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Where to get Free Digital Images for Articles

By Edited Feb 28, 2014 21 26

United States Government Image Sources

Library of Congress building
The United States government has amassed a large number of images over the past 200+ years. Many of these are now located on the Internet on web sites hosted by the many departments and agencies located across the United States and the world. Most of the images stored on these servers are available for use by anyone, for any purpose. The images were created with funds obtained from taxpayers. As such, the images are in the public domain. Authors seeking images may search the various government sites in order to find suitable photographs or graphics to use. While these images are in the public domain and US federal law does not allow them to be copyrighted, authors should still exercise courtesy when using them.

When an author finds an image on a US government web site that would enhance a particular article, the author should use the image in an appropriate manner and provide a courtesy link to the involved agency. In addition, a note to the site operators should be provided that shows where the article is published. In some rare cases, an image prepared by someone not involved with the government may be present on a US web site. In these cases, it is your responsibility to ensure that you respect copyright. If you credit the source, you are exercising due diligence with respect to your publishing activity.

Images downloaded from government sources may be used by anyone for any purpose with the exception of government identifying marks. For example, authors may not brand their articles with logos that imply that their article has been prepared for or by the government or that it has been officially approved in any manner.

Some of the government agencies maintain web search facilities that can be queried for images. A number of these sites are listed below with descriptions. The use of these sites is acceptible for authors but the source of the image should be listed in the finished article.

Mallard Duck

US Fish and Wilflife Service
This agency maintains a web search at http://digitalmedia.fws.gov/index.php. They do include a copyright notice at http://www.fws.gov/help/disclaimer.html which mentions that some images may be the property of non-government entities. A standard notice of use should be acceptible for images received from this site.

Gov.com is a search portal that allows users to find information within the US government web servers. Included are images. Use their search tool to quickly locate images stored at various government agencies. The returned results may include references from state sites as well.

Whitehouse.gov is the informational site maintained on behalf of the president. Their search tool allows authors to find images stored at the Whitehouse web site and at other government agencies.

This site is another portal that authors may use to search for government images. The service will return material stored on federal and on state web sites.

CDC Lab Worker

Centers for Disease Control
The CDC maintains a large gallery of images that may be useful for certain types of articles. Their web site is located at http://phil.cdc.gov/phil/home.asp . There are no copyright restrictions as all of their images are in the public domain. A courtesy reference and notice is requested of authors using their material.

National Parks Service
The NPS maintains a gallery of images that are connected with park operations. Many of these are general topic images. Use the search tool at http://npsfocus.nps.gov/npshome.do?searchtype=npshome

United States Department of Agriculture

Small airplane

Images of landscapes, crops and farming related themes are available at the USDA website http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/cropsimages.new.htm and can be searched with their online tool.

Hubble Telescope

National Aeronatics and Space Administration
NASA maintains a large collection of space photographs as well as many of ground based personnel. Find their search tool at http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/index.html

Library of Congress

Chilean diplomat posing in open car 1904

The LOC maintains a large collection of online images at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/ which includes many thousands of images collected over the years.

State Government Resources

Lake in Louisiana park
Many of the individual states maintain online galleries of images that may be of use to content authors. These materials are also deemed to be in the public domain. A search for particular photographs may be successful. For example, a search for "Beautiful Lake" came up with a photograph from Louisiana at http://www.crt.state.la.us showing a lake at Tickfaw State