Where to find images you can reuse and include in your work
Target audience: Cause organizations, nonprofits, NGOs, journalists, general public
Sure, you can eye millions of photos on photo-sharing sites like Photobucket, SmugMug or Buzznet. But where can you find photos you can use? For instance, on your website or in your multimedia slide show, video or project.
It’s a theme we often return to: Don’t do all the heavy lifting. Let the community help. (If you’re looking for video footage to include in your work, see our Free Video Directory. For music, see the Free Music Directory.)
Stock image agencies like Corbis and Getty Images are tailored for professional print publishing, not grassroots video production. Coming on fast are a slew of low-cost websites that aggregate amateur photos. For a few dollars, you can snag high-quality photos for your production at sites like iStockPhoto (at $1 to $3 per photo, the quality is higher than at many of the free sites). See our accompanying story, Top 10 sites for free or low-cost photos.
For many, a more satisfying option is to snag photos for free. In recent years a number of free, grassroots image clearinghouses have cropped up to give incumbent image agencies a run for their money. Be sure to read each site’s terms of service before grabbing a photo and incorporating it into your own work. Some of the best include:
provides quality stock photos for commercial and noncommercial use for free. Freerange is an advertising revenue supported photographic community – photographers get paid when users click on the ads that appear next to their submissions. Freerange Stock photos either come directly from their in-house photographers and archives or they are contributed by a growing community of creative and talented photographers.
is a free stock photo site specializing in travel related stock images, for download and use with no fees. The site is funded through the advertising on each page but can only support bandwidth fees by receiving proper credit (with a link or text attribution) where images are used.
Creative Commons Image Sites
Outhink Media’s GetMedia
search tool lets you comb through Flickr and other sources to find an image that corresponds with the license you want.
(or Stock Exchange) offers an outstanding collection of several hundred thousand photos — many of them high quality — taken by amateur photographers around the world. Images are searchable in a number of ways, with decent-size thumbnails available for convenient browsing. Usage rights spell out the terms under which photos may be downloaded for immediate reuse.
organizes its collection of 60,000-plus free high-resolution photographs into searchable categories like People, Scenes, Animals or Objects. “The purpose of this site is to provide free image reference material for use in all creative pursuits.” The quality of the images is generally high.
is an online photographic museum with about 100,000 works. The site requires crediting the photographer and Visipix.com. You can explore photos in various ways, including browsing, keyword searches, numerous other search methods, and a Java tool that lets you easily zoom in and out. Alas, the odd-looking site doesn’t always make clear which images may be freely reproduced.
All photos on Public-Domain-Photos
are public domain. Images may be used for any purpose, including commercial use, but care is necessary when using photos that contain logos and products.
is the source for quality, high-res free stock photos and images. Registered users can download and use Photogen stock photos for free, both for commercial and personal projects.
The Open Photo Project
lets users search images by Creative Commons license. The stock photo community and platform, devised by Michael Jastremski, offers a user-friendly browsing experience, a platform with open-source elements, and a hosting option that gives photographers visibility for their works.
offers a deep online library of images that may be reused for free in both personal and commercial works. The site’s image directory displays hi-res images of people, places, animals, plants, objects and so on.
is a stock photo repository that offers medium-size images from both professional and amateur photographers for personal or non-commercial use. The site offers browsing by subject categories and contains more than 8.000 royalty-free images, some of them eye-catching.
49PM Photo Search
The free online service 49PM Photo Search
lets you search for photos that can be instantly viewed and saved on your Java-enabled mobile phone. It also summons up photo summary information and some location-based data. The service is hooked into Yahoo!’s image search, which indexes millions of photos. It also formats photos before sending them to your phone.
photo sharing community lets members upload images from their mobile phones and to post, syndicate and republish digital photos to their blogs. Tagging simplifies the process of image searching. Many of the photos here are personal photos that capture small or offbeat moments.
is a repository of photos, some in the public domain
and some not. Many of the 2,000-plus photos have been taken by a single photographer, Jon Sullivan. Check the licensing terms for any image you want to reuse — and don’t assume that a model release
has been obtained for any people you want to include in a commercial work. Also, pictures showing products should be used with discretion.
‘s photo archive contains more than 27,000 free images from three sources: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Users looking for pictures related to space, land, water, animals and plants will be dazzled by this collection. The photos are copyright free, though some restrictions may apply.
National Park Service
The National Park Service
offers a collection of thousands of free images. Just credit the photo as “NPS Photo” or “NPS Photo by (photographer’s name)”. The photographs are of scenes at parks such as Grand Canyon National Park
, including animals, fire, geology, park structures, special events and more.
USDA ARS Image Gallery
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service Image Gallery
contains more than 2,000 digital photographs related to agriculture, ranging from Web-friendly 72dpi images to 300dpi digital images suitable for print. Each thumbnail is accompanied by captions with info about the image.
offers more than 2,000 free images for use in commercial and non-commercial work. The easy-to-use site lets you search or browse photos by category and subcategory. Right-click on an image to save it. Higher-resolution images are available for a fee.
A resource created by British photographer Ian Britton, FreeFoto
offers more than 100,000 photos — but only for personal noncommercial use as well as a requirement to credit the photographer. Britton’s global travels are chronicled on his blog
offers a quality photo collection that’s global in scope, with 23,000 images taken in more than 4,300 cities. You can search by city, country, keywords or photographer to find photos. One cool feature includes a world map, which displays images from cities you click. Categories include people, animals, culture, landmarks and objects.
offers an image archive of more than 5,000 photos for commercial and non-commercial use in projects and products.
Pictures from Old Books
The Pictures from Old Books
collection contains more than 800 images scanned from old books that are public_domain unless otherwise noted. The site offers drawings and pictures of castles, abbeys and old houses. And, unlike many other sites, it’s rich in metadata, spelling out the source, place shown, keywords, dimensions and notes.
AMG Media Works
AMG Media Works
is a design and photography company that offers free, offbeat stock photos. The eclectic subjects include cool object photos, funky stuff, tabletop objects, desktop objects, fruits and vegetables and flowers. You’ll need to credit the photographer, Ernest von Rosen.
If you’re looking for an image of a specific subject, give Wikipedia
a try. All images in the free online encyclopedia are available for both personal and commercial use. Click on an image to read its description and rules for reuse.
offers a twist on the usual photo gallery site: If you can’t find a picture you need, submit a free request and the site’s cadre of volunteer photographers may fulfill it.
Dozens of other sites offer images with a wide range of reuse options. Here are a few:
• Free Photographs Network
• DHD Multimedia Gallery
• Design Packs
• Free Large Photos
• Free Stock Photos
• Free Stock Photos from Cepolina Photos
• Holy Land Photos
• Aarin Free Photo and Digital Images
Sources: This piece borrows from our friend Robin Good’s writeups at his Masternewmedia blog. (Thank you, Robin.)
• Socialbrite: Free Video Directory: license-free video, music and sounds
• Socialbrite: Free Music Directory: license-free music and sounds
• A few more free stock photo sites (Photoshop Support)
• Google Image Search
• Yahoo! Image Search
• Ask.com Picture Search
• MSN Image Search
• AltaVista Image Search
Note: Most images found through image search engines are copyrighted.
Please comment on, correct or expand upon this article.
• Top 10 sites for free or low-cost photos (Socialbrite)
• Free Music Directory (Socialbrite)
• Free Video Directory (Socialbrite)
JD Lasica works with nonprofits, social change organizations and businesses on social media strategies. See his profile, visit his business blog, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.