Friday, 21 June 2013

Thing 16: Creative Commons Images

Creative Commons Licences allow people to freely and legally re-use artistic works, as long as they credit the creator of those works. This can apply to anything, but the part we're interested in here is applying it to images. There are literally hundred of millions of images online of very high quality, which we can use in posters, brochures, presentations, websites, handbooks - whatever we like, as long as we abide by the conditions of  the Creative Commons (CC) licence under which they're made available.

Here's an example of a Creative Commons Image from Flickr, by Paul Bica - view the original at

 So where do you find these fantastic pictures?

  • Flickr Creative Commons ( - Flickr is the big online picture sharing site, and it has the largest single supply of Creative Commons images (that I know of), tens of millions of them. It has plenty of non-licenced images to - which is to say, they're subject to normal copyright so we couldn't use them ourselves - but the link about takes you to CC part. 
  • Compfight ( - Compfight searches Flickr better than Flickr searches itself. It does all the different CC licences at once, which is useful, and somehow (I have no idea how) it seems to sort the wheat from the chaff and bring back the more useful pictures. When you run a search on Compfight, click Creative Commons from the menu down the left next to the results - from then on, every image you search for you can use.
  • Wikimedia Commons ( has over 15 million CC images and, unlike pretty much all the other sources listed here, the images are categorised (by date, location, format, style etc) so you're not reliant on keyword searches to find what you need 
  • Iconfinder ( does what it sounds like it does - finds icons which are available for re-use. So not photographs like the other sites we're talking about, but small graphics and images which can be very useful in presentations. All the pictures in this Library slide-deck are from Iconfinder, for example. 
  • Stock Xchange ( is the equivalent of iStock Photo except the images are free to use with attribution. It is particularly useful for finding pictures on a plain white background, for use in PPTs. 
  • Morguefile ( is similar to StockXchange, perhaps not as good (and not as comprehensive) - but the images are even licensed for commercial use, so you can use them to advertise things. 
  • Blue Mountains ( For the completists, a site called Blue Mountains does roughly what Compfight does. Try searching for a keyword but also putting BW in the search box (e.g. bw clocks) - it'll bring back very stylish black and white photos, often with a one-off splash of colour somewhere within them. 


This activity is two-part and shouldn't take more than 5 or 10 minutes. 

Part 1 is to go to the Flickr Creative Commons site and read the definitions of the four types of creative commons licence. It's important to know about the subtle differences between them, as it impacts on how you can use the images.

Part 2 is to explore two or three of the sites listed here with the same keyword search (on whatever you like) and compare which is most useful. Next time you need an image for a presentation or a leaflet or blogpost or whatever it might be, you'll hopefully be able to go immediately back to your preferred image search engine and find some Creative Commons pics you can use!

Bonus Activity 

My favourite image search engine is the TinEye MultiColor Search Engine. You can't search by keyword - instead you search by colour, up to five colours in fact... How cool is that? It's incredibly useful for finding full-slide images to match the theme of your PowerPoint. Your 10 minute entirely optional bonus activity is to try and find an interesting image that matches the Directorate brand (so either blue and dark grey for IT, pinky purple and dark grey for the Library, or orange and dark grey for the Borthwick - perhaps add some white in there to give you a bit more flexibility if you'd like to) and insert it into a blogpost. Make sure you correctly attribute it! The idea is that anyone reading your blog should know who the photo is by, and how to find it online for themselves - as I did with the caption of the photo at the top of this post. 


  1. Great list! I'd recommend one more site that I've found hugely useful: Its tagline is "Find and share outstanding free images", and it lives up to that "outstanding". The images on Pixabay aren't CC-licensed, they're entirely in the public domain: manipulate, reuse, do whatever you like, no attribution necessary.

  2. Wow! Thank you Emily, I'd not heard of that and it does look excellent... Cheers.

  3. I'd suggest adding All images that are submitted have to be Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike.