Free images and photos are often required for student presentations and classroom projects. As we learn more in ITGS about copyright, fair use, and public domain and Creative Commons licences, it makes sense that we should use these materials where appropriate. Some students find it hard to locate images that they can legally use for free, so here are some great sites to help you. All images are licensed under Creative Commons and public domain.
[First published January 2014; Updated October 2017]
Some of the images you will find on Pixabay are simply outstanding and could easily sell on one of the many stock photos sites on the Internet. One thing I really like about Pixabay is how configurable the search is – you can look for photos, vectors or clipart and specify image categories and orientation (landscape or portrait). These are really useful because searches typically turn up hundreds of results. You should also be aware that Pixabay includes a sponsored images section that links to non-free photography.
All images on Pexels are licensed as CC0, meaning they are free for both personal and commercial use. It is not even necessary to attribute the images, although of course doing so is good practice. As might be expected Pexels features many of the same images as other free image sites, but I still regularly find unique images here.
Unsplash is a relatively new site but already has a wide range of photos. General categories at the top of the page help quickly narrow down your search. The images I have found when searching have always been very high quality. Many of them are certainly comparable to commercial images for sale at other sites. Unsplash is definitely one of my go-to sites when I need a free image for a presentation or blog post.
Searches on this site provide links to a wide range of high quality stock photographs which are free to use. Some images require you to notify (but not seek permission from) the uploader – generally done as a way for them to understand how their work is being used. There are also links to Premium (paid) images – but the free material is suitable for most uses.
morgueFile (interesting name) hosts commercial stock photography but also has a free photo section. The selection is not as wide as at some of the other sites listed here, but the images are very high quality and material can be found to illustrate a wide range of concepts and ideas. MorgueFile also seems to host more news-related content than the other sites here.
Flickr’s advanced search page has an option to find only Creative Commons content, and includes further options for finding only images that allow modification and commercial reuse. You can also browse the collection in the Creative Commons Explore feature. The huge range of images available on Flickr make this a good option if you are looking for photographs rather than clipart or cartoon style images. A further option is PhotosForClass, which searches Flickr for images but applies an additional filter to remove inappropriate images.
Wikimedia Commons is a ‘sister’ project to Wikipedia, and aims to provide a wide range of public domain or Creative Commons licensed material. Personally I don’t really like the search features on this page, but there is no denying that a lot of great content is available here – especially if you start in the Quality Images section.
Although it features some photos, Clker’s focus is clip art. Most images are available in vector formats which means they can be scaled to any size without a loss of quality.As you use these images, remember that Creative Commons licences require you to include attribution to the author and even if this is not required (such as for public domain images), it is still good practice to acknowledge sources.