Three Ways to Find Online Photos That You Can Freely Reuse

by Ostatic Staff - Aug. 06, 2009

From bloggers, to web designers, to people who work with offline content, finding photos that can be freely used online, without fear of copyright issues, is a shared problem. The trouble with randomly searching for photos from Flickr, Google or other sources is that the results often give you little information about rights and copyrights beyond the standard warning that copyrights may apply. However, there are a few image search engines that find photos on Flickr, and allow you to search for ones that won't embroil you in copyright problems. They search for Creative Commons-licensed photos, and you can sort by types of Creative Commons licenses. Here are the three ways to find free photos on Flickr, for open use, that I like.

Compfight is a search engine I use all the time for finding photos that are free and available to use online. CompFight adds much flexibility to the Flickr image search process. To the left of its search bar, you can choose to search only by tags for very targeted searches, or toggle for an All Text search. If you’re looking for images that you can reproduce without worrying about copyright issues, you can also use CompFight to restrict your searches to photos that fall under the Creative Commons license. And, you can toggle to a Commercial setting for commercially usable photos.

The Compfight search bar looks like this, with the toggle for Creative Commons-licensed images seen on the right:

Likewise, Flickr Storm is a great search engine for finding photos you're free to publish. At the site's home page, you'll initially be presented with a plain search field, but if you click on the "Advanced" link under that search field, you get a dailog box that gives you these options:

As you can see, Flickr Storm provides many options for types of photos you want to search for, including ones acceptable for commercial use, ones acceptable only for non-commercial use and more. If you don't understand the various options seen in the dialog box above, you can review the policies and terms of the various Creative Commons licenses here.

As covered here, the CCOOo extension for OpenOffice makes it very easy to find photos on Flickr that you want to use and automatically insert them where you want them to appear. Best of all, the extension searches only for images with Creative Commons licenses that allow for free use.

With a little knowledge of those licenses, and these three photo search methods, you can publish photos on your blog or site, or put them in documents, without fear of retribution.