There are many places on the web where you can find images that have been licensed in such a way that you can use, share and/or modify them without requesting permission. Most of these images are made available under Creative Commons licenses. Ideally when you use an image licensed under Creative Commons you should attribute (in the way specified by the creator), indicate the license type and provide a link to the work. If you want more details, this wikihow page goes into greater depth.
Here are a few ways that you can search for Creative Commons (CC) images on a few popular web sites.
To search Flickr for CC images, use the advanced search option. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and select the type of Creative Commons images that you want to find.
If you want content you can modify or mash-up or use commercially, select the appropriate sub-options, otherwise just go with “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content”. Any search you do from this point in your browser session will give you CC images. You should see the following at the top of your search results:
To search Google for Creative Commons licensed images, you will need to use the Advanced Image Search page. Scroll down to the bottom where you will see the following:
Click on the drop-down arrow and select the type of images you would like. You have the following options:
- not filtered by license
- free to use or share
- free to use or share, even commercially
- free to use, share or modify
- free to use, share or modify, even commercially
Wikipedia Media Commons
Wikipedia Media Commons is a database of 16,370,108 (as of today) freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute. In addition to images it also contains sound and video files. You can browse the Commons for featured photos, or search by keyword. Once you have found an image that you like, click on the thumbnail or title of the image to get to the page that provides you with detailed information about how you can use the image. Each image will have a Permission (using this file) section. This will tell you re-use options. Here are a couple of examples:
Allowing Others to Use your Images
In the spirit of openness you might want to allow others to use your images. There are many ways to do this. Here are just a couple.
Wikipedia Media Commons
The Wikipedia Media Commons is looking for people to contribute images. They are not just looking for photographs, they are also looking for people to contribute diagrams and to help with the upkeep of the site. More information can be found on the main Wikipedia Media Commons Page.
My photo recently licensed as Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
In Flickr you can set the license on your photos to allow re-use. By default Flickr sets the most restrictive license on your photos (all rights reserved), but you can change this default in your settings, in the privacy and permissions tab, under defaults for new uploads. If you change this default you need to be sure that everything you upload is your work.
If you prefer, you can change permissions on individual photos in Flickr. When viewing the image, you will see an owner settings box as follows:
Click on the edit beside All Rights Reserved to change the permissions on the photo.
Other Places to Find Images
There are lots of other resources that you can find re-usable media files. Let me know if you have a favourite.