5 Sources for Free and Legal Images

Filed as Guides on October 6, 2008 9:01 am

Everyone knows that almost any blog post is better with images. However, getting them can be a difficult matter. With a maze of licensing and fair use issues making it hard to decide what is and is not legal to use, many bloggers don’t wish to use images that they have not taken themselves.

But while using your own images is always the best way to go, there are several great sources to help you find and locate images that you can use as part of your blog posts. In fact, there are some very neat tools designed specifically to help you correctly license and use other people’s photography, art and more.

The best part of all is that these tools are free. They will not cost you a dime to use and, if used correctly, can let you fill up your blog posts with as many images as your heart desires.

Photo Dropper

Photo Dropper is hands down one of my favorite WordPress plugins. Not only does it make excellent use of Creative Commons-licensed photos, but it solves one of the biggest problems with CC licensing, incomplete compliance with the terms of the license.

Photo Dropper is extremely simple to use. Simply install it in your WordPress plugins, activate it, set your options and then, on the “Write Post” page you can either click the “PD” icon next to the other media items or scroll down below the post entry box.

From there, you’ll be able to search for keywords related to your post. Photo Dropper will then search Flickr for Creative Commons-licensed works that might fit with your description. When you find one you like, you select the size you want and Photo Dropper inserts it into your post, complete with a CC-compliant attribution line.

Photo Dropper may take some fiddling to get relevant images and you might have to tweak the HTML to get it to fit well in your posts. However, it is still by far the easiest way to insert legal images into your posts.

Zemanta

Zemanta is a Firefox extension/IE plugin that integrates itself with most major blogging platforms, including both self-installed and hosted WordPress blogs, Blogger accounts, MovableType and more. When the user pulls up their blog’s editing interface, they are presented with related links, stories, tags and images that they can use with the post.

The advantage of Zemanta is that its images come from a variety of sources including public domain sources, Creative Commons sources, including Flickr, and other sources that license their images for use at low resolution. This provides a much greater variety of images to the user and it automatically performs a license-compliant insertion of the image into the post.

The drawback to Zemanta is that it can make modifications to the post beyond what is selected. You may need to go through your post’s HTML code thoroughly after insertion to be certain that nothing unwanted was inserted.

GumGum

While the sources above are great for those that need abstract photographs or just something quirky to go with a story, finding an image to go with a news or politics story can be very tricky. Fortunately there are also a series of services to help with that, including GumGum.

The service allows publishers to search through related images and then embed interesting photos as a line of JavaScript code. Why JavaScript? Because that is how GumGum provides the service for free, using the JavaScript to both protect the image and display ads on top of it.

This use of ads is what may upset many. Where Photo Dropper and Zamanta don’t display ads, GumGum does. Also, the use of JavaScript may prevent the image from showing up in some RSS readers. These drawbacks, along with the need to apply for an account, are but a small price to pay for high-quality images.

Update: GumGum has clarified this article and said that they only require a one-time JavaScript insertion and then grant access to the full images, this negates many of these drawbacks. There is also a pay-per view model that allows you to skip the ads and just pay every time the image is displayed.

PicApp

Similar to GumGum, PicApp lets you search through newsworthy images to find ones that might interest you and then lets you embed the one that works best as a JavaScript. However, PicApp also lets you search for “creative” as well as “editorial” images, giving you a slightly wider variety.

PicApp comes with many of the same concerns and drawbacks as GumGum and uses a similar advertising model to pay for the free service. PicApp, however, does not require you to register for the service and you can begin embedding images from the very first time you visit.

Whether you use PicApp or GumGum will likely be a matter of personal preference as the two sites largely fill the same niche. It comes down to which site has the best images for your content and which embeds you prefer.

Voxant Newsroom

Voxant Newsroom is another service that functions similar to GumGum or PicApp, letting users embed content, this time as a Flash app. But this service, unlike the former two, get their images exclusively from major mainstream media outlets including the Associated Press, CBS News and more.

As neat as Voxant is, I previously covered it in my broader article about getting free content for your site, there is not much flexibility regarding the layout of the embedded images. However, the site does offer a variety of content, including video and articles, all from major news sources.

