We all face this dilemma – trying to find that perfect photo for our posts while NOT spending a fortune to use them. Of course, you could always just grab some photos from a Google Search and just use them – but that could become a very expensive proposition. All it takes if for one person to file a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) complaint and you could find yourself defending yourself in a costly battle.
What are my options?
We’ll begin by looking at several options available and then I’ll show you a new tool that outranks them all.
Shoot The Images Myself/Use Images I’ve Shot
I have actually set up and shot images to use for clients and for my own websites. Unless you are a pretty good photographer and have the right gear (including editing software) to produce quality images, this can actually hurt you rather than help you. Not having quality images can spell doom for your website – or worse, a client’s website.
For example, in the two shots below, the left image is shot with a “kit” lens on a quality digital camera. The image on the right is shot with a higher quality lens that produces better results. Notice the background behind the subject. On the right the background has been blurred to make the subject pop out at you. The difference in these two? A $2,500 lens and a $750 flash.
If you use your own images, be sure to get model releases signed BEFORE you shoot the images and keep them on file. Also, ensure that no trademarks are visible in any of your images.
Plus, there are some locations that you can photograph freely, but the images cannot be used on your website. One of the most widely know places is the Sydney Opera House in Sydney Australia. Another is photos taken at Augusta National Golf Course (home of The Masters). You can shoot these all you want, but you cannot use the images or sell them.
Hire A Photographer/Buy From A Local Photographer
If you are fortunate as I am to have a good friend that is a professional photographer, you can just ring him/her up and ask for some images. That’s where I got the images for this article. But, if you have to buy an image from them – or worse, hire them to shoot an image, the cost can become prohibitive.
Of course, there are cases where you MUST hire a professional photographer – such as highlighting a client’s business, handmade product, or people in the business. No stock photography can deliver what you need.
But, as a general rule, this is not the best option. If you choose this option, make sure you get copies of all model releases and that there are not trademarks (such as CocaCola, Nikon or others) visible in any of the photos. Also, take note of the comment above regarding photographs of places as you should not buy and use photos of those locations.
Purchase Images From Stock Photo Websites
Stock Photo Websites are places where freelance photographers can market their images to a huge audience. Many times this can be a very economical way to purchase high quality images for less than doing it yourself or hiring a photographer.
By far, Getty Images is one of the most expensive stock photo websites I’ve ever purchased from. A client of mine (a veterinarian) wanted a “cute” image as the starting image for their video on their home page. I sent them links to several websites and the image they found was on Getty Images – at a cost of $85. That was an expensive option, but my client was happy with it.
As a general rule, for website sized images, Big Stock Photo is fairly reasonable; although, they are more expensive than some of the options in this list.
I would rank ShutterStock in the same category as Big Stock Photo – reasonably priced, but still more expensive than some others.
I have never purchased from Dreamstime, but from what I’ve seen, most of their images and pricing are in line with Big Stock Photo and Shutterstock.
I have purchased many, many images from Fotolia. I can put $20 into my Fotolia account and get from 10 to as many as 20 images and possibly even more. Their claim is that you can get web images for $0.75 each.
Use Images From Public Domain Image Websites
Public Domain Pictures.Net
One of my favorite places to search for and find public domain images is a website called Public Domain Pictures.
Type your keywords into the search box and click the “Search” button. If there are Public Domain images that match your keywords, you’ll be presented with thumbnails of the images. You’ll also see thumbnails of images that you can purchase from Shutterstock, Fotolia, Dreamstime, and others. Ignore those and look at the Public Domain images.
When you find one you like, click on it to be taken to the page for that specific image. In the lower left corner, will be the instructions on how to download the image and the license information for the image.
Highlight and copy the HTML license information and either paste it into your Page/Post or paste it to a a text document for later use. When you use the image in your Page/Post, be sure to provide the proper credits by inserting this HTML string. I usually place this at the bottom of the post (like you see on this article below).
For downloads, you have two options – Premium Download and Simple Download. For Premium Download, you will need to purchase a membership. I use Simple Download. Simply click the image to load it full size in your browser window, then right click, and chose “Save Image” or “Save Image As” to download it to your hard drive.
Library of Congress Public Domain Images
Many images at the Library of Congress website are in the public domain. Enter your keywords into the search box to find any images tagged with your keywords. Once you find one that you like, verify the licensing for it and if it’s public domain, use it in your post providing approriate attribution if required.
United States Government Public Domain Images
You can visit the United States Government public domain images website and find images in a variety of categories. Many are public domain and may be used without attribution while others require appropriate credits. Always be sure to confirm usage rights of these images.
Use Creative Commons Images From Various Sources
Creative Commons Search Website
The first option is the Creative Commons Search website. In the search section, you can choose to search for Commercial Use Photos or not as well as images that you can modify, adapt, or build upon. Also, you can choose from several sources (but only ONE at a time) to perform your search. For images, you can choose from flickr, Fotopedia, Google Images, and a couple of others.
However, if you will note, there is a notation that you should not assume that all results are creative commons licensed. You have to check each image to ensure that it’s rights suit your use.
CompFight is a search engine that uses the flickr API (but they are not associated with flickr. When you search for an image, you are presented with a screen full of images pulled from flickr. On the left side of the screen you have options as to the type of images you want returned in the search (Commercial, Creative Commons, etc).
Click on an image you like and a separate tab will open on flickr. To download the image for your use, click on the “Actions” dropdown and select “View All Sizes”. On that page, choose the size you want to download. Once that size has loaded into your browser, you will see the download link for your chosen size.
Attribution for flickr photos has always been a bit of a mystery for me. I’ve never been comfortable with my attribution, but basically I try to link back to the download page where I originally found the photo (the flickr link not the CompFight link). I have found an excellent article on Proper Attribution of Photos From flickr that explains the way to format the attribution. If you can wrap your head around that and get it right every time, then you deserve the Creative Commons Guru trophy.
CompFight has a WordPress plugin that you can install on your website; however, I do NOT use it because it does not download the images to either your hard drive or your server – they remain hosted on flickr. If you are running a professional business, imagine that phone call when your client asks why several of their images no longer show up on their website. Or even worse, why the images on their website are for something they find offensive.
Without a doubt, PhotoPin is the easiest flickr search tool I’ve ever seen. From the main page (or any search results page), enter your keywords and click the “Search” button. You will see a page of photos similar to CompFight above, but that’s where the similarities stop. You can choose your licensing from this screen as well.
To preview an image, simply hover your mouse over the photo and you’ll see two options replace the photo – “Preview” and “Get Photo”. Just hover over the “Preview” and an enlarged preview of the entire image (not just the thumbnail) will appear. If you click “Preview” the entire image will appear in a lightbox.
So far, you’ve never left the search page and you’ve seen the entire image.
Here’s where it gets really nice. To download the photo, click “Get Photo” and a lightbox will pop up with ALL the size options available as separate download links. Choose your size, click the appropriate link, and choose where to store it (if this is enabled in your browser). Your download will start immediately.
Finally, remember that attribution article I referenced above? Fuuuuuugeeeetttaboutit! In that same lightbox with all the download option links, you can simply highlight, copy, and paste the HTML for the attribution link.
After using PhotoPin, I’ve determined that I can save 75% or more of my image search and handling time. That equates to more time left for research, writing, or even time with my family. Regardless of what I do with my time, my frustration level when searching for images has dropped precipitously. I actually don’t mind looking for those good images any longer.
Do you have a favorite tool or technique for finding images for your pages and posts? Share it in the comments.
Or have you been looking for something that could make this process smoother? If so, check out PhotoPin. I think you’ll like it. Once you try it, let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
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