Finding awesome photos to use on your website is grueling. Sure, there’s Google Image Search and swiping stuff the old fashioned way but, if your website is or will become as popular as you expect, that’ll eventually come back and chomp you on the haunches. The world is a small place – your ex dating your ex-BFF should have taught you that.
To find images that are truly free and intended for your use, you have to understand a bit about content licensing. Stick with me here – I’ll make it quick. The two key terms you want to look for are:
Public Domain – Any image listed as public domain is free for any use (web, print, commercial, personal, etc.) without the requirement to credit the artist. To be honest — there’ll be a lot to slog through before you find something you’ll want to use, but there are several tools to help dig in. Start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Public_domain_image_resources
(Barbara Hughes cutting a back flip with beach ball.
Public Domain Photo From State Library and Archives of Florida via Flickr)
Creative Commons – this search term will find you several different licenses. The one you will be looking for specifically is Attribution-Sharealike. These images will be of higher quality than those in the public domain. They will, however, come with the requirement that you attribute the image to the artist in the manner they specify. This can mean a watermark on the image itself, or a text link on your website. A small price to pay for free images if you ask me! Start here: http://search.creativecommons.org/
As you’re searching through images, pay attention to their specific licenses and be sure that they are free for personal and commercial use. Any site that offers items for sale counts as a commercial site – so CDs, merch and show tickets all count as commercial use.
In addition to Creative Commons and Public Domain searches, there are a number of private designers out there that release images, patterns, textures and layered photoshop files for use. Here are a few favorites:
Free Patterns and Textures:
WebTreats Etc. (http://webtreats.mysitemyway.com/) – hundreds of free backgrounds, patterns and textures.
Lost&Taken: (http://lostandtaken.com/) – often offers free, high quality backgrounds and textures
TextureLovers: (http://www.texturelovers.com/) – Artist has waived requirements for attribution, but appreciates it anyway.
SixRevisions: (http://sixrevisions.com/category/freebies/) – Free for personal and commercial use, no attribution required.
Designm.Ag: (http://designm.ag/freebies) – Free for personal and commercial use, no attribution required.
FudgeGraphics: (http://www.fudgegraphics.com/category/textures/) – Free textures and photoshop brushes.
Free Stock Photos for Your Website:
Morguefile: (http://www.morguefile.com/) – A stockpile of attribution-free images. Double-check the licenses to be sure.
EveryStockPhoto: (http://www.everystockphoto.com) – offers tons of attribution images though quality is questionable
Stock.Xchng: (http://www.sxc.hu/home) – ditto above.
Photos8: (http://photos8.com/) – High-quality, attribution-based images.
Free Image Resource Lists:
Knol: (http://knol.google.com/k/finding-free-photographs-for-commercial-use) – A larger list of free photo resources.
Meta-Wiki: (http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Free_image_resources) – Ditto above
Squidoo: (http://www.squidoo.com/copyright-free-pictures-for-commercial-use-no-attribution-) – Ditto, ditto. ;)
Whatever your needs, you’ll certainly find something to fulfill them above. Good luck and enjoy!