How To Find Great Images for Your Site

Images convey a lot of information with just a few pixels, and on your website, they can inform, enlighten – even amuse. Finding quality images for your site isn’t hard, but there are some things you should keep in mind that will make your image hunting even easier – and your websites even better.

One of the best and easiest ways to get great photos for your website is to take them yourself. If you have talent, utilize those skills to create the images you’re looking for. But if “gifted photographer” isn’t listed on your resume, you can buy images. While a healthy image budget will allow you to access some amazing images at sites such as, there are many sites where great images can be purchased inexpensively (under $5). One site that is known for its professional photos and reasonable prices is iStockphoto, whose images can be used for commercial purposes in electronic media as long as they are smaller than 800 X 600 pixels, which should be sufficient for most web needs.

Buy Images? I Thought I Could Drag and Drop!

That’s what a lot of people believe: that you can utilize any image on the Internet for our own purposes, but this is not so. Using unauthorized images can get you into a mess of trouble and isn’t recommended. While we aren’t going to address all the legal aspects of using images now, there are a few phrases you should understand: Public Domain, Copyrighted, and Creative Commons License.

Copyrighted images can not be used without the express permission of the copyright holder, generally the photographer. Many image sites, including Google Image Search, are filled with copyrighted photos. It is best to avoid them, which is certainly possible if you avail yourself of free images that are in the public domain or that are licensed by Creative Commons.

Images in the public domain are those that have no copyright protection and can be used freely. A good place to begin your search for these images is – where else? – on the public domain image page of Wikipedia.

Use My Creations, Please

Creative Commons, formed in 2001 and based in Mountain View, California, is a non-profit organization that helps people let others use their creations. Its “tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work.” The organization has set standards that give definition to various rights. Some people say the Creative Commons License is similar to offering content with “Some Rights Reserved” versus the traditional “All Rights Reserved.” But even within the organization, there are different levels of permission.

The Attribution License is the most accommodating of the licenses, and it says you can distribute, copy, tweak, remix, and publish a piece of work, even for commercial purposes, but you have to do one thing: give credit for it.

Give Credit where It Is Due

So, how to give credit for a photo you use? Simply “make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to this web page.” Feel free, then, to use an image with this license and just link back to where you found it.

The Attribution – No Derivs License allows you to use a creative work without changing the original form; though you can resize it if necessary. To use it, all you need is to credit the creator, which you can do by posting a credit near the image or linking back to it.

Wikipedia uses another Creative Commons option, the Share Alike License, which says that images can be remixed, tweaked, etc., but no matter how changed they are, they will always carry the license they started out with. In essence, use it however you would like but know that it can be used by others in the same way. This usage needs crediting as well…but think of all the credit you’ll receive when it is linked back to you.

There are other licensing types as well. Check out Creative Commons for more info.

Since Wikipedia uses a Creative Common License, you can use any image from the site for your needs. In addition to Wikipedia, another site that is loaded with free-to-use images is Flickr. Filled with a variety of images, use what you like, but just be sure to link back to give the image owners the respect they deserve.

One last thing to keep in mind: to best use your images for SEO, rename the image file after you download it to your computer. That way you can incorporate your target keywords in the file name, improving your SEO.

So, that is it. Don’t use someone’s copyrighted images when you can draw on fantastic images found via Creative Commons, in the public domain, or by taking some pictures yourself.

Do you have other great places to find excellent imagery? Let us know!