Use Images freely & legally: Where to Search for them

If you’re peeking for images that you can repurpose for one of your assignments and aren’t able to take a shot yourself, there are a ton of free ideas you can use online without running into copyright issues — you have to know where to look.

It’s worth mentioning that when exploring for free images, you’ll usually come across the Creative Commons (CC) license that allows you to use an image for free.

But relying on the type of CC license an image has, some limitations may need you to credit the original artist or stop you from producing modifications to the picture.

That’s why it’s still important to read up on the license it keeps before using an image. You can find more attributes on the differences between distinctive CC licenses here.

Now, let’s analyze all the additional ways you can find free images.

There’s a typical misconception that you can’t legally reuse the images you discover on Google Images. While this may be valid when you accomplish a general search, Google has methods to narrow down your consequences based on photo usage rights. Here’s how to do that:

  • Select “Creative Commons licenses” from the “Tools” dropdown menu.
  • Go to Google Images, and type in the photo you’re looking for.
  • Choose Tools > Usage Rights, and then select Creative Commons licenses.
  • Google will then display pictures that have been licensed underneath Creative Commons.

Before you reuse an image, check the type of CC license it utilizes, which you can generally find by relating to the image’s source.

One of the most effortless ways to find an image that’s free to utilize is to search for one on a stock photo site, like Pexels, Unsplash, or Pixabay. The photos on these sites are free, and delivering credit to the artist is optional (although it’s still a pleasant thing to do).

You’re also free to adjust the images for commercial and non-commercial pursuits, but you can’t sell the photos without significant modification. You can understand more about what you can and can’t do with these photos on every site’s licensing page: Pexels, Pixabay, Unsplash.

For this example, let’s try and understand how to find images using Unsplash. The actions are exact, no matter which site you choose.

  • In Unsplash, you beat the arrow next to “Download free” to select a resolution.
  • Open Unsplash, and explore for an image.
  • When you discover a photo you like, plug the dropdown indicator to the right of the Download free switch in the top-right corner of the window to select the resolution in which you expect to download the image.

While the process isn’t the same for all the stock image sites, the steps are still quite similar.

Wikimedia Commons, a website owned by the exact nonprofit that drives Wikipedia, is another incredible place to find free images. Unfortunately, while all the photos here are free to use, they have additional licenses with different usage needs.

  • You can search for more information about an image’s license by clicking on it.
  • To get started, open Wikimedia Commons and enter a find in the top-right corner of the screen.
  • From here, click the License dropdown to filter images by restrictions that come with their license. Use with attribution and same permission; use with attribution, No limits, or Other.
  • When choosing an image, you can see which CC license it uses and learn more about potential restrictions by tapping on the given web link.

If you still can’t discover the image you’re looking for, Flickr is a great alternative. Unfortunately, not every photo here is free to use, so ensure to toggle the license you require in the Any license dropdown to narrow your search.

The Library of Congress has an exclusive digital set of free photos you can employ. As noted on its site, it holds content that it thinks is “in the public domain, has no known copyright, or has been earned by the copyright owner for public use.”

You may not discover generic stock images here, but it’s a good resource if you’re looking for historical photos of landmarks, notable people, artwork, and more. Here’s how to use it:

  • You may search for “Empire State Building” using the “Prints, Photos, and Drawings” filter.
  • Unlock the Library of Congress’ free picture database.
  • When you come to the homepage, you’ll notice accessible image packs bundled by category, like “Natural Disaster,” “Birds,” and “Independence Day.”
  • Employ the search bar at the edge of the screen to dig for a specific image. You can filter the content you’re exploring by category, like “Maps,” “Newspapers,” “3D Objects,” and “Photos, Prints, Drawings,” with the dropdown menu to the left of the bar. You can also select “Everything” to search through its complete database.
  • After choosing an image you like, select the image resolution you favor from the Download dropdown menu under the image, and choose Go.

If you scroll down the page, you can hit the Plus icons beside Rights & Access to understand more about the limitations of employing the image.

If you still haven’t discovered the image you’re looking for, there are libraries, educational institutions, museums, and more that deliver open-access photos you can use:

  • The Smithsonian: Smithsonian unrestricted permit delivers millions of copyright-free prints of art, landscapes, wildlife, architecture, and much more. As stated on its FAQ page, all photos here are in the public domain.
  • National Gallery of Art: If you’re mainly looking for free artwork that you can reuse, inspect the NGA’s collection. Each image is in the public domain, allowing you to modify, copy, and distribute any picture.
  • Art Institute of Chicago: You can dig for more art in the public domain via the Art Institute of Chicago. When you scan its collection, tick off the Public Domain filter under the Show Only dropdown on the left portion of the screen before initiating your quest.
  • New York Public Library: The NYPL also offers many historical images, like the Library of Congress’ collection, that you can browse through and download. When you search for a photo, check off the Search only public domain materials option when you tap the search bar.
  • Creative Commons Openverse: Creative Commons, the nonprofit that created the CC license, contains an open-source search engine that you can employ to discover free images. All the photos here are either in the public domain or hold a CC license. Ensure to check the detailed image’s license before reusing it.