Find and Use the Perfect (Free!) Image Online

Images typically get more attention than text does on web pages, and they garner more engagement on social media. In the online world, where people scan more than they read, images can stop people in their tracks and help tell your story when words don’t.

When finding free images online, it’s important to understand that just because images are readily available on search engines, partner organization sites, and news sites doesn’t mean they’re available for use on your site — even with attribution. They’re most likely covered by copyright, so you would need permission from the owner or buy them (see numbers 3 and 5 below). Well, you might ask, How do I use images on blogs, social media, and websites without breaking copyright or spending lots of money?

There are plenty of places you can find free and legal images to use on your AAUW website and social media. In this post, we’ll cover some do’s to help you find and use free images for your online content. And check out the captioned photos for examples of correct attribution.

DO use AAUW National social media albums.

Students at the annual NCCWSL conference.

Photo courtesy of AAUW

You can turn to our Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, and other social media platforms and scroll through the albums. We just ask that you attribute them to us and link to the page you found them on. (Hint: Our images cover the gamut of AAUW issues and activities.)

DO read creative-commons licenses.

There are several sites, including Wikimedia Commons, Flickr Creative Commons, and the Library of Congress, where millions of images are available to the public domain, but each site can have different restrictions. Make sure you read the page for information like how you should attribute the image or if you can edit it. (Hint: When searching for images, start with specific search terms and then go broader.)

DO ask for and receive permission.

Pioneers of the production line, these two young workers are among the first women ever to operate a centerless grinder, a machine requiring both the knowledge of precision measuring instruments and considerable experience and skill in setting up.

These two young workers are among the first women ever to operate a centerless grinder. Photo by Ann Rosener. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

If you ever find an image you’d like to use but you don’t see any guidelines about use, or if you see that it’s copyrighted, e-mail or call the person or organization in possession of the image and ask. Be explicit about your plans for the photo and mention that it’s not for profit. (Hint: You’ll have more luck with individuals and nonprofits than with news organizations and wires or professional photographers.)

DO attribute everything.

“Better safe than sorry” is our mantra, but we also believe that photographers and/or their organizations deserve credit for their work. Be sure to list the photographer, organization, and link whenever you can. (Hint: Put the attribution in the caption.)

DO use stock images when there’s nothing else.

Women Laughing Alone with Salad was the theme of a popular Tumblr blog satirizing cheesy stock photography. Photo courtesy of ThinkStock

Women Laughing Alone with Salad was the theme of a popular Tumblr blog satirizing cheesy stock photography. Photo courtesy of ThinkStock

Sometimes you just don’t have the right image to accompany your message, so stock photography can help. Here are some cheap or free stock photo sites for you to explore:

(Hint: Stock photos tend to be generic, so make sure your site stands out with these tips.)

This piece is posted from AAUW.