We all know that just because we find images online that we like, that we aren’t entitled to just use them. Just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s free. If you want to use a photograph you find online for your project, you need permission from the copyright owner. If not, you’re breaking the law.
Getting permission to use a photograph can take a lot of time and, depending on how you want to use it, can be pricey as well. Stock photography is often priced based on the number of times the image is going to be seen. And online your image could be seen a lot so prices can get up there.
If you’re looking around for free images I’m assuming you don’t have the budget for a professional photograph. A good photographer can often give you exactly the image you’re looking for in a format that works for print and online work. But if you don’t have the resources available but you do have the need for a photograph, what do you do?
Creative Commons: giving permission to use work
There’s a great licensing system called the Creative Commons. This system makes it simple for photographers and other creators to give others permission to use their work. There are several flavors of Creative Commons license. If you’re looking to use a photograph as part of your business communications, you will want to find images that fall within the “by” license. This lets you use a picture as long as you give credit to the creator–a pretty fair deal if you ask me.
Now that you know there are people who really want you to use their credited work in your project, you’ll want to find the picture you’re after. For this, the Creative Commons links out to services that have CC licenses. For example, the Flickr photo sharing site has a great Creative Commons image search engine. Use that instead of the generic Google Image Search if you’re looking for images to use in your project. Might as well use images people want you to use, right? You’ll also probably notice that the images on Flickr tend to be much higher quality than you’ll find by typing “free images” into Google.
iStockPhoto: reasonably priced royalty free creative stuff
If you don’t find what you’re looking for on Flickr, the next step is to head over to iStockPhoto and open up your wallet. It’s not too pricey, but it isn’t free either. More importantly, it isn’t stealing. The iStockPhoto service is especially useful if you’re looking for specific business-concept art and photography or visual metaphor stuff. Sometimes you can ask one of their contributors to take a specific kind of shot and they’ll do it. It’s a great alternative for those who can’t commit the resources to a dedicated photo shoot.
I hope this helps you all get pretty images into your projects without worrying about stealing.