Using images on a website and blog adds visual interest and can help tie the bits and pieces together. But if I don’t want to be sued for copyright infringement, I can’t just take whatever photos I like from the Internet and make them my own.
My options are limited, though. I can use photographs from my own camera, but most of those won’t work with my topics (unless readers want to see blurry vacation snapshots or my granddaughter sticking out her tongue). I can also buy images, but I don’t have the money to pay for blocks of photos with a subscription plan from places like iStock, fotolia, or PhotoSpin. I haven’t been entirely happy with the third option, either – searching royalty free sites. Many sites aren’t clear about their use policy (Microsoft, and now Bing). And weeding through image sites listed on “Wikipedia: Photos in the public domain” is too daunting, as is researching each photo on Wikimedia Commons to find out which license it’s under.
But I’ve recently discovered a place to get free photos without jumping through a bunch of hoops. FreeDigitalPhotos.net offers downloads of free stock photos and illustrations for use on websites, blogs, forums, Facebook and Twitter pages (read the terms and conditions for your own understanding, and for purchasing an extended license for something like selling merchandise bearing one of their images). The free downloadable versions – about 400 x 267 pixels, resolution: 72 pixels/inch – are the perfect size for adding interest to blog posts. All that’s required in exchange is to credit the source.
Take these three simple steps to start using free photos: search, download, cite the source.
Browse the Categories or Enter Search Criteria
Some photo sites only allow one search term. The “Help Enter Key” image at the top of this post was found using “computer,” but you can also enter multiple search terms. When I looked for a cool picture that might fit in my new speculative fiction blog, I did a search using “stars planet spaceship” and found many great digital illustrations and digitally enhanced photos, including this one titled “Spaceship and Planet.”
After clicking on the photo you want, a page comes up with the information about the image. The screen image shows a watermark, but it won’t appear in the download. Click the download button to the right of the photo and follow the instructions. You’ll need to agree to their terms and conditions, which is to publish a credit to the image creator if you download the free version. Enter your email address if you want a record of the attribution information – but you can take note of this information on the photo’s page instead (see the image below). Answer the security challenge (to prevent automated downloads), and click the download button to get your image.
This is the page associated with the image “Spaceship and Planet.”
Attribution: Cite the Source
Like painting and drawing, photography and digital illustration are art forms. It’s only right to give credit to artists – regular people like you and I – who make a living from their work. And in this case, payment for use of their work is simple attribution (but if I pay for the image, I don’t have to give credit). This site suggests using the following format when giving credit, and has more instructions about how to do this for single or multiple images:
Image courtesy of [contributor name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Check out my speculative fiction blog (a work-in-progress as of the date of this post) to see how I handled the use of multiple free images – one for the background, and four in the header. I’ve added the attribution to the bottom of the page.
There might be extra steps to the process of getting images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net (compared to the single “Save Picture As” click used to capture photos from the Internet), but I think it’s worth a few more minutes to do what’s right and be safe from a possible breach of copyright law.
Images from top to bottom: (1) “Help Enter Key” courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net; (2) “Spaceship and Planet” courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net