Public Domain refers to material that is ‘publicly available’ and not restricted by copyrights. There are many stock photography websites from which you can license photographs, some of them at quite reasonable rates. There are also sites that provide royalty-free stock images under public domain or Creative Commons licenses. The best of them do exactly the same as the commercial sites, including browsing or searching by categories and tags.
Here’s a run-down of some of the free stock images resources we use.
“Public Domain Pictures.net is a repository for free public domain images. You can download high quality photos or upload your own pictures. Raise money for charity, gain popularity and improve your photographic and graphic skills.
If you intend to use an image you find here for commercial use, please be aware that some photos do require a model or property release. Pictures featuring products should be used with care.
The pictures are free for you to use and you should feel good about doing so.”
“Anyone can contribute. If you are browsing Commons for the first time, you may want to start with Featured pictures, Quality images or Valued images. You can also see some work created by our highly skilled contributors in Meet our photographers and Meet our illustrators. You may also be interested in Picture of the Year.”
Public Domain Photos .com
“This site contains around 8000 free stock photos. All photos on this web site are public domain. You may use these images for any purpose, including commercial. But if some photo contains logos and products you need to be careful.” Using someone else’s trademark commercially can get you sued.
“is a large (subjective statement, it’s not that large) on-line free photo collection. You can download and use any image or texture from our site and use it in your own work, either personal or commercial.”
“Stock XCHNG is under new management! Getty Images is proud to now wholly-own the world’s best free stock site.
Stock.XCHNG presently contains almost 400,000 photos and many of them are royalty free with no further usage restrictions. You can quickly view the restrictions in the availability field underneath the respective image. Some artists request to be notified or credited, others only require standard restrictions, which are defined by the Stock.XCHNG.
Share your photos with fellow designers! SXC is a friendly community of photography addicts who generously offer their works to those who need them free of charge. If you have some nice photos that you’d like to share with others, join us! Not only it feels great to share, you will also get a huge exposure for your work!”
Free Digital Photos
“Download free and premium stock photos and illustrations for websites, advertising materials, newspapers, magazines, ebooks, book covers and pages, music artwork, software applications and much more. All our free images are of high quality, produced by our community of professional stock photographers and digital illustrators.
This includes Royalty free photos and illustrations are ideal for corporate, personal and educational use. Every image is free, with an option to buy larger images at reasonable prices.”
Flickr is an obvious resource and you would think that using the advanced search feature, you can search only photos with a Creative Commons license that allows you to use the content commercially and/or modify, adapt, or build upon the content. This essentially makes the image ‘public domain’ so long as you observe the license restriction and credit the original creator. However, you need to check individual images on Flickr, as licencing can vary even within a single gallery. Many are explicitly restricted; public but not Public Domain. Remember if the license is unspecified (“this image may be subject to copyright”) you need to check with the image owner or find something else. If in doubt, use something else.
You should be able to find something apposite to your web page, but always remember to acknowledge the original artist with an image credit somewhere on the site or post, the closer to the actual image use, the better. All these sites make this easy by including HTML embed code for the purpose. AJS