The “Search for the Perfect Image” Challenge
The challenge is how to discern if an image is copyrighted, is royalty-free, has a creative commons license, or is public domain. Please note that some of the information on this page is taken from other sites for the purpose of information and education and credit is given in each instance. I’d also like to add that is information is not meant to bring you doom and gloom, rather it is an effort to find solutions to this ongoing challenge for bloggers and website owners across the continuum.
Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
— Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama
First, there are a ton of tools online that are designed to search a particular image to find it’s origins. However, they do not search an entire site for plagiarism, instead, they only search one image at a time. These are designed for the owners of the image to see who is using their image. They are referred to as Image Plagiarism Checkers.
Here is a good example of a plagiarism checker: PlagHunter
However, if you want to use an image that you find in your own search of a topic, these are very good tools, but unnecessary because the Google Advanced Image Search is all you need. (This is also referred to as a Reverse Image Search).
The downside is, if you have a website in which images are already in use, I have been unable to find a tool that crawls your site to see if there are images you need to replace or give credit. You still have to check each image individually. However, I am still researching this particular caveat to see “what’s out there”.
But the good news is, you can set up your own system to check images in advance of use. First, let’s be clear about the terminology surrounding this topic.
• Image Copyright
“Copyright free means just what it says — a copyright free work is not protected by copyright. While you might have to pay a fee to obtain a copy of the work, your use will not be restricted unless you’ve agreed that it will be (in an enforceable contract). The term “copyright free” is often used, mistakenly, where copyrighted works are licensed to the public for free … but with some restrictions on use.” – Public Domain Sherpa
• Royalty Free
“Royalty-free generally means that you pay a one-time fee in exchange for the right to use a photograph (or some other work protected by copyright, patent, or trademark) according to agreed upon terms, with no ongoing license fees due for further use.” – Public Domain Sherpa
• Creative Commons
Creative Commons is a system that allows content creators to make their work available for certain purposes without requiring express permission. You may have seen Creative Commons (or CC) licenses on sites like Flickr, Wikipedia, or YouTube. There are several different Creative Commons licenses, ranging from quite restricted (you can use the image with attribution, but not for commercial purposes, and you can’t make derivatives) to wide open.
To be safe, look for images with either an attribution-only or a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) License.
The attribution-only CC license looks like this: Image via Creative Commons.
• Public Domain
Works in the public domain are those whose exclusive intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. For example, the works of Shakespeare and Beethoven, and most of the early silent films are all now in the public domain by either being created before copyrights existed or leaving the copyright term. – Wikipedia Public Domain
• Fair Use
Fair Use is the most disputable area in copyright, as it assumes that you may not have to ask permission from the image owner if you’re using it for getting feedback, criticism or comments, or for the purposes of teaching, educating, reporting news or research. At times, the bond between educational and commercial purposes is unclear on blogs, so it’s better to ask permission and play it safe. – WrittenT
The Caveats & “Rules of Thumb”
I need to do more research on this subject! So, there will be more to follow about caveats such as national or international manufacturers who benefit from having their images shared freely. If you have any input, please contact me directly through Messenger (bottom right of screen) or the Contact Form on this site.
Generally speaking, here are some guidelines I’ve curated but as I said before, I need to do more research into other people’s opinions and findings. However, this is a place to start to build your own “rules-of-thumb” for image use on your own website.
- Never use an image with company branding of any kind.
- There are also caveats to this because some people put branding on their photos so that people WILL share them in an attempt to get free advertising. But, if you want to avoid plagiarism, it’s best to ask the owner of the image for permission. The downside is it is time-consuming and slows down your production.
- Always give credit where credit is due. Do this even if the images are royalty-free or licensed for free use by a source such as Creative Commons.
- Use the phrase “Image Source” and link it directly to the source of the image on its original website. At this point in time, I advise against the use of plug-ins that pop the image up in a lightbox with no way to discern the source. Even though the viewer may be able to right-click and copy the original source link, most viewers don’t know how to do that and will miss the source.
- Some sites use the name of the photographer or the website name in place of “Image Source” which I think looks nice as long as a set format is used consistently throughout your website so that readers immediately know that it is a source.
- Here is an excellent article on how to cite images: The Honor Code of a Noble Blogger How to Cite Pictures
- Contact the owners of the image and ask for permission to use the image.
• Google Image Search with Parameters
Please note that the site this video mentions (GraphicStock.com) is now Storyblocks Images. I checked this out and it is very decently priced with great photographs and is included in the list below.
Use the Google Advanced Image Search to find images that are “free to use or share, even commercially”. Then, go ahead and click through to check the actual page that holds the image, to check for the appropriate license. I wonder how many people are completely unaware that this Google feature exists!
