I’ve seen a lot of frustration on writers’ forums lately on the lack of free image sites.
I mean free-free, not pay-for-one-time-usage/sign up for a yearly paid contract ‘free.’
After finding so much free image frustration, I’ve come up with a fairly recent (read: the last month) compilation of sites that are in some way ‘free.’
They might be ‘kind of free,’ where you need certain permissions; or ‘fairly free’ where you simply acknowledge the photog or link to a site; or ‘superbly, wonderfully free-‘ to do with as you wish.
Well-Known Image Sites
These are some sites that are most-often cited for free images:
Stock XChng: They have both stock pics and graphic illustrations, but you have to triple-check to make sure what, exactly, the photographer or artist allows.
Morgue File: It’s easy to navigate, and the free photos are simple to find. You might have to sift for a bit to find something to your standard, or you might not find it at all.
They’ve helped me with quite a few articles and the only price: authorship acknowledgement.
Wikimedia Commons: A favorite of mine as a go-to place for the photos that are more topical, i.e. hot hockey players at a live match. Again, pay attention to the small print of giving credit- but it may surprise you how many are generously free.
Public Domain Pictures: The only possible fly in the image ointment is that they might ask you to get model or property release permissions/photographer permissions and they’re really concerned about ‘product abuse.’ (Don’t ask me, I didn’t write the coda.)
Creative Commons/Flickr: An access point to search services for images. A lot of people say it’s fantastic. You do have to check on how free the pics are by looking at the specific links, and some image usage might be problematic.*
*To quote: ‘legal systems prohibit owners from surrendering rights that are automatically conferred by law.’ In other words, they may be trying to let you have them for free but the law won’t. Odd stuffs, no?
Official* Photo Sites
I’m not being mocking, but quite sincere in the official.
The problem with some of these is that they claim* ‘free,’ but the reality is that they might a.) require you to ask permission b.) fill out official paperwork requests or c.) ask for a retina scan. Nonetheless, they can be valuable sources for images:
The Smithsonian: Kind of a posh institute, yes. But also such a rich archive of delectable visuals, particularly the national zoo delights.
One of the ones that might require permission query, but I’ve found a few lovelies that were completely string-free. You must: cite the source (the same as you would written material) and link back to the Smithsonian,where possible.
NASA Visible Earth: Welcome to NASA, and its archives. They’re pretty laid-back, though they would like (meaning require) you to provide a NASA credit, location and URL.
World Images (California State University): This site doesn’t mind if you use it for non-profit or educational use. They also state that if you link, it could be for commercial. I’d double check any image, just to be on the safe side.
The U.S. Government: Keep your peepers open for any disclaimers on any site here, but welcome to the massive world of images. Including: science, nutrition, law, environment and natural photos waiting to be posted. I really like the ‘Earth as Art’ site. Another really cool place that’s organized government sites and images is the Best Copyright-Free Photo Libraries.
British Library Public Domain: (medieval manuscripts as an example) They want: respect, author credit and sharing the wealth of knowledge.
Special/Unique Free Photo Sites
Some of these sites make me want to write articles around the photos. I find a lot of them interesting, and I wouldn’t have had a clue they existed had I not looked. Definitely worth checking out for those of you looking for something original:
Liam’s Pictures from Old Books: Popular for holidays (Christmas, Halloween, etc.) and for historic etchings (castles, ye Olde England, etc.) Liam’s a personable fellow. If need be, and he has something you need- he’ll scan it for you. He also doesn’t mind if you pop in just to say hello. Love Canadians.
Unprofound: This site is color coded, which makes it oddly intriguing. The photos are color graded, as in all photos mainly red grouped together. A credit is a given, and they ask you not to redistribute for sale. (Thanks, Jim.)
Geek Philosopher: A few images, an interesting site. They only want you to link back to their site for anything that you use.
Gimp Savvy: Double-check rights, but a vast amount of nature photos: oceans, wildlife, space and weather. Plus some very cool oddities.
Free Nature Pictures: With just a simple link back, pretty much any landscape or wildlife photo is free to make use of. And there are some truly gorgeous wildlife photos here.
Digital Comic Museum: Another one of my favorites, some dedicated souls have been steadily uploading Golden Age Comics/images for ages. You have to register, but after you’ve got no download or usage limit.
PD Photo: Good for travel writers, a repository for free public domain images. Watch out for any product placements or necessary releases- they might have forgotten to ask.
Of course, there are tons of other sites that get missed in the masses. I’ll list just a few that I’ve found that seem to be reputable (but please, if you like a site do your homework a bit, eh?):
Burning Well: A repository for public domain images.
Photos can be used for anything, and they require no credit given.
Image After: Their one and only request: don’t use their images in direct competition with their site.
Otherwise, it’s a free-for-all to use commercially or to modify the pics.
Pixabay: Another public domain repository site for images, there are no attributions required.
Stockvault: You do have to register for this site, but then you get free access to photos and graphics (which are zip file available).
Picdrome: Absolutely no: restrictions. You can use the images for both personal and commercial uses.
Photopin: Perfect for bloggers, they use Flickr API (but somehow aren’t associated with Flickr at all-?) and Creative Commons for image searches.
Freerange Stock: I thought this one was interesting because they have in-house photographers that contribute their pics for commercial or non-commercial use, with an archive you can rifle through.
Sometimes you’d prefer a simple silhouette or vector to compliment your article. These two sites seem to be the best for free vectors:
All Silhouettes: Free vectors for commercial or personal use.
Vector Portal: You can use these vectors for free, commercial use is alright- BUT they’d like you to ‘give attribution where applicable.’
I’m all imaged out. Grin. Please do let me know if this has been helpful to you for finding photos for free, or if you’ve found any problems with any of the sites. Also: have I left your favorite out? Don’t hesitate to point them out to me. M.
Photo Credits (in order):
Blue by Alin/Morguefile
Wall Street by Alex Proimos/Wikimedia Commons
Tropical Cyclone Monty/Visible Earth/NASA
‘In a Gloomy Wood’/Liam/fromoldbooks.org
Montana Fire/courtesy PDPhoto.org