Bloggers and others who are responsible for creating content often need to find a photo to illustrate a point or create impact. Often, they go to Google Image Search, but the majority of the photos there are not licensed for free use. In addition, it can be difficult to find relevant, quality photos.
Flickr has a powerful advanced search feature that can take some of the nightmare out of finding the right image. Besides being a repository of generally high-quality photography, it is a great place to find Creative Commons-licensed content; stuff you can use for your blog or website without paying money.
The majority of Creative Commons-licensed content uses the “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License”, which means you can use the photo if you credit the author, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not edit or alter the photo in any way. There are other types of Creative Commons licenses as well, but all of them include the “Attribution” clause: You credit the creator in some way.
If you’re blogging for a client or make money with your site, you have to make sure you don’t use non-commercial content. Flickr currently has over thirty million images that are listed as usable for commercial purposes, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding the right image for you.
To use Flickr’s advanced search, first go to the search page and then scroll down towards the bottom, where you’ll find the Creative Commons search option:
Once you’ve checked the appropriate boxes, scroll back up and enter your search terms.
When you’ve found the perfect image, it helps to keep the page open so you can have the links handy when you need to make the attribution.
The easiest way to attribute a photo owner is to put a small “Photo Credit” line at the bottom of the blog post. See the attribution I’ve made at the bottom of this post for an example of how to appropriately do this for Flickr images.
If you still can’t find the exact right image, a very inexpensive stock photo site is iStockPhoto. You can find many images for as low as $1-$2. Between these two tools, you should be able to come up with almost any kind of image for your blog.
Update: After I published this, my friend Cathlin Sentz (Community Manager for the Newsboiler network) clued me into another free stock site that looks very thorough: stock.xchng. It’s a free stock art site made by Getty Images and the tech team behind iStockPhoto. Thanks, Cathlin!