With the revamp of Google Images, there's a big temptation to dive on in there and start picking out photos and graphics willy nilly. The sad truth, of course, is that you can't just download any image you like and use it on your website or blog because Google found it. There is that rather annoying thing called copyright.
You're welcome to have a go, but there's all sorts of internet tools out there to let photographers know what's happening to their shots. Instead, what you need are Creative Commons, public domain or just photography that someone is good enough to hand out for nothing but often just a little credit. So, next time you want to illustrate your point, here are 15 of the best free images websites to head to.
It's not the world's prettiest website and the search is basic to say the least, but you can't argue with a source of more than 5000 free original stock photos - particularly when they're this good. Freeimages.co.uk also a sister site spin off, but still very much a part of the same group, for user generated stills site Freeimageslive. The former offers shots at 1152 x 864px or 1200 x 1600px resolution and the latter up to and around 3000 x 3000px with rarely a duff snap in either.
Not quite as much on offer as above nor the same level of depth but Freedigitalphotos allows you to use the images for a wider range of both personal and corporate ends. The site's also a bit easier on the eye and cleaner to navigate and it's stocked with just about every image of every kind of bog standard noun you might be after. 640 x 430 images cost nothing but anything larger must be paid for. Credits are required for both the site and the photographer if you take the shots for free.
A whopping 393,000 images to choose from and very high res downloads make Stock.xchng (lovely name) an excellent place to get your snaps. The search facility isn't very flexible but the categories list is superb with a plethora of specific occasions and themes, including sets of emotions as well as personal favourites like Urban Decay.
Image After isn't so hot on the standard stills but it's excellent for providing a lot of shots of the type no one else will have - 25,000 of them to be exact. We certainly didn't find many other free photo libraries that allow you to search by texture.
There's only one thing you'll find here but you do get it 7700 times over. NationslIlustrated is, as the name suggests, all about photos from countries all over the world, and that's exactly how you search for them. The more random locations aren't so well represented as the Londons and New York Cities but they are, nevertheless, all on the map.
Don't let the slightly tedious sign up process get in your way of the 5000-odd stock shots that make up Turbo Photo. All the images are available for free at medium size (800px wide or so) and it's only when you're after 300dpi for print level that you'll have to open your wallet.
The unique feature of the photl.com database is that they are not widely circulated. You won't find them in other stock photo agencies. There also happens to be a whole 385,000 of them. Granted they're mostly the more turgid side of stock but they're well composed nonetheless. There is a sign up required, but you can download whatever size shots you like so long as you don't exceed 35MB of images per day.
4000 photos in over 40 categories makes Freepixels a solid choice. Nothing wildly different about this library of the site itself but the browse is clean and none of the shots are too cheesy.
It's about as basic as they come because it's not really a stock library as such. Gimp-savvy is associated to the work people do with the open source image editor GIMP, but what this site does is allow you to search a whole bunch of public domain photos - 27,000 them to be precise. The best part is that it includes the entire NASA library.
Free Stock Photos.Biz
The 11,000+ range of free images and clip art illustrations give a very decent range to the Free Stock Photos.Biz site. Add in an excellent level of categorisation and the fact that there's no sign up required, and you get a very usable service.
Forgot about Flickr, didn't you? While the majority of images on the cloud photo store are copyright protected, there's still hundreds of millions available for use under Creative Commons. Head into the advanced search to select the filter and then fire away. A traditional stock site might argue that user-generated shots are not going to be as high quality but you'll be pleasantly surprised with what you find here.
Free Range is not the best looking site, the search is relatively poor and, yawn, you do have to sign up to get the images. On the plus side, the shots are largely terrific which is, at the end of the day, what counts.
Set up as a place where students and designers can share images with one another, Stockvault also allows you to download from its quality collection so long as you're not going to take the shots for commercial use.
No signing up, no crediting and no restrictions on how you can use them. Just go to FreeMediaGoo and download whatever you want. The only downside is that there isn't much there. That said, what you will find is all very good to look at.
RGBStock does have a free sign up required, but it is one of the least annoying you'll find. Once you're through that, you get access to one of the best free image libraries out there. It's a well designed site with plenty of pictures of a very high quality. It also has a very good search function with tonnes of categories to help narrow it all down. No need to credit but it is polite to do so.
While not libraries in their own rights, these two image search engines are well worth a look when hunting down usable free shots.
There's no point trying to calculate how many images there are on Google's books because its aim is obviously to have all of them, ever. Granted, the vast majority are not free to use, but head into the advanced search options and you can filter for those safe for reuse. Quality is, of course, going to be incredibly varied but you're certainly going to find what you're looking for. Don't forget to check out the new image search features at the Google.com website rather than the .co.uk.
As the name suggests, the aim of Everystockphoto is to provide a search engine purely for free stock images and the virtual library of professional shots currently counts over 5 million, i.e. plenty. You do have to sign up but it's no major hardship and you should find listed a good selection from some of the sites above.
If you have any hot free image secrets, then make sure you let us know in the comments - unless you'd rather keep them that way, of course.