Once again you and your visitors will be putting up with advertisements over the media, at least in many cases, but what is more likely a deal breaker for many is that the layouts of the images may not fit in many blog layouts and are often too large to go neatly with posts.

This is definitely one to consider though and see if it can work for you.

Conclusions

The bottom line is this, content licensing is hard, even with Creative Commons. Fortunately though, there are a series of sites that have come up to do the hard work for you and let you easily and legally use images with your blog posts.

In addition to these sites, there are also a slew of stock photography sites that let you download and use photographs and images for free or a small license. However, they generally provide no help with the insertion process and, if there are licensing terms, provide little help in complying with them.

A solution such as these tools can help not only keep your site legal, but speed up the writing process dramatically, saving you time and money.

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  1. By Jeremy Wright posted on October 6, 2008 at 12:26 pm
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    Hard to believe picapp.com isn’t on this list. It has by far the largest image library.

    Reply

  2. By Jeremy Wright posted on October 6, 2008 at 12:27 pm
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    Ignore me. You did, lol.

    Reply

  3. By Jonathan Bailey posted on October 6, 2008 at 1:06 pm
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    Jeremy: Lol. I understand, I do it all the time. If I had created this list without Picapp, I probably would have been run out of town…

    Reply

  4. By gWallet posted on October 9, 2008 at 1:44 am
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    Glad to see Zemanta on the list here. Not only is it a great source for images (which, granted can sometimes flummox your layout), but their ‘related posts’ feature is a great way to set trackbacks, garner links, and help promote other great articles across the blogosphere.

    Thanks for the others, going to have to check them out today.

    Reply

  5. By Rahul posted on October 10, 2008 at 4:33 am
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    These are great sites. I am rather a newbie to all these sites. Thanks a lot for sharing this awesome list.

    Btw, congrats on making on the top of delicious.com

    Cheers.

    Reply

  6. By Susan posted on October 11, 2008 at 9:19 am
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    Wow, this is VERY helpful. Thanks for this list.

    Reply

  7. By Abby Bob posted on October 15, 2008 at 9:06 pm
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    Congratulations, Jonathan. Making a post on the top of delicious.com is my dream :-)

    There is new website, acobox.com, addressing the image problem in an approach that is totally different from the sites you mentioned – it collects properly licensed images, hosts those images, and allows user to hotlink the images. That really releases bloggers from tedious image work .

    This is a new site just released. We sincerely invite you to try it and give your comments and suggestions. Thank you.

    Reply

  8. By St. Dave posted on October 16, 2008 at 10:11 am
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    Don’t forget the Morgue File — tons of free photos, wide range of subjects, free for commercial and non-commercial use.

    Reply

  9. By honey penny posted on October 19, 2008 at 7:42 pm
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    hey very cool! thanks for the tip! :)

    Reply

  10. By Dwayne from Probably Sucks Blog posted on October 19, 2008 at 10:00 pm
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    A very impressive and useful resource. This will come in handy for my blog posts, when I require images for them.

    It will also come in handy for finding images I can exploit and use to insult and humiliate people on my blog with as well.

    Thanks again.

    Dwayne.
    http://probablysucks.com

    Reply

  11. By Brian K posted on October 20, 2008 at 11:03 am
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    No Stock Xchange?? That’s by far my favorite (www.sxc.hu)

    Reply

  12. By Michael posted on October 27, 2008 at 11:14 am
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    Thanks for putting this together and sharing. I’m sure I’ll find it handy going forward.

    Reply

  13. By LAlegaldefender posted on October 29, 2008 at 6:50 pm
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    Good site for image resources! At least there’s a site like this where one can get images and used it without fear of getting sued.

    Reply

  14. By Ryan Martin posted on December 6, 2008 at 5:48 pm
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    Images are difficult to acquire for blog posts and websites. I try to bring my camera with me all the time and shoot photos of random things as well as blog ideas that I have in mind. With that said, there is always a need for more photos. I will have to check out the WordPress plug-in.

    Reply

  15. By gary posted on March 3, 2009 at 11:48 pm
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    thanks for this list.. bit late finding it!

