Finding the right image for the job can be challenging. While I endeavour to use my own photos in my work, for a range of reasons it is often not possible to shoot the shot I need myself. Cue image banks!
During my time as a photographer, I shot a range of stock photos for my employer who would submit them to Getty Stock image libraries and if ever the images were purchased we received a royalty. It was cool to have images accepted by Getty, but also very expensive for the person purchasing the image. Dreams of a huge passive income and early retirement faded and that BMW is still in the shop. Which brings me to free image banks.
This week I will be going budget-friendly, covering free and copyright-free image banks I use in my day to day work that help me create engaging, vibrant and illustrative learning resources.
You can read more about the free image banks I use below, then take a look at the activities under ‘Try’, and finally, please share your thoughts and comments with us under ‘Share’.
- Explore Unsplash, or any of the image banks I have listed, download an image you love and then upload it to your blog, website or even your Twitter feed, with some words explaining why you chose the photo, and add the image attribution to show some love to the very kind and talented photographer that has shared their work.
- Go to Google Images, search for an image, click ‘Tools’ and try the different ‘Usage rights’ options.
- After exploring the image banks linked in this post, venture out into the wilds of the internet and find another free image bank that you like and share it in the comments below.
“A picture is worth a thousand words”
As a young photographer, this quote, variously attributed to Frederick Barnard or Arthur Brisbane (Martin, 2019) captured me. I am a firm believer that the right image can capture our attention, help tell a story and assist in getting the message across to the audience more efficiently and effectively. Take a quick look around social media today and you can see the power of imagery at work. Be it memes, gifs, emoji or a simple photo, it is clear that the visual element is key in the communication methods of today.
With that in mind, I would like to share with you some of the fantastic free, and copyright-free, image banks that I have compiled while trawling the internet over the past few years.
First up is the obvious one, Google images. We’ve all done it. You need a photo fast for a project you have to complete. Google it! But did you know that the large majority of images returned in your search will be covered by copyright? Thankfully, Google allows us to filter image searches to show only copyright-free images. In the below example I am looking for an image I can modify so I have selected the ‘Labeled for reuse with modification’ option from the ‘Tools’ drop-down menu.
While Google is an easy way to search for images, it may not be your best option.
If you are looking for an image where you have permission for use, and particularly if you wish to modify it, the Creative Commons Image Search is a great resource. Keep in mind there are many different types of Creative Commons licenses so I suggest you read more about them here. You will need to attribute the owner of the image so for information on attributing work using Creative Commons licenses, I suggest visiting the ‘How to attribute Creative Commons licenses materials page’ here.
Tip: If you intend to modify the creative commons image I recommended clicking the ‘Modify or adapt’ option on the Creative Commons Image Search page before starting your search.
How can such a great resource like Pixabay be legal? Through the kind sharing of it’s 33,000+ active photographers Pixabay now boasts over one million high-quality stock images and videos that are completely free to use. A range of sizes is available and according to Pixabay’s FAQ ‘You can copy, modify, distribute, and use the images, even for commercial purposes, all without asking for permission or giving credits to the artist.’ Of course, I would recommend that always attribute the work by using the Pixabay provided attribution option page.
Flickr is a free photo-sharing website with an active user community. Users can upload their own photos, create image libraries, browse and add comments and annotations, follow people and organisations or join groups. The social aspect of Flickr has helped foster a thriving user community and the depth of imagery available is impressive. Flickr provides some images for use under Flickr Commons but also provides a range of privacy settings for users allowing them to control how their photos can be used. You can download photos from Flickr without an account but to get the most value, sign up for a free account and explore the full suite of options available. Try a photo search filter by colour!
Flickr groups are a great place to share ideas and photos with other users who may share similar interests. I have listed some of my favourite Flickr groups below.
Digital Photography School (I recommend this group for any budding photographer looking for inspiration and advice)
CSIRO Science Image
Presented by CSIRO, Australia’s major science research organisation, science image is an image library specialising in science and nature images. All images are free to download under a Creative Commons license.
I stumbled across CSIRO’s Science Image library while searching for imagery for a Conservation & Land Management project. While it doesn’t have a huge catalogue, the 4,000+ good quality images and videos span subjects that are often difficult to find online for copyright-free use.
Unsplash is one of my favourite and most used image banks. Take one look at the website and you will understand why I and the team here at CDU’s 23 Digital Things love it. The creativity displayed by the 150,000+ Unsplash photographers is outstanding, and all images are completely copyright free to use. Search for free high-resolution photos or check out their many cool and quirky collections like ‘Good Doggos of Unsplash’ (tell me you didn’t smile!).
With an Unsplash account (not mandatory) you will be able to download photos, submit your own photos, follow photographers, like photos and create your own collections of the photos.
One of the great features of Unsplash is that while you don’t have to credit the photographers, Unsplash provides a neat attribution tool. It’s easy to show a little love!
We’d love to hear about your favourite image banks or Unsplash collections. Share what you’ve found in the comments below.
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