How to Find, Download, and Credit Images That Are Free and Legal

Introduction: How to Find, Download, and Credit Images That Are Free and Legal

About: Grandfather-Christian-husband-father-son-teacher-firefighter-woodworker-lab tech-writer-artist-motorcyclist-forager-sailor-blogger-longhair.

I manage several internet blogs and I try to post at least one new article weekly. When I'm feeling inspired I can write several and schedule them for automatic posting. Thus, I am often looking for free, and legal, images to add to my articles. This instructable will show you my method of finding appropriate images, preparing them for uploading, and most importantly, how to give credit to whom credit is due .


All of my instructions and examples are based on using a computer with Windows XP as the operating system, Google Chrome as the internet browser, and several specific software programs. I'll give a link to each program as I describe the steps, HOWEVER...all the instructions can apply to any other operating system and browser, as well as many other software programs. Translate all my terms and examples into whatever language/system/platform/program is best for you!

For me, it's best to begin first with the content. Write your complete article and do all your proofreading and editing and formatting first. Concentrate on the content of your blog post. The images, graphics and colors should then support and focus on the content , which is the most important element of your blog, right?

The exception is when you are creating a how-to article that uses an image to support each step. You'll probably need to find an appropriate image for each step first, and then write specific instructions based each image. This is especially important when using screenshots. This is the method I used to create this article.

Step 1: Find an Image

Free is good...very good! There are thousands of internet sites that have photos, images, graphics and logos. It's a simple matter to search for an image using a keyword that best fits your article. Surf to a likely site, right-click on the image and save as a new file on your computer... most likely are using someone's photo or image or logo that they've created themselves, and the law of the land, as well as the law of most every other country in the world, protects the property of those who create or own their photos, images and graphics. DON'T STEAL...IT'S THE LAW! (It's immoral, unfair, and just plain wimpy, too!)

So...what's a law-abiding, peaceful blogger to do?

Thankfully, there are thousands of generous graphic artists and philanthropic photographers who gladly offer their work for free, with few or no restrictions regarding usage. This article will show you how to find images that are free and licensed for public, and even commercial, use. Usually, the only condition of use is that you give credit to the creator or owner of the image.

The first step is to point your browser to This is not a search engine, but it is a very convenient site that allows access to search services that can find content you can share, use and remix.

Enter your keywords into the search field and select two options, depending upon your needs:

- Use for commercial purposes
- Modify, adapt, or build upon.
- These two options are the default selections when you visit this site. I usually keep them both f.

Now, select the search service you desire, depending upon whether you're looking for media (text/audio/video), images, web (sites), music, or strictly video.

Most frequently, I select "Google Images".

Step 2: Search by Keyword

For this article, I entered the term "free" and Google returned several images, all labeled "for commercial use with modification".

I opened a link that seemed promising. The image of a rhinocerous did not at first strike me as being closely related to my article, but it was a striking image! I scrolled through the other images, but I kept coming back to this conveyed an emotion of creativity, brilliance, strength and surprise. I wanted it!

Click on the image you want and then go to the website on which the search engine found it.

Step 3: Check for a License

Look over the site to see what permissions or restrictions the owner might have. The fact that you found it using search.creativecommons.orgdoes not guarantee that the image has no restrictions, so it's best to look for any obvious disclaimers.

This website clearly posted a permission statement.

If you open the Creative Commons Attribution License link, you can read a simple overview of the usage license, as well as link to the details.

Step 4: Review the Permissions

Here is a transcript of the simple overview page:

You are free:

- to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit
the work

- to Remix — to adapt the work

- to make commercial use of the work

Under the following conditions:

Attribution — You must attribute the work in
the manner
specified by the author or licensor (but not
in any way that suggests that they endorse
you or your use of the work).

With the understanding that:

Waiver — Any of the above conditions can be
waived if you get permission from the
copyright holder.

Public Domain — Where the work or any of its
elements is in the public domain under
applicable law, that status is in no way
affected by the license.

Other Rights — In no way are any of the
following rights affected by the license:

- Your fair dealing or fair use rights, or
other applicable copyright exceptions and

- The author's moral rights;

- Rights other persons may have either in the
work itself or in how the work is used, such
as publicity or privacy rights.

Notice — For any reuse or distribution, you
must make clear to others the license terms
of this work. The best way to do this is with
a link to this web page.

This license allows me to use the owner's work, even in a situation from which I personally profit, as long as I give the owner credit, and as long as I do not violate anyone's moral or privacy rights. I also need to make clear to others the terms of this license, which is easily done by posting a link to the license web page:

(Yikes! I just realized that I've neglected to make clear the terms of the license for images that I've used in previous blogs...It is best to look at the license each time you use someone's will help refresh your memory as to what's required.) 

Step 5: Download the Image

Return to the website on which you found the image and right-click on the image, selecting "Save image as...".

IMPORTANT: Name the image and save it in a folder that makes sense!

