What are copyright free images and why do would anyone need them?
Unfortunately, one cannot simply use any old image on one comes across in commercial advertising. The original artists or photographers often want to be paid or get some credit for their work, but their are many artist that have opted to share their work freely.
Why would they do that? They want their images to get used or they want to contribute to businesses and members of the community that would not otherwise be able to acquire such images or images of the same quality or on the same subject etc. Some people are just giving in nature.
Or it could even be that the more free images there are online the more those same artist and photographers can access and use artwork and photos that aren’t their own, when they don’t want to take the time to make it themselves for whatever reason. Easier for everyone if there is SOMEWHERE to find copyright free images, with no licensing, royalties, and/or accreditation required.
Where to find copyright free images?
In this article there will be listed 3 different places to look for copyright free images. The first two are great websites, and the 3rd is Google, with some specific search parameters. Morguefile.com and Pixabay.com are by far the best two websites we have come across to find high resolution and high quality graphic design artwork and photography.
Not only is the ease of access and search functionality great on both, but the images themselves are stunning and often exactly what one would imagine before entering keywords.
Morguefile has been around for a LONG TIME. It was founded in 1996 by Michael Connors to be exact. 10 years ago it wasn’t as great as it is today. Most of the images we copyright free due to their age, so it was more difficult to get images on modern subjects. You could get plenty of images from the Civil War to the 50’s.
Today, with the increase in interest in photography and access to technology, Morguefile is simply bursting at the seems with high quality and high definition images on a wide range of topics. Typically, one of the first place we look when trying to find stock images for clients.
The quality is not always 100% perfect and you can tell some of the photographers have more skill than others, but what is great is an amateur photographer might post their 10 best shots on a subject and 1 of them might be good enough quality to make a design project look perfect at no cost.
Pixabay.com, while not nearly as old as Morguefile, launched November 2010, makes up for its years in the range of topics and quality of images it has amassed in its few years. The images are often larger in resolution and the quality of the shots seems better.
It would seem more amateur photographers are posting on Morguefile and somehow a more professional grade is posting on Pixabay although, this may not be true in the future. Morguefile has been consistently getting better as of late, both in user base and quality of the site.
Although, Pixabay is fantastic now! The images are typically vivid and the shots are cohesive with design project expectations. For example, if you need a picture of a lone pair of hiking boots, or an espresso on a coffee table, you can bet it will be waiting and be crystal clear.
Google Images with Copyright Search Tools
So, there are literally 100’s of copyright free image providing website’s, but as you may have just read above, they have their hurdles. The biggest hurdle is the artists and photographers. Without them posting to the SAME website an archive of free images never amasses in the SAME place. So many sites have 50-100+- images at best and never make it to the 1,000’s of images requires to be a good resource to designers and other creatives in need of free images.
You go to those sites and search a term as simple as “flower” and find 5 images of flowers, 3 of which are dull clip-art from some 90’s Windows program. That is not useful to say the least. Although, SOMETIMES there are a few images that end up on those sites that are really good and really useful and somehow exactly what you want or need, but you don’t even know they are there.
How can someone find these images without going through handfuls of pages of dull images on several competitor sites and so forth?
Just go on Google Images! They now have a tool that allows you to filter your search by whether or not the images has been “Labelled for Reuse” or “Labelled for Reuse with Modification” or not. We are not entirely sure how Google is able to determine this information and frankly it wouldn’t be the best idea to risk a illegally infringing on someone else’s copyright just because Google’s algorithm somehow wasn’t 100% accurate. We suggest actually visiting the page the image is from and checking for the copyright itself.
It would stand to reason if one did not find text specifically authorizing non-commercial or commercial use, depending on the intended use, then it would not be okay. Meaning, if it isn’t yours don’t touch it, unless there is some sort of sign saying you can. Like a plate of cookies with a sign saying “take one”. Pixabay and Morguefile often come up in these searches and do in fact have such text – about the images not cookies.
One legal grey area our readers might be aware of is using other’s images, yet manipulating them enough as to be considered an original in the eyes of the law. This is something we try to avoid and that is why we have written this article to help our readers avoid such conflicts.
DISCLAIMER: OMNIA Design and Marketing is a design and marketing firm, meaning a design agency and marketing firm in one. We are not, however, attorneys, and the information in this post and on this website should not be considered legal advise and does not form an attorney client relationship between the reader and OMNIA Design and Marketing or any of its agents. Contacting our firm does not form an attorney client relationship and no communication should be considered confidential, nor should it be considered legal advise.