Design 102: 25 sites to get free photos on the Web*

* But read the instructions before publishing

Fresh into a new job as deputy managing editor at the Northwest Florida Daily News, Design Journal columnist Del Stone Jr. started looking around for guidance on free photos from the Web.

The Blog happens to know he searched far and wide for help and found, uh, not much out there. So he started to gather information himself. What follows is part of his column from Design Journal 102, which Mr. Stone Jr. was friendly enough to share. The Blog also knows that a column full of Internet links belongs, well,on the Internet. Enjoy, but be careful out there.

Recently my newspaper under went a redesign. My feature sections were converted to tab format and our art requirements shot through the proverbial roof. In no way could I envision our four-person photography staff or two-person art department keeping up with the demand.
So the features designer, Tracey Steele, and I sat down to figure out new resources for art. Oh, and we had no budget, so the art had to be free.

We hit the Web and found no end to the number of “license-free” or “copyright-free” photography and graphic resources. But “license-” and “copyright-free” don’t mean “free.” Most databases charged a fee of some kind, usually per image. While some were downright cheap, others cost as much as a wire service archive.

But we did manage to find some databases where the photographer was willing to trade an image for a credit, and I’ll list them here. Perhaps they’ll be helpful to you. (Please note all images should be used in accordance with the provisions required by the database. Also, I make no claims to the quality, functionality of the site or images, or ease of transaction.)

  1. Clip art database: It may be your newspaper or Web site is already subscribing to a clip art database. I checked with our ad-building department and they use MultiAd. While many of these images are not suitable for editorial use, some are perfect for those background “environments” or spot-art elements necessary for tip boxes and graphics. Click here.
  2. Stock.xchang: The king of all free photo databases, as far as I’m concerned, is Stock.xchang. This site offers both pay and free images, many of them quite good. The photographers will often ask to be notified or given a credit for the image’s use, and I urge you to be very scrupulous in honoring their requests. Click here.
  3. Aarin provides lower-resolution stock art images suitable for Web sites, although some are big enough to use in small print applications. Click here.
  4. Copyright Free has a selection of high-resolution stock images that can be used if properly credited. Click here.
  5. Digital Photography by Java Jane provides a number of stock art images at middle resolution. Click here.
  6. AMG Media’s Free Photos has 72 dpi images available for Web use. Click here.
  7. TMBFree Supersite offers low-resolution images suitable for Web use. Click here.
  8. FreeImages has a nice selection of higher resolution stock art. Click here.
  9. Free Photos Bank has middle and low-resolution stock art images. Click here.
  10. Free Stock Photos provides low-resolution stock imagery suitable for the Internet. Click here.
  11. Geek Philosopher has some low-resolution stock photography. I’d suggest you check the user requirements carefully. Click here.
  12. Gimp Savvy provides low- to middle-resolution government photos from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The size of these photos is disappointing, and they have not been toned. Click here.
  13. USFWS: Better is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Digital Library System where you can find images of all sizes and topics. Click here.
  14. Lockheed: Need a photo of a jet plane or a satellite? Check out Lockheed Martin’s photo database. I am a little confused by this site — it stipulates images are for “non-commercial use” but may be used for “educational” and “editorial” use. I assume “editorial” means us. Besides, the images depict products paid for by U.S. taxpayers so I assume they fall into the “public information” category. Click here.
  15. MorgueFile provides free stock photography of a mixed resolution bag. Some images were small, but others exceeded a megabyte in size. The site assures browsers the images are entirely free. Click here.
  16. The National Archives is not the most user-friendly online photo database but with a bit of digging you can sometimes find historical images that are usable in print. Particularly helpful are some of the photographs from World War II. Click here.
  17. For weather pictures browse the NOAA’s photo library. They provide both low- and high-resolution images of various weather phenomena. Click here.
  18. The National Park Service‘s database was somewhat disappointing … while many photographs were available for download, the images I tried were of low to middling resolution. Click here.
  19. Blaikiewell Animal Sanctuary has a free stock photography database, but these images are not well composed and low in resolution. Click here.
  20. The Best Brands of the World provides corporate logos — many of them foreign — in multiple graphic formats. Click here.
  21. TP’s Images of American Political History has slightly better than low-resolution images of moments in American history. Click here.
  22. NOAA: For those cool color-enhanced weather satellite photographs check out NOAA’s Environmental Visualization Program. Click here.
  23. Yotophoto: Try out this free photo search engine, Yotophoto. Browse among the categories and choose a photo — Yotophoto takes you to the site where the image is offered. Click here.
  24. Cars: For the latest new car photos browse Autodeadline. They accept only media members and not all carmakers are represented. I should point out, however, that each manufacturer has an online database of new model images; you need only apply for media credentials to receive access. Click here.
  25. Movies: And now for some movie publicity photo databases. You’ll have to establish your own account, but they’re free, usually with a minimum of hassle: Disney click here. DreamWorks SKG click here (note that this takes you to the Paramount publicity photo site). Fox click here. IFC Films click here. Lions Gate Films click here. Miramax click here. New Line Cinema click here. Paramount Pictures click here. Sony Pictures click here. Spyglass Entertainment click here. Warner Bros click here (note that Castle Rock Entertainment is part of Warner Bros.). Universal Pictures click here (note that Focus Films is part of Universal).

If you’ve got other sources or experiences with these sites, drop ’em in the comments. Oh, and if you’re not getting Design Journal in your mailbox every quarter, The Blog recommends signin’ on up.

And if you want to read more about copyright law, The Blog suggests clicking right here for an article on the subject by University of Illinois journalism law professor Steven Helle.

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