Where can I find free photos?
Texts, blog posts, long publications ... They simply work better with a good photo. But not everyone always has the opportunity to invest in this. We can therefore state that many have a problem: you can't just use someone else's photos. Not from someone's website, but also not from Google Images. Not even if you refer to the original author.
It's the same with photos you see on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. You cannot use them and certainly not edit. This has everything to do with copyright.
What is copyright?
Copyright is a form of intellectual property that grants the creator of an original creative work an exclusive legal right to determine whether and under what conditions this original work may be copied and used by others, usually for a limited term of years. The exclusive rights are not absolute but limited by limitations and exceptions to copyright law, including fair use. A major limitation on copyright on ideas is that copyright protects only the original expression of ideas, and not the underlying ideas themselves. - Wikipedia
So it basically means that someone who makes something gets the right to use that work. And the word "work" has to be interpreted broadly. For example, we know that we cannot just copy a book, a movie, or a CD, but copyright also applies to:
- all drawings or paintings (both digital, on paper or on canvas)
- sculptures, structures, designs, ...
- software, a play, a music piece, ...
- all written text (so both blog posts, news articles, books, but also tweets or Facebook posts)
- all photos (regardless of who took the photo or what's on it)
Anyway, basically everything that is "made" automatically does have copyright protection. So yes, also the drawing of your toddler or a teenager who takes photos with his or her smartphone and puts them on Instagram.
What can you do then?
Pretty simple. You just follow the rules. Below some options, specifically for photos:
- You can take your own photos. A professional camera doesn't cost that much and with the necessary creativity and practice you can probably make a decent image that you can use. In many cases, a smartphone is already sufficient.
- You can also have your images made. There are professional photographers, videographers, designers, illustrators who are only too happy to make your visual in exchange for correct remuneration.
- You can purchase "stock photos". That are photos that have already been taken and for which you can purchase the license (copyright), after which you can use the photo. iStock, twenty20 and Adobe Stock are such sites, but there are hundreds. You either pay a monthly fixed fee or you use credits to download a file on demand.
- You can use photos for which authors give certain rights. We call this "Creative Commons". Here too, there are different forms. Forms where you must state the original author's name, forms where you may or may not use the image for commercial purposes, etc. (click here for more info about Creative Commons licenses)
- Or you ask permission from the author. That is of course also possible.
Where can I find free photos?
Below some options where free photos can be downloaded:
- Unsplash - My favorite
- Gratisography - My second choice if I don't find what I want on Unsplash
- Pixabay - My third choice if I’m really picky
- NewOldStock - For vintage photos
- Pikwizard - You can find many photos of people here.
- Negative Space
This list is of course not finite, so if you know other great websites, please comment. Always useful.
Note: both of my photos come from Unsplash.
Note: the purpose of this publication is primarily to go through the various options for using free photos. It's not about concerns that are often couched in the language of digital rights, digital freedom, database rights, open data or censorship. That's another (but very interesting) discussion.