When I teach blogging and social media classes at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, students frequently ask me, “Where can I get art for my blog? Can I just google images and use those?” The answer is yes, you can, but no, you may not. Because any image you find on the Internet may be copyright protected, the only way to be sure you are avoiding copyright infringement (ie breaking the law) is to either use images with a Creative Commons license or to purchase them through a stock photo or clip art website.
To use images licensed under Creative Commons, all you do is go to CreativeCommons.org, click on “Find CC-licensed Works” under “Explore,” type what it is you’re looking for in the search box, check the boxes if you plan to use your image for commercial purposes and/or modify them, then choose which library/search engine you want to use to search for your image. For example, I typed “Typewriter” into the Google search on Creative Commons and found this:
Beneath it is this little logo, which means I can use the image commercially or non-commercially as long as I attribute it to the creator: Raúl Hernández González.
Here is guide to all the Creative Commons logos and codes:
Attribution CC BY
Allows you to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon a work—commercially and non-commercially—as long as you credit the creator for the original work.
Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA
Allows you to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon a work—commercially and non-commercially—as long as you credit the creator for the original work AND relicense the derivative work under the same terms, allowing it to be used commercially as well.
Attribution NonCommercial CC BY-NC
Allows you to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon a work for non-commercial use as long as you credit the creator for the original work.
Attribution NonCommerical-No Derivs CC BY-NC-ND
Allows you to redistribute a work for non-commercial use without modification and with credit to the original creator.
Notice all works licensed by Creative Commons have a “BY” requirement, which means you must give credit to the original creator of the work. If you do not want to give attribution for a work, another option is to purchase art from a clip art or stock photo library. ShutterStock is one such service. They charge $19 for one photo, or $49 for 5. You probably don’t want to spend $19 every time you write a blog post, but you’ll probably be more than happy to spend $19 for an image that will be a permanent fixture on your website. So it depends on your needs. There are many other premium stock photo services, like iStockPhoto, but they’re not cheap. iStockPhoto charges $19.50 for 12 “credits,” which will buy you one medium-sized photo. For free stock photos, try:
Stock.XChng has nearly 400,000 free photos online.
Every Stock Photo is a search engine for free photos, and tells from which source each photo originates (mostly Flickr and StockXChng).
NOTE: Beware of sites like Free Digital Photos. A “free” typewriter photo requires attribution and only comes in a small (300×400 dpi) format. To get a larger image without attribution required, you have to pay. (The maximum cost, however, is $10 for a high-res image, which is quite a bit less than Shutterstock or iStockPhoto.)
What about you? Where do you get photos and clip art for your blog? Do you use Creative Commons? Do you always attribute the image to the owner?