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5 Ways to get free images for use in your designs

5 Ways to get free images for use in your designs

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Sometimes buying images for use in your designs can be costly, yet it is images that can make or break a design. Luckily there are a few (legal) ways in which to get free images…

Making your page visually pleasing, as well as informative, will help to generate more notice of your site and incoming links, in turn generating traffic and increasing your page’s popularity with search engines.

There are a variety of places that you can choose to download or hotlink to pictures. Online image banks are often the easiest, though you can also choose some search engines to help you find the perfect image for your design.

Sourcing good copyright-free images online can be a pain and if you want to play nicely it’s always worth checking that the picture you’re using is legit. Knowing a few tricks will make the process a lot easier.

01. Google

Creative Commons will help you discover copyright-free images
The first place to start is of course Google. If you do a simple Google image search chances are you’ll find some nice pictures, but not have any idea if they’re copyright-free or not. Whilst most people would do a normal Google Image Search, Creative Commons will help you source the copyright free images.

The alternative licence has a nifty search tool that allows you to search places like Google Images, Flickr, Fotopedia, and Open Clip Art Library. You can also search for other media like music on the Creative Commons website.

You can search Flickr, Fotopedia, and more, as well as Google Images

02. Flickr

Flickr allows a more in-depth search than through Creative Commons
Now why Flickr again you might wonder, since Creative Commons allows you to do a simple key-word search on Flickr through their website.

Flickr has a few tools that might help if you’re looking for something very specific like an event or a person. With the help of their advanced search you can find creative commons images and users taking copyright-free photos of events, places or celebrities.

You can also start building a library of favourites that will make it a lot easier to grab pictures quickly. Make sure to link back to the photographer.

You’d be surprised what you can grab for free… but link back to the photographer

03. Free stock-photo websites

Stock.xchng is now owned by Getty and has a large selection of free photos
There are plenty of stock-photo websites out there. Stock.xchnge (now owned by Getty Images) is one of the more popular ones with around 400,000 photos taken by amateur photographers around the world. But not all photos are free and it’s worth checking the terms as photographers can choose how they want their images to be used.

Morguefile and Stockvault are other similar resources, although Stockvault only allows images to be used non-commercially. Free Digital Photos is a good source for more classic type stock photos of laughing businessmen and the like – again not all images are free.

04. Copyright-free books and CDs

Dan Hillier creates his engravings using copyright-free illustrations
There are plenty of books and CDs out there full of images and illustrations that are out of copyright. London bookshop Dover Books is a great place to stock up on these books or to get the title and find them somewhere else.

Most images are quite different to what you might find on Flickr or a free stock-photo website. These books contain anything form old medical illustrations to Victorian engravings. They are also great resources for patterns and vectors. The Victorian engravings are popular with artists like Dan Hillier who creates his work using copyright-free illustrations.

05. Ask the internet

If in dopubt, ask your friends! Social media has opened up avenues to copyright-free image use
Still struggling to find the right photo? You can do what newsrooms have done for years, ask the public. Both the BBC and the Guardian have sections on their website showcasing photos from readers.

If you’re looking for a very specific image it might just be worth seeing if the internet can help you out. Ask your Twitter followers. Find a blogger in the city you need a picture from. Ask a Swede to take a picture of some rag rugs. Ask your friends on Facebook.

As long as you ask nicely and promise a link to the photographer you will probably get your picture. Although if you’re still struggling, just go out and take your own photo.

Here are a few other Sources for copyright free images:

  • Bigfoto.com offers pictures from around the world, including America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and Pacific. Each main category has subcategories, for instance “aviation,” which allows you to choose from pictures in a certain theme.
  • Fotogenika.net has photos for free download for personal, educational, and nonprofit use. However, you cannot use them commercially, sell them, or claim authorship. The site is well organized, and it includes categories such as architecture, animals, people, and textures.
  • FreeDigitalPhotos.net has over 2000 free images that you can use in commercial and noncommercial work. You are not allowed to sell, redistribute, or claim these images as your own. You can browse by category or search for exactly what you need.
  • FreePhotosBank.com allows users to have non-exclusive, non-transferable license to images. You can search for photos, see which photos are the most popular, and which ones have the highest ratings or the most downloads.
  • FreeMediaGoo.com has a large collection of images, audio, textures, and other visual mediums that you can use for free with some restrictions. You do not even have to credit the images. The site also features some amazing digital images if you are looking for something different.
  • PhotoRogue.com offers a different concept. If you cannot find what you need, you can send a request. The service is free and uses volunteer photographers. If you like, you can also sign up for an RSS feed that will let you know when new images become available.
  • Picsearch.com is another option for those who are not sure exactly what they are seeking. Picseach is a search engine that crawls the web and indexes images. However, make sure that you see the site’s licensing terms or contact the copyright holder before you download pictures. You can edit your search by animation, color, or size to find exactly what you need.
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