    Reply

  16. By matt posted on March 20, 2009 at 10:14 am
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    Sweet! Thanks for this guide. I am working on a site where I will offer book reviews. Is there a place on the net where I can legally get pictures of the cover of these books. I could go to amazon an just lif tthe thumbnails but want to be legal. I would think it would be in the publishers interest to create a repository of sorts. Any ideas?

    thanks again for sharing your experience.

    Reply

  17. By Hi posted on March 23, 2009 at 5:05 pm
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    I recommend this great site public-domain-image.com

    “Public domain images, royalty free stock photos. All photos on this site are top quality high resolution public domain images. They are explicitly placed in the public domain. Use them freely for personal and commercial use. Largest image archive, several thousand photos in high resolution, nicely organized hierarchically in folders, easy to browse, all are public domain images, and all are 100% free for download.”

    “http://www.public-domain-image.com Public domain images, several thousand photos nicely organized in folders, free for personal and commercial use.”

    Reply

  18. By Christian Louboutin posted on July 30, 2009 at 5:53 pm
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    Images are difficult to acquire for blog posts and websites. I try to bring my camera with me all the time and shoot photos of random things as well as blog ideas that I have in mind. With that said, there is always a need for more photos. I will have to check out the WordPress plug-in

    Reply

  19. By sam posted on August 26, 2009 at 8:49 am
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    thanks for sharing! it is hard for blogger to find free picture. sometimes and even purchase from some online photo store which charges me $2 for just ONE photo with low pixel.

    Reply

  20. By Alex posted on August 26, 2009 at 11:57 pm
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    Another free collection of nice images under a public domain license: http://4freephotos.com

    Reply

  21. By Jamie Allsop posted on August 27, 2009 at 2:33 pm
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    Thanks for sharing this list. It is difficult for designers to find images which they can use on their blogs and websites.

    Reply

  22. By lhoylhoy posted on October 5, 2009 at 3:43 pm
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    stock exch not included? i use their images in my free templates!

    Reply

  23. By international law firms posted on November 17, 2009 at 10:37 am
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    From my personal experience, I have realised how important it is to hire services from only reliable law firms specialising in specific legal areas. To share my experience, once, I got stuck with a long term parental property issue and there was no hope to overcome all the legal matters. Thereafter, I searched a law firm directory; from the directory I hired a property disputes lawyer who has capable enough to solve my legal disputes within short span. Thanks to the internet which now offers every piece of information and has opened up 1000s options!

    Reply

  24. By Inspiration posted on September 7, 2010 at 11:13 am
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    Fabulous list of sites. I’m constantly looking for quality photos for my blog, and this has helped. Thanks so much. I’d like to add flickr as a great site for plenty of free images too.

    Reply

  25. By Nisha Shah posted on October 1, 2010 at 5:27 am
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    Great post ! Lots of useful sites here. Big thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  26. By Adam posted on November 7, 2010 at 3:51 am
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    This is a really great list Im alwasy looking for free to use images. Until know I have been using http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/ may be good to ad to your list.

    Reply

  27. By Joan posted on November 7, 2010 at 1:09 pm
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    Hey Jonathan,

    Although this post was written quite some time ago it is still relevant to what currently happens, one is never sure as to just what you may or may not place on your site. I normally end up trying to create my own for this very reason and end up losing a lot of time on occasion – Alas Time Is Money. So thanks I trust the sites mentioned are still available, will take a look!

    Reply

  28. By johnricort111 posted on November 20, 2010 at 3:54 pm
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    • This conversation is going no where. It’s lacking the place of a good leader to head the things to come out on conclusion.

    **********

    johnricort111

    Lawyer

    Reply

  29. By Sam posted on November 22, 2010 at 1:33 am
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    What a great list! This is awesome. Thanks for putting these resources together. I also found http://www.photoandbeyond.com very helpful.

    Reply

  30. By upin posted on December 14, 2010 at 9:56 am
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    yeah,,,
    photoandbeyond.com its very cool
    So thanks I trust the sites mentioned are still available, will take a look!

    Reply

  31. By Athens posted on December 2, 2013 at 7:13 pm
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    I always find free photos from here http://www.barior.com

    Reply

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