Recently I wrote a blog post about where you can find sites that offer free stock photos (read more here) to download, which are all great, but I noticed the licenses of how you use each site, or even each photo within each site can vary from one another. Keeping up with all the different licenses and attribute requirements can be overwhelming when you want to make sure you are covering yourself to avoid any copyright violations.
That’s where public domain images come in handy. Images that fall under The Public Domain (Wikipedia definition) are not restricted under any copyrights. Usually you will find a lot of old, vintage photos under the public domain, but there are some photographers/authors of the photos today that release their work under the public domain mark.
Here is a great list of 10 free websites that offer public domain images:
Public Domain Archive (http://publicdomainarchive.com) – Contains all free modern, vintage, and more photos to download under the public domain to use however you would like. This website collects public domain images found around the web, while placing their own photographs on there as well.
U.S. Government Photos and Images (http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Graphics.shtml) – You’ll find lots of government, history, science, public safety, law, culture, and more photos to use for your projects. As they state on their website, some photos are under the public domain and some under the U.S. government works, but either way they may be used without permission or without a fee. However they do remind their users to read all disclaimers before downloading an image since they come from different government agencies.
Picdrome (http://www.picdrome.com) – Offers free public domain images in categories such as abstract, architecture, food, nature, sports, textures, backgrounds, and more to use however and wherever you want.
PD Photo (http://pdphoto.org) – Most of the images found on this website fall under the public domain, but there are few photos though that are not, just make sure you read the caption when you find a photo you want to use on this website. The site says you can download hi-resolution photos for a small fee, but the photos I checked out were in my opinion a decent resolution for computer screen work. So if you did not want to pay a fee, you could still use the public domain images featured on this website for blogs posts, social media posts, websites, or whatever else on screen.
Public-Domain-Image (http://www.public-domain-image.com) – Includes all public domain images free for any personal or commercial use, many of which are high quality/resolution to download. Contains lots of different categories to search from animals, to plants, landscapes, people, objects, travel, and much more.
Public-Domain-Photos (http://www.public-domain-photos.com) – Search through over 5,000 photos and 8,000 cliparts, all free to download and use however you want under the public domain. There are lots of travel, people, good, and more photos found on their website.
Viintage (http://viintage.com) – You’ll love this public domain images website if you are into the vintage work. I immediately get drawn in every time I visit their site, they have some pretty cool vintage pieces. At first it can be a little confusing as to how to start downloading their images for free (or at least I was confused), but if you click their Free Downloads menu item at the top, it will take you to a page with different categories you can select and start downloading whichever vintage public domain images available.
Public Domain Photos (http://publicphoto.org) – They have over 25,000 public domain images to use for your personal or commercial projects in any category you can think of.
Photos Public Domain (http://www.photos-public-domain.com) – Contains lots of photos and clipart under the public domain in categories such as nature, animals, holidays, seasons, places, objects, food, textures, and much more.
Pd Pics (http://www.pdpics.com) – This website has their in-house photographers take photos and place them under the public domain mark so they are free to download to use for personal or commercial projects. You can browse categories such as birds, vehicles, money, jewelry, art, education, holidays, and much more.
*You will notice the websites listed above do not require an attribute for the author or website if you use their public domain images, but keep in mind it’s a very nice courtesy to link back if you use that website’s or author’s photograph.
Public domain images come in handy when you are not a professional photographer with lots of stock photos to choose from, or you don’t want to constantly purchase stock photos. Public domain images are great for websites, blogs, social media, or anything commercial use related if you can fit it into whatever you are doing. Like I said, the nice thing about using public domain images is you don’t have to worry about violating any copyright laws with the photo you are using.
Remember when downloading a public domain image, to always make sure it is in the public domain first, it should clearly state it and that there are no other restrictions attached. Most the websites I listed above have all their photos under the public domain mark, but there were few that had additional photos that fall under different copyrights. Just make sure you read the image description before you download.
Another thought to keep in mind is when it comes to trademarks, logos, or other similar displays in public domain images. Beware of how you use those photos so you do not get sued or in any other kind of trouble. If you really want to use a photo with a trademark or logo, ask the company first, you never know, depending on how you want to use that image, they could grant you permission. And of course if they do not grant you that permission, don’t use it.
Do you use Public Domain images in your projects? If so, what’s your favorite website to use?