WordPress Plugins for Images
There are plugins from some image sites for your WordPress site which allow you to insert images directly into your blog. In the image below, you can see plugins for Unsplash and Pixabay. Flickr also has a plugin for WordPress. I have not personally tried these out but I certainly plan to do so because of the absolute convenience that, at first glance, appears to be involved with this method. If you have tried these, please contact me directly through Messenger (bottom right of screen) or the Contact Form on this site.
WordPress Plugins for Easy Image Retrieval
These plugins give you convenience from within your WordPress admin area to quickly find free quality images for your website.
I have never used Flickr as a resource for images, but I understand that it is an excellent source. I am still searching for a comparable WP plugin as the rest shown below. I will update this list accordingly when I find a good plugin for Flickr. If you want to recommend one, please do so.
Please feel free to add to this list, however I reserve the right to view the information before adding it to this resource list.
WP Pexels helps you search millions of free photos from pexels.com then insert into content or set as featured image very quickly.
WP Pixabay helps you search millions of free photos, vectors and art illustrations from pixabay.com then insert into content or set as featured image very quickly.
Instant Images – One Click Unsplash Uploads – WordPress plugin | WordPress.org. Instant Images is the fastest and easiest way to upload high quality FREE photos from unsplash.com directly to your media library.
Image Resources List
Elegant Content Images List • Zero to Low-Cost
When you use free images from any site, be sure to create separate folders in which to store them. Please note that sometimes free graphics get sold to sites such as iStock or Getty Images. So, be sure to name your folders by website and date to prove when and where you found the image. This will protect you when a formerly “free” photo is found on your site after it gets sold to iStock or Getty Images or a similar site.
I think it is worth mentioning that my favorite go-to sites for royalty free images are:
Image credit is requested but not required on these sites. However, follow the instructions above regardless of which site you use. 👌
Over 1,300,000 high quality photos, illustrations, and vector graphics. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.
Search through thousands of royalty free images on Pexels. You can use all images on Pexels for free, even for commercial use.
Create beautiful designs with your team. Use Canva’s drag-and-drop feature and layouts to design, share and print business cards, logos, presentations and more.
Download all off the stock photo, vectors, and graphics you need with a Storyblocks Images membership. Join today and get access to our unlimited library.
When we share, everyone wins. Another year, another incredible Creative Commons Global Summit! This year, nearly 400 Creative Commoners gathered in Lisbon, Portugal to lift their voices in support of the Commons as advocates, activists, creators, and community members dedicated to a more open and sharing world.
Please note that there are several license types presented on Flickr, including Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike and No Derivative Works. Choose the best fit for your blog needs.
On February 7, 2017, The Met made all images of public-domain works in its collection available under Creative Commons Zero (CC0). There are more than 406,000 images of artworks from The Met collection to use, share, and remix—without restriction.
Read the FAQ page for more information on our Open Access program.
Home for Public Domain Pictures. Free for private and commercial use.
If you are a non-profit or have a completely non-commercial site (no google ads, etc.), Getty Images has a program wherein you can use their images free of charge.
If you are browsing Commons for the first time, you may want to start with Featured pictures, Quality images or Valued images.You can also see some work created by our highly skilled contributors in Meet our photographers and Meet our illustrators. You may also be interested in Picture of the Year.
Morguefile | Free stock photos. Looking for high resolution stock photos for your illustration, comp or design needs? Search morgueFile for free reference images. Yes, they’re all completely free. whether you’re an illustrator, art director, instructor or looking to add a defining visual to a presentation.
Subtle Patterns ● Free textures for your next web project. Subtle Patterns brought to you by Toptal, free textures for your next web project. Find out more here.
The world’s quirkiest collection of free high-resolution pictures you can use on your personal and commercial projects. All completely free of copyright restrictions. New photos added every week!
Public Domain Images ● Thousands of Free Downloads. Download thousands of FREE public domain images. No signup required. Largest collection of vintage graphics on the internet. Download them for free!
Get Public Domain Pictures and Images at PDPics.
Sketchapp TV | The best free Sketch Resources, every day. | Free Sketchapp 3 Resources | Sketchapp TV offers free Sketch video tutorials and design resources like iOS and Android UIs, icons, web designs and device mockups for Sketch 3 by Bohemian Coding. Sketch 3 is super easy to learn, has a beautiful, yet simple interface which allows you to create stunning vector graphics and has a great community of designers who contribute many freebies everyday.
Free PSD Goodies and Mockups for Designers | Hello everyone! We are really proud to Introduce our new font Gant, a classy and bold font that makes everything looks a bit more elegant. Another great font created by Marcelo Reis Melo, download for free or donate 2$ to support the author.
What is EXIF?
More to follow. In the meantime, please refer to Understanding Embedded Image Info.