Free stock photography resources

When I was a freelance graphic designer, I budgeted for subscriptions to and I also had a whole bunch of credits on I got good use out of them and considered the subscriptions “cost of doing business.” My clients certainly liked that I gave them a selection of photos to choose from, knowing that they were legal. From time to time I ended up having to purchase individual photos (which the client paid for, of course) but 9 times out of 10, they found what they needed through one of my subscriptions.

Now my subscriptions are getting ready to expire, and I can no longer justify renewal. I use stock photography a bit for C3. We certainly can’t afford professional photographers. But as our organization is maturing I’m relying on stock less and less. Good thing I found this page which compiles a complete list of free stock photo sources. Nice. Definitely bookmarked.

But here’s Judi’s tip of the day: read the license agreements carefully. Even if the photo is free, there are still rights attached to it. It’s free because the artist chose not to charge you for the use of the photograph. It’s not public domain.You are not buying the photograph. You are buying usage rights. Huge difference.

For example, you may miss these common restrictions:

  • You may not use the image as part of a trademark, service mark or logo (see stock.xchng specifically…but check them all…not many photo downloading sites allow their images in logos)
  • You may not use images in connection with sensitive subjects including, but not limited to
    drugs, alcohol, physical abuse, contraband, crime, discrimination or
    defamation excepting the situation or situations when used to combat,
    fight or discourage such activities. (from pixelperfect digital)
  • Before using a file, you must contact the user who originally
    uploaded the file and clear any and all copyright issues, conspicuous
    or inconspicuous, in the image in question. (from Photocase)
  • You may not use any image that depicts a person to endorse a business, product or service (from iStockPhoto).

Yotophoto has a nice, simple page explaining photo licensing and the difference between a licensed photo and one in the public domain. Just because you can search for a photo and download it to your computer it does not give you a right to use it any way you want. It drives me nuts to see people who should know better use Google images as a stock photography search engine.