Web Images: Finding Images Online


Learn how to find web images under the Creative Commons license that you can use in your website design.Read more on NZS.nz.

Find out how to source images on the web. Also learn about the Creative Commons license and how this affects your legal right to use images and photos that you find online.

Quality text content on your website or blog is fantastic for visitors as well as search engines, but your web design can look very drab and lack a sense of excitement if you limit your content to text alone.

Images – both photos and illustrations – go a long way towards making your website more attractive while encouraging your visitors to navigate deeper into your site. Images can also often get your message across far easier than words alone. This is essential for any website that wants to encourage business from an Internet audience with a short attention span.

For those new to the web, it can be tempting to simply perform a basic image search within Google to find the images you want and then upload those images to your own site. However, in simple terms, this is theft and you risk facing legal action for copyright infringement if you do this.

Finding Websites To Use Images For Your Website

The key to understanding how you can use images that you find on the web comes down to an understanding of the Creative Commons license. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organisation that provides licenses for the use of a large variety of creative resources so that you can use them for your own needs.

Deeper with the Google image search is an option that allows you to only search for images with a specific license. However, an easier way to search for images with the Creative Commons license is to use the advanced search function within Flickr – a highly popular photo sharing website.

When users upload photos to Flickr, they can choose to add a license that allows others to use the images for a range of applications, depending on the level of the license.

Levels Of Creative Commons

Not all images have the same license. To find an image that you can use, you’ll need to tick the relevant check boxes in the Creative Commons section when you perform an advanced search within Flickr.  These are:

      • Only Search Within Creative Commons-Licensed Content.  This search shows only those photos that have a Creative Commons license attached. Without any other check boxes, this search alone is quite vague and you may still see plenty of photos that you can’t actually use for your website or blog.
      • Find Content To Use Commercially.  As the name suggests, these photos can be used by others for use on commercial websites or in printed publications. However, other conditions may apply. More on this later.
      • Find Content To Modify, Adapt, Or Build Upon.  With these images, you are free to manipulate and ‘photoshop’ the image as you wish – whether it’s simply resizing and cropping the image, making it black and white or cutting out parts of the image and mixing them with other images. Again, further conditions may apply.

Once you have found an image that you wish to use, be sure to check the extra requirements of the license for that image. These are usually represented by small icons near to the image itself.

  • Attribution.  Means that you can use the user’s images for your own purposes but only if you give that user credit whenever you use the image.
  • Noncommercial.  Means that you can use the image for personal use only. Typically this allows you to print the image and display it in your own home.
  • Share Alike.  Allows you to use the image but only under your own Creative Commons license that is identical to the original creator’s.

What If I Want To Buy The Rights To Use An Image?

If you wish to pay for the rights to use an image, you’re better off using image libraries (also known as stock libraries). An image library provides a method for you to browse and pay for the use of photos that have usually been uploaded by professional photographers.

The specific licenses of each image library can vary so it’s best to check the usage rights for each individual photo that you wish to purchase to ensure that you are legally allowed to use it.

Be aware that many image libraries have digital photos intended or print media that can be far too high a resolution for you to use online. You should either download a lower resolution version where possible, or manually edit the resolution yourself before uploading to your website.

If in doubt, either check with the website that hosts the image or contact a professional website designer for assistance.