UPDATED 08:42 EDT / MARCH 15 2013

Don’t Get Caught with Ugly Pics : 8 Free Image Search Tools for Bloggers

So you’re a blogger.  You’ve setup your very own site and decided to spice things up by putting interesting photos you found on the web.  You published your very first blog post, in which you also injected an image you found on the web.  You’re very proud of yourself.  You look at your work and and pat yourself on the back, because you did a great job.  Next thing you know, someone’s suing you or asking you to pay license fees for the photos found on your blog.

All you can mutter is, “WTF happened?”

You probably used images that are copyrighted and you didn’t ask permission to do so, credit the original source, and paid the owner the right fee to be able to use the photos.

“Copyright?  License?  Permission?  Original source? – What are these?”

Because you’re a new blogger or journalist, you probably don’t have any clue that you just can’t use photos found on the web as you please.  There are rules.

Creative Commons Licenses

Photographers have been hit hard in the digital age.  Even if they meant to sell those photos, some clueless prick decided that it would be cool to use the photos on his own site.  Thus, the birth of Creative Commons licenses.

Creative Commons license is one of several public copyright licenses that allows distribution of copyrighted works.  It has number of conditions such as Attribution, Share-Alike, Non-commercial, and No Derivative Works which can be mixed and matched according to the whim of the licensee.

The point is, if the conditions for the copyrighted work states that you cannot use it without paying a fee, and you lifted if from the internet and put it in your blog, you ass gets sued unless you pay or reason out with the owner and hope that he/she has a good heart and let it slide with the promise of not doing it again – ever.

Creative Commons protects not only the original source, but users as well.

Here’s some tips, tools, and even sites where you can get images without getting into trouble and infringing copyright.


It was one of the first to incorporate Creative Commons licensing options in its user interface.  People can easily search for images that can be used without worrying about copyright infringement.

“As individuals and as a company we wholeheartedly support and endorse the Creative Commons’ mission and hope to help contribute to the preservation and enhancement of creative freedom and personal expression,” Flickr wrote when it incorporated Creative Commons to its service.

Some photographers have experience major changes in their lives because of this.

“Making my photos available on flickr using a CC-license has made wonderful things happen. My photos have been used in classrooms, in books and on blogs. They have been used to illustrate articles in Wikipedia or help charities’ fund-raising campaigns,” Lars Plougmann, photographer, said in Creative Commons’ case study on Flickr.

Google Image Search

Yeah, I know most of you think that Google is bad guy and will give you licensed photos to use but they’re not that bad.  Google made sure it promotes Creative Commons licenses.  Just go to Google’s advanced image search page, look for the Usage rights section, click on the dropdown menu to choose whether you want images not filtered by license, free to use or share, free to use or share even commercially, free to use or share or modify, or free to use or share or modify even commercially.  When you do an image search, you can be sure that you won’t be illegally using images.

Photo Pin

This site helps you easily find Creative Commons images on Flickr without having to go to Flickr itself.  Just type in what you’re looking for in the search bar and you’ll be presented with thumbnail photos of say, the Taj Mahal.  Hovering over the photo, you’ll see two buttons, one for previewing the image, the other for getting the image.  Clicking on “get photo” will open a small window where you can choose what size the image would be.  Clicking on the thumbnail on the left will allow you to see the license for the photo.  And to use the photo, there’s an HTML at the bottom which you can use for Attribution.


Creative Commons Finder or CCFinder is a program that helps you find photos that can be used and published, add filters to images found, and set them as your wallpaper.  It works around keywords to easily find images and it either redirects you the original source of the image so you can download it from there or download images from the program itself.  Comes in two versions, a free and a paid version, which costs $10.


Much like Photo Pin, Compfight is an image search engine that helps you find images under the Creative Commons license.  It uses the Flickr API, like Photo Pin, so all the images found on Compfight are from Flickr.

Photos aren’t the only things copyrighted.  Even cliparts, drawings, paintings and icons are, too.  Below are some sites to help you get images that are free and legal to use.


Open Clipart

It is the largest collaborative community that creates, shares and remixes clipart.  Cliparts are released in public domain and can be used for free without any restrictions.  It is great for blogs, projects, presentations or wherever cliparts can be used.

Wikimedia Commons

This site houses paintings, drawings and even older photography that are either out of license or under the Creative Commons licenses.  You can also find images from international art galleries here as it houses nearly 14 million media files.

The Noun Project

This site has high quality icons and images which can be used by anyone with a Facebook or e-mail account.  The point of the project is to convey meaning through visual representations via cute icons – think cave drawings.  It’s simple, easy and no fuss.

These are just a few tools to help you scout the internet for images you can use on your blog, project, presentation, wallpaper, without getting in trouble.  To check out more tips and trickes, visit CreativeCommons.org or click here.

photo credit: saturnino.farandola via photopin cc

photo credit: What What via photopin cc

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