I love (read here – don’t love) the advertising for sites like iStockPhoto and others when I Google for ‘free photos’ it is iStockPhoto with their ‘royalty free photos’ that come out at the top of the list – but they are not free in the way that you might think.
As you would expect, you have to be respectful of the copyright on any material that you use on your website. This includes images, content and ideas that you may find elsewhere. Now many authors are quite happy to have you use their material but you need to be sure in each instance to avoid nasty situations.
In the case of photos to make your product, blog post, webpage more attractive there are sites that help you to manage the issue of copyright. In many cases you pay for this privelage and iStockPhoto is one such site. You have to purchase images from iStockPhoto but after that you do not have to pay ongoing royalties and iStockPhoto will indemnify you against issues with copyright or usage of those images you purchase – subject to the terms of the licence agreement.
Check the licence terms carefully
Not all licence term are the same so look at a couple of sites to find the best for you, read the licence agreement carefully as they do vary between providers. Some will allow you to use images for advertising or promotions but as soon as you want to sell anything that has the image then you need another more generous (and expensive license).
As images are usually charged based on size and resolution it is a good idea to purchase as small an image as suites your purpose – for normal websites a small one is often suffificent.
Images that are free to purchase will still have licence terms
There are also sites that offer images that are truly free to purchase and royalty free. I am currently using Stock.XCHNG for many of my blog photos as they really are free to download for small jobs where you are happy to spend the time to search for the image you want. The image search engine is not as powerful as you will find on some of the ‘pay per image’ sites. You must still check the terms for each image as some are standard but others require an acknowledgement to the owner of the image and this may not be appropriate for all uses.
It appears that Stock.XCHNG obtain some of their funding from advertising for iStockPhoto and you can see the difference in the search results as the ‘pay for image’ site returns spectacular results for a given search. This really makes sense as you do tend to get what you pay for and the trade off in search time may exceed the cost of the ‘free’ images in some cases. [Edit – Getty Images now wholly-own Stock.XCHNG, hopefully some of the ‘paid for’ search capability will flow over]
The decision to use a ‘free’ site or ‘public domain‘ images depends on your needs. There are a huge range of sites that offer various levels of free – here is a great collection of 30 sites I came across at webdesignbooth that I am sure will keep you supplied for every occasion.
Here is to your image safe and friendly products!
your ‘peoples geek’