How To Search For Free Images For a Web Site

Images and pictures have been used by nearly every type of publication. Websites, magazines, and advertisements are just a few of the kinds of content medium. Browsing the internet while searching for free images can be a lot of fun and rewarding when intellectual property law is respected.

Why images should be used

Content creators and graphic artists realize the value of acquiring a cache of free images that can be utilized for a specific topic or idea in their production.

Gaining the attention of a potential browser is one of the most critical points to selling an idea or production. The visual senses of all people are attracted by beautiful pictures, especially when they pertain to something of interest. If a writer or content publisher can grab the attention of someone passing by they are much more likely to turn them into a customer.

Images not only help to attract people to engaging content, but if images are named according to the surrounding content with the appropriate ‘alt’ attribute tags, this will entice search engines to index the content in a more relevant manner and possibly even higher in the results. There are also additional search related benefits for images which appear in the image search results for specific key terms.

Best places to find Free Images

A great way to get high quality and high resolution images for a website or other publication is to use a digital camera to take pictures. However, when the photographs are converted into images or logos it is critical that trademarks and symbols are not apparent in the picture, otherwise intellectual property rights may be of concern.

Wikimedia commons is a popular website for royalty free content. This search wiki has thousands if not millions of contributors which upload their content and share it according to specific creative commons licensing. Content is easily found through various search criteria including source, license, author , location, type, and content topic.

A very popular photographer social network, which publishes millions of new images every day, is Flickr. This website is hosted by the Yahoo network and is likely to be the most popular image sharing portal in the world. Since many members on this website are novice photographers, often the contributors to this website will allow their images to be published elsewhere free of charge. The site utilizes a creative commons licensing structure that allows contributors to specify the licensing type they wish applied to their images. An internal private messaging system allows for internal messages to be sent to other members in the event that there may be a question regarding an image. This is a great tool for building relationships and a content sharing network. Many will find that if an image creative commons license does not specify that an image can be shared freely, then they can simply ask for permission and most photographers will welcome their work to be published elsewhere if they are given credit.

The Image search feature on Google images produces millions of results for nearly any image query. However, it is critical that consideration is given to the license of the images as many are copyrighted rather than free. The image search does allow for a query to be made for free images only, It is recommended when searching with this tool that the option is used to search only for free or creative commons license types. The Creative commons license type must be observed for free images because there may be additional terms described by the license which will be discussed later in the article.

Transferring free images to a website

Once a source has been selected for free images, the next step is to determine how the images can be transferred to a publication. The method of transfer depends upon how and where the images will be used. The same method for posting an image to a social blog may not apply to saving an image for printing in a magazine or postcard.

Some of these basic processes are demonstrated briefly in the video titled “images for free”. Hotlinks, downloads and other methods should be considered. Once the various methods are learned then they will become second nature and the process is much more efficient.


Image hotlinks allow an image to be published into a website, blog or bulletin board post but hosted and stored elsewhere. This can reduce website load times significantly which is something that search engines have begun to factor into rankings. However, although an image hotlink can be generated from just about any website it is not always allowed per the website policy. When an image is hotlinked Copyright infringement and intellectual property laws can come into play. It is important for webmasters to obtain permission prior to generating a hotlink. This is especially true if the website does not provide an automated method to generate the code for a hotlinked image. Some webmasters consider image hotlinks to be bandwidth theft and are not tolerant of image theft. This is because they pay for their website hosting by the bandwidth used each month.

Displaying a free hotlinked image on a blog, website or bulletin board could not be easier. When a hotlinked image is utilized this will offload the bandwidth from the website being displayed. To use an image as a hotlink it is best to find a site that generates this code already, then the code can be used as a template to utilize this for other free images from sites that do not generate the code. Typically code will be generated for Bulletin Board (BBCode) or pure Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). This code can then simply be copied from the site and pasted directly into a form for a bulletin board post or into a websites html page by content management system (CMS) tool etc.

Copy images to a computer

Certain creative commons licenses allow for derivative works. This means that the image can be changed and manipulated to suit a webmasters needs or content. However, attribution must be given to the original author of the work that was copied freely. Most artists and photographers will allow their images to be used if proper credit is given for their work.

Organization planning should be the first priority for a webmaster that plans to build a local image cache for offline manipulation. External storage has become relatively inexpensive and it is a good idea to purchase a storage device or even online storage when planning to build an image library. Also, it is good to plan a file and folder structure according to a commonly known standard. This can be accomplished by naming folders according to date, subject, topic or even season, etc. Many image editing applications provide a image name prefix to be added to each image as it is saved or processed. It is much easier to plan this ahead of time rather than depending on software to help organize later. The time saved in creating an efficient structure will be well valued in the long run.

If a webmaster allows their images to be copied for free, then it is very easy to copy the images to a local PC. Most websites allow the right click option to be used which will produce a menu option “save as” or “save target as” when right clicking on top of a website image. Again make certain this is allowed prior to copying images. Nothing could be worse than building a great web page or nice looking web post and then receive a DMCA take down notice. It is always better to ask first as many professional photographers will allow their images to be copied free of charge as long as they are given credit for their photography work.

Legally copying free images

Intellectual property laws have recently become a more prevalent issue since the inception of the internet. Hence the US government has heightened copyright laws and penalties for breach of copyright. If a webmaster were to receive a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) take down notice from an internet service provider or other legitimate authority it is in the best interest of the webmaster to immediately comply with the request. This is especially true if the webmaster knows that they have copied the image from another website.

A common licensing structure is well known throughout the internet called creative commons licensing. This license structure is not only applicable to images but to video and written work as well. Webmasters which plan to copy free images would be well advised to first research creative commons licensing regarding which models allow copying and which allow derivative works, et cetera. This is important for hotlinked images as well as copied images.

With a little time and research, artists, webmasters, developers and graphics designers can find many sources of images for free on the internet. All image content needs can be fulfilled while complying with copyright laws, this will help to build relationships with content providers for months and years to come.

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