There are a few places you can find royalty-free LEGAL images on the web. As a small business owner, your website and blog can no longer be deemed “personal.” Consequently, you can no longer just post any photo you find on the web, lest you feel like getting sued. So what do you do when there isn’t a budget for stock photography? Find legal images that are free to use on business and commercial sites.
Where Should You Start?
If you haven’t heard of it yet, Creative Commons can be your best friend. If you’ve never heard of it before, you’ve probably taken advantage of it’s existence if you’ve ever downloaded an image or video from one of the free sites I mentioned the other day.
From their website, “Creative Commons helps you legally share your knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world.” Scroll down that page and you’ll see places you can find Creative Commons assets and the TYPES of assets that can be shared and used under a CC license.
The organization has been around since 2001. Things have gotten much better and MUCH easier from when I was a high school multimedia teacher trying to teach my students why, where and how to find legal images they could use in their multimedia and graphics projects. Back then, there wasn’t places like all the sites I shared the other day. So pickin’s were slim and far between.
So we’re lucky that Creative Commons has been around as long as it has, and so many people know about it and want to share their work with the rest of us. But you need to understand how to use assets and resources shared under a Creative Commons license. You need to understand what you’re getting and the right and legal ways to use anything that have been shared with you.
Creative Commons Has Six Licenses
To get started, check out this video created by Creative Commons that helps explain what and why they do it, and how it benefits all of us.
Attribution – With the Attribution license, you can use the image in any way you see fit. The only thing you’re required to do is give credit to the artist or photographer who is providing the photo. Pretty cool and the most lenient license out there.
Attribution (NoDerivatives) – Similar to the previous license, you can use this content commercially. However, you cannot change or edit it in any way. It must used “as-is.”
Attribution (ShareAlike) – Another great license that allows you to use the shared resources commercially. With this one you CAN edit or change the photo. But you cannot SELL the art or image you create. You must also share the image with others under the same CC license in which it was shared with you.
The remaining three Creative Commons license cannot be used on your business website so there’s no point in me talking about them here. But for personal or educational use, they are Attribution-NonCommercial, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives and Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.
How to Find Images With a Creative Commons License
The first place to look is Google Image Search and use their advanced image search feature. The image to the left shows where to find this search feature. Just look under the “Settings” tab and scroll down to “Advanced Search.”
Once there, scroll down to the most important part of this page in terms of helping you find legal images for your business website.
It’s all the way down at the bottom under “usage rights. When you’re searching for an image for your business, make certain you choose a license that isn’t restricted. Your best bet is “Free to use or share, or modify, even commercially.” By doing so, the images that will come up in the search are designated specifically with a Creative Commons license for commercial use or photos in the public domain.
The images that appear now under your search will have been shared under a Creative Commons license, and more than likely under one of the sites I shared with you the other day, Wikimedia Commons, or Flickr. Yes! Flickr. I bet you didn’t know the huge website with all those beautiful images actually has images you can use legally on your business website! But you have to know where to look.
Flickr Creative Commons
Remember, when you want to use one of the photos on Flickr Creative Commons, you need to make certain the photographer has specifically designated it “for commercial use.” When you land on the Flickr Creative Commons page, you’ll notice they have separated these photos out based on the CC license chosen by the photographer.
Again, stay clear of any photos shared under a non-commercial license. So browse or search the correct Creative Commons license and give credit to the artist or photographer.
If you want to be able to SEARCH and not just browse the photos under a specific license, click the “See more” link under each license and then search for photos shared on Flickr under that license.
So! With this new knowledge in hand there is no excuse for your blogs and web pages to have no images on them or even worse, UGLY images. It’s a little more work to find free images that you are legally allowed to use. But its the right thing to do in terms of not stealing someone else’s work AND….you won’t be sued. So carry on, have fun, and make those blog posts more interesting and pretty by adding a bit of visual interest to your content.