How to Find Free Images

When developing content for several types of documents; graphic designers and webmasters often search for free images in order to enhance the appearance of the communication. If intellectual property laws are observed when trying to find free images, then this process can be very productive.

Images can enhance any project

When an artist or writer creates a work, often they will select or gather images that pertain to the specific idea in which they are writing.

Engaging images in the content appeal to the visual perception of the reader, if there were no images at all then even the best written publication my be overlooked. Regardless of the saying “you cannot judge a book buy it’s cover” it can certainly help grab the attention of browsers and potentially turn them into a sale.

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.

Locating 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.

Flickr is another source to find images for free, which is literally inexhaustible. Millions of people share images on this social network every day and many are often personal images which have no commercial royalty implications. Flickr has recently implemented a licensing option for images. The license is clearly stated by creative commons in order to avoid any confusion. If there is a question regarding the license of an image, a messaging tool allows users to send messages; and most photographers will allow their images to be used at no cost if credit is given for their work.

Although it may be a common practice by some to browse Google images for free pictures, this is not a recommended method. The search engine robot indexes these images without regard to licensing or royalties, and the search display relies upon the website owner to protect or allow the images to be indexed. Images which appear in the search results are subject to copyright, which is stated in the search query.

Transferring free images to a website

No one single method can be applied for all types of communications. Publishing images to websites and blogs can require completely different procedures than publishing an image in a magazine or advertising brochure. If these processes are considered prior to beginning a project then time, space and cost can be controlled to a minimum.

Downloading free images and creating hotlinks to free images is demonstrated in a video titled “images for free” which provides a brief overview of this process. As these general methods are learned webmasters can then build upon these skills to further enhance and refine the process.


However, some website administrators consider hotlinking to be bandwidth theft, especially if their website cost is determined by the amount of bandwidth used each month. Copying images to a social blog or bulletin board post is very simple for websites that have implemented a hotlink code method. These websites will often display a share or post feature. HTML and/or BBcode are two of the typical options that allow for easy hotlinking of freely shared images.

Many websites offer the ability to automatically generate the code to hotlink images into posts and websites. This can help any web design novice begin to understanding how the code must be formatted to hotlink an image. Once a general understanding is learned then alternative file paths can be substituted for other websites that do not offer this automated function. Again, make certain that hotlinked images are permitted. The hotlink code must be placed in the appropriate place with the appropriate format. For instance HTML code would typically be placed in an HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) compatible form, CMS (Content Management System) or a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. Bulletin Board code (BBCode) can be placed in its respective locations as well. PHP Bulletin Boards are very popular throughout the internet and this Hotlink code is specifically for these types of Bulletin systems. If there is doubt as to whether the code will actually work or not, a test can be performed by pasting the code into a form and then utilize the preview button.

Copy images to a computer

Static documents such as brochures, greeting cards, magazines and other physically printed medium are designed using images that are manipulated and edited on a local PC. Although this process is more involved it does allow for great customization and changes to be made to a free image that has been downloaded from the internet. Again, creative commons intellectual property rights licensing must be observed. Some license types allow for derivative works to be created as long as the original author is credited but then again some do not allow their work to be changed.

One of the first steps to transferring free images to a PC is to consider how the images will be stored. Images take a lot of space especially if they are high resolution. An external secondary hard drive may be considered in lieu of utilizing the existing space on a local PC. Wherever the images may be stored, the storage structure and file – folder system should be planned. This will help with image retrieval and allow for efficient editing and manipulation. If image storage can be planned first of all, then slow image organization software will not need to be used to clean things up later.

The process for copying an image to a local PC is much different that creating a hotlink. Most websites permit the right click function on a mouse which produces a “Save As” or “Save Target As” option. If the website does not allow a right click of the mouse it is likely that the administrators do not want visitors or members copying the images and have implemented code to prevent image theft. If this is the case it is very important that a webmaster verifies permission prior to continuing with other methods to obtain the images. A true webmaster will follow best practices and respect the rights of artists and content creators. A bad reputation can be given to businesses and individuals who are issued DMCA take down notices because of stolen images and content that does not follow intellectual property laws.

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.

Creative commons licensing has made it easy for artists and publishers to share their creative works with the world. This licensing model is not only applicable to images, but to written works and video media as well. It highly recommended that all web content creators become familiar with the creative commons licensing structure prior to seeking to obtain free 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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