Several readers have asked me where and how I find the photos I use with posts on this blog, so I thought I would share some tips and resources to help you find great images for your blog posts. In this post, we are going to talk about where to find photos and other images you can legally use. An upcoming post will discuss how to choose interesting images.
You should never just grab an image from someone else’s website or from a Google image search. Most of the images you discover that way are covered by copyright, and using them without permission is illegal (not to mention unethical).
What images may you legally use? There are many sources for images, including:
Photos you took;
Drawings and illustrations you created;
Images in the public domain;
Licensed images; and
Images the owners permit others to use.
First the easy one: If you took the photo or drew the picture, you own it and may use it any way you choose. There are a few caveats here, though. You may not draw a picture of a copyrighted character, or other image that has legal protection (such as Mickey Mouse or other cartoon characters). If you take a picture of people, you may need a model release to use the photo publicly. And you should never use a picture of a famous person (or anyone, for that matter) in a way that implies they have endorsed your product or service if they have not.
There are millions of images in the public domain. Photos and other images fall into the public domain because (1) the copyright has expired, (2) they were never eligible for copyright protection or (3) the owner has released the work into the public domain.
Copyright law varies from country to country, but in the United States, works created before 1923 are in the public domain. Works created by employees of the Federal government, as part of their duties, are generally not eligible for copyright. And there are people who give up their copyrights and allow their works to enter the public domain.
You can find images from the Federal government by doing a search at http://USA.gov/. Before using any photos or graphics from a government website, check the licensing or rights information on the site. Some images are not government works and are covered by copyrights.
Licensed images include photos and illustrations from stock photo collections. You may license individual images, buy CDs or DVDs containing image collections, or subscribe to a website such as ClipArt.com. When using licensed images, be sure to read the license. For example, some may not be used in commercial projects. Some may limit the number of images from the collection that may be used in one project.
There are many people who allow use of their photos under certain circumstances. They may require that you give them credit and/or a link, or that you get their permission before using the image. You can do a search of images you may use from flickr.com by doing a search at search.CreativeCommons.org. The terms of Creative Commons licenses vary, so read the license for the photo you want before using it. Make sure you properly attribute the images you use, according to the wishes of the copyright holder.
Images make your blog posts more interesting to readers. In an upcoming article, I will share tips on how to find the images that will grab the attention of your readers.