Do you struggle to find visual content that you can use on your website, blog or on social media?
This guide on how to search for free and reusable images using Google Image Search and Flickr can enable you to improve your content immediately.
Why Use Images?
We know that visual content can have a huge impact on your conversion rates, increase engagement and provide a more exciting user experience.
This infographic from Optimal Targeting Blog explains why images and visuals are so important in great content creation. This is especially important on social media. For example Twitter’s research shows that photos are the most influential factor for retweets in most categories.
Before we go into how to search for freely licensed images, it is important to understand the licenses which you will see when you are searching:
Copyright – All Rights Reserved: Wherever you see this, you are unable to use the image
Creative Commons: There are different levels of license which may enable reuse and in some cases may enable you to modify an image. In this post we are going to focus on content that is reusable for commercial use.
Using Google Image Search
When you go to Google and search for something, you can select the images tab which will give you image results only.
For this example I have searched for ‘cats’ and it has given me lots of results. However, we want to quickly filter images that we are allowed to use.
To do this, click ‘Search tools’:
Then click ‘Usage rights’:
‘Not filtered by license’ will be the default setting and you need to check this every time you are searching for images that you want to use.
The two options we want to concentrate on are:
- Labelled for reuse with modification: you can reuse and amend images, even for commercial use
- Labelled for reuse: you can reuse images, even for commercial use, but you can’t amend them
This will filter the results you see. All of these images of cats above I can reuse and modify, but I always want to double check that this is the case. To do this, click the image you like and then click visit page.
When you click through to the image source it should clearly state what licence it is under. Sometimes it may be someone else who has used the image with a link back the the author so you would have to follow the trail to the source.
Essentially, you are checking to make sure it can be republished for commercial use, whether you can modify it and whether you need to give credit to the author or not.
You can repeat this with the ‘labeled for reuse’ option, which should give you image results that you can use commercially but not modify. As before, always check the source and if it is unclear, choose another image.
When you go to Flickr you will notice the search bar in the top right hand corner. Use this to search the whole site for images you are interested in.
For this example, I have searched for ‘travel’. Similar to Google there are licence filters in the top left, but with different options to Google. Here we are looking for ‘commercial use allowed’ and ‘commercial use & mods allowed’.
As with Google Image Search we need to double check any images we want to use. Flickr display the licence information on the image page itself as highlighted below:
You can also click on the link for further information about the type of license which will clearly state what you are allowed to do with an image as below.
In most instances an image will hold an Attribution licence, requiring you to credit with a link back to the image page.
As a general rule:
- If the website is not clear, use another image.
- If the image is licensed for non-commercial use, use another image.
Here is a list of some other useful links for you to go forth and find great images to use in your content marketing:
Creative Commons Search – this highlights websites where you can search for Creative Commons content and directs you to these websites with the filter already applied. This includes YouTube and SoundCloud for video and audio assets.
Unsplash – 10 new photos posted every 10 days, all with Creative Commons licences that require you to give credit to the author.
Pexels – all Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licensed, meaning you can modify and reuse without giving credit.
Freeimages – featuring premium stock photography from Getty and a large collection of free images.
Gratisography – a large library of images by photographer Ryan McGuire, all licenced under CC0.
Pixabay – featuring paid stock photography from Shutterstock and a large library of free CC0 licensed images.
There is an increasing amount of high quality, free images available. Simply knowing where to find them and how you are able to use them unlocks potential to make your content more visual and engaging.
Let me know your thoughts on Twitter!
— Kym Ellis (@digital_kym) September 16, 2015