in fact all the "natural" galleries are very attractive in my opinion.

public-domain-photos.com is another useful site with over 5,000 free photos in the categories you would expect, i.e., landscapes, people, food, drinks, buildings, etc. There is also a collection of over 8,000 public domain clip art images.

publicdomainpictures.net has a good set of free galleries including some very nice still life pictures of fruit, flowers and food.

pdphoto.org is, according to the site "a repository for public domain photos. Use the photos for anything, including commercial uses, other websites, school projects, articles, ads, whatever". There is a caution on the site which says that most of the images are public domain photographs, but a few aren't so be sure to read the license under each of the enlarged photos.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) may be the United States Department of Agriculture's research agency but it also has an excellent digital image gallery that is published as a free source of high quality digital photographs. If you're looking for public domain photographs of food, crops, animals and everything agricultural it's the place to look.

If it's space photos you're looking for then there is always NASA. There are several databases of photos where you will find some of those iconic pictures of earth and space exploration. For example Great Images In NASA.

These are just some of the public domain photographs sites on the Internet - there are loads more but these just appealed to me and will hopefully get you started trying to find public domain photographs. Search for public domain photographs, or go to Wikipedia and you will find many more. With all these sites you need to check the small print concerning copyright as it is your responsibility as a website publisher to check the detail.

The War Effort
The War Effort
Head For Heights
Head For Heights
When Men Were Men
When Men Were Men

There are also collections of historical public domain photographs accessible online. For example there is a gallery of World War Two Posters.The posters were intended for display in post offices, libraries, factories, schools, and other public places. They capture the spirit of the day and may be useful for a specialist website about World War Two. Materials published by the U.S. Government Printing Office are in the public domain and, therefore, not subject to copyright.

The New York Public Library also has a massive collection of digitised historical images. The challenge is finding what you're looking for when there are over 685,000 to choose from. There are embedding codes provided under each image and the FAQs describe how to use the code to embed the image on your website. Fees are payable for use in books and journals but according to their FAQS - "You may download low-resolution images directly from the web site for personal, research, non-profit or study purposes for free. This includes classroom use, student projects, and any open access web site."


These are just a few of the sites where there are thousands of public domain photographs to search through and use to illustrate your website. Don't get hung up on public domain photographs for online use. search around a little and you should be able to find what you're looking for.


Public Domain Photographs - Comments

Submit a Comment
  • profile image

    Sync Life 

    7 years ago

    Thanks this is great info on public domain pics; just what I needed.

  • profile image

    picdrome 

    7 years ago

    Thanks a lot for the info! Very good tips.

    You also might want to visit http://www.picdrome.com, a growing Public Domain picture collection, free of copyright and licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication. All items are free to download for personal and commercial use, without restriction.

  • bigmikeh profile imageAUTHOR

    bigmikeh 

    8 years ago from UK

    It's a pleasure sync life.

  • profile image

    sync life 

    8 years ago

    very helpful thanks

  • bigmikeh profile imageAUTHOR

    bigmikeh 

    8 years ago from UK

    Thanks for the info ssteinberger

  • ssteinberger profile image

    ssteinberger 

    8 years ago

    Do you know about Pixabay.com. It has good photos and all are assigned the new CC0 licence of Creative Commons, meaning it is really public domain and no attribution to the original author or backlink is required for any use, also for commercial applications.

    Cheers!

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