Thursday 25 January 2018

Need some free images for your academic work / poster / presentation / website? Look no further

By Ned Potter, Academic Liaison Librarian

We all need images for essays, presentations, posters, art-projects, and lots of other reasons, but we don't necessarily want to pay for them. Neither do we want to break the law by using copyrighted material we aren't allowed to reproduce. So where do we find them?

Public Domain images

Step forward CC0Images which have been made Creative Commons Zero (also known as CCO) by their creators, are available to use by anyone, however they like. The images are in the Public Domain and can be reproduced, incorporated into other works, modified, and reused, without needing permission and in most cases without even needing to credit the author.

There are all sorts of advantages to using CC0 pictures. Firstly you know you're not going to fall foul of any copyright rules and break the law. Then there's the fact that if attribution isn't required, you don't have to take up space on your poster / slide / artwork / website with an author credit and a link to flickr or another website. Plus if your work finds an audience and ends up being sold, for example as part of a book, CC0 images are licensed for commercial use too. It's amazing! 

Although you don't HAVE to credit the creators of CC0 works it's still courteous to do so, as is crediting the site where you found the image. If you're citing the images in an essay or report, a proper reference will be needed just like anything else. 

A number of image sites offer CCO works. They are in two broad categories - artworks, and stock photography. We've listed some great sites of both types below: all of these cost no money to use, although you may have to set up free personal accounts with some of them to download high quality images. 

Free to use stock photography

Pexels is the CC0 site I go to first when creating slides or websites. It's good on technology particularly, but covers loads of areas well, with stock photography that is far above the average stock shots. It has tens of thousands of pictures, including the ability to search by colour, and also has a sister site dedicated to CC0 video.

A selection of images from

Once you start using CC0 image sites you get used to seeing the same stock photography appearing on many of them (it comes with the territory, as the fact that the copyright has no restrictions means any site can pick them up and use them - you could start an image bank right now using CC0 images if you wanted to), but Stocksnap seems to have a few more pictures which are unique to it. Here's the 'recently added images' from today: selection (that's the actual URL as well as the name) searches through lots of other CC0 sites in one go, including the excellent UnSplash. As well searching by keyword you can browse by colour, collection, or original source.

Some of the 'glare' collection from

Finally, for some pictures that are about as far away from tired stock photography cliches as it is possible to get, head over to Gratisography. Quirky, odd images, of extremely high resolution and quality, free to use in any way you see fit. There's really nothing quite like it.

Some pics from the truly unique

Free to use art and artwork imagery

If you have any more suggestions for great CC0 sites, let us know with a comment below and we'll add them to the list.

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