It is important to develop a system of naming and saving files in a way that makes it easier to find, keep, update and backup. Even if you've been fairly haphazard in the past...even if you only need to find and download a few images a week, it is important to do it systematically.

Here's my method: Name your image with the same name as your article.

Right now I'm creating an article that I've saved with the name: how-to-find-images-that-are-free-and-legal.html

I will save my image similarly, changing the only filetype: how-to-find-images-that-are-free-and-legal.jpg

Notice that I've added a serial number to the filename, 001, because I plan to incorporate several images in my article, and I want them all to be grouped together when I list the content of my folder, but I need to distinguish them by number. The leading zeros allows me to list them sequentially, although I'm not locked into using them sequentially.

Step 6: Download and Name the Image

So, here's the image I downloaded.

This was actually the ninth image that I downloaded for this article, so I named the file appropriately:


Step 7: Give Credit to Whom Credit Is Due


You need to gather several pieces of information in order to properly and ethically credit the creator, author or owner of the work you just downloaded. The easiest source for this information is the orginal website.

I recommend using a simple text editor to capture this information. You should be able to look over the author/creator/owner's website, highlight and copy each bit of information, including links, and have it all pasted into a simple text file. You can then use this information at the end of your article to properly credit the author/creator/owner.

I use NoteTab Light. NoteTab Light is free, lightweight and fast, with tons of features. I use it to create websites, make notes, draft letters, transcribe music lyrics. It's much faster than any word process like MS Word or OpenOffice, and most importantly, it has a PASTEBOARD mode!

What is Pasteboard Mode? It's a wonderful tool that I can't do without!

Start your text editor and enable the pasteboard feature. In NoteTab Light, you can press Control-N to open a blank document, then press Shift-Control-P to start the pasteboard mode.

Step 8: Copy and Paste

Now, return to the original website from which you downloaded your image and highlight the URL (the website address located in the browser's address bar).

NoteTab Light will copy the address and automatically paste it into the blank document. You might hear a beep that indicates a successful copy/paste. While in Pasteboard Mode, NoteTab Light will automatically paste all text that you copy, no matter the source or length! You do not need to toggle back and forth from the browser to the text editor...everything that you hightlight and copy will automatically be pasted to the blank document.

So, look for the following bits of information, highlight, copy and paste to your blank document:

- Website address
- Name of creator/author/owner
- Link to license or terms of use webpage

For the image that I just downloaded I found the following information that I will allow me to properly credit the author/creator/owner:

- Guy David

NoteTab Light automatically inserted a blank line after each copy/paste, making it easy for me to keep track of who I need to credit.

At the end of my article I'll insert a credit for each image I used, something like this:

Image of rhinocerous courtesy of Guy David,

Step 9: Prepare the Image

I usually need to crop and resize the images I use in my articles. Now is the best time to do that. I like to use a fast image editor: IrfanView.

IrfanView is free and very fast. It allows basic editing like crop and resize, and much more. Most importantly, it allows screenshots and screen captures. As a bonus, it also plays mp3 music files!

Start your image editor and open the image you downloaded. (IrfanView allows drag-and-drop!)

Crop and resize the image as necessary. I decided to crop and resize to 600 pixels wide for this article. It's important to resize your image if possible...images used in an internet blog rarely need to be more than 600 pixels wide, and usually 400 pixels wide is sufficient. The smaller the image you use, the faster the web page will load!

After cropping and resizing, you should re-save the image with a new name! I recommend that you use the original file name, but add a different serial number, as well as the size of the new image. By this time, this is the sixteenth image I've used in my article, so the name I chose for my cropped/re-sized image will be this:


This system of naming my image files ensures that the images will be easy to find later. They will be listed alphabetically with the name of my article, sequentially, and each different version will display the exact width and height in pixels.

Step 10: Conclusion!

I've written my article, found a good image to support the content and attract my reader's attention, downloaded the image and recorded the information needed to properly credit the creator/author/owner of the image, cropped and re-sized the image, and saved it with a filename that will make it easy to find and distinguish from other version of the same image.

I'm now ready to actually use the image!

- For an internet blog, upload the image and insert into your article.

- For a slide presentation, drag the image (or copy and paste) into your slide.

- For a word processor document, drag the image (or copy and paste) into your document.

Note: you should always crop and re-size the image BEFORE inserting it into your slide or document. The smaller the image, the faster the slide will display, the faster the document will load, and the easier it will be to email to others. Large images result in large files, which many email providers will balk at!

Remember to include the following information at the end of your document, attributing to the creator/author/owner of each work which you used:

- Website address
- Name of creator/author/owner
- Link to license or terms of use webpage

Go forth and download...freely and legally!

Image of rhinoceros courtesy of Guy David. License:


- Creative Commons License:
- NoteTab Light:
- IrvanView:

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    4 years ago

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    Reply 4 years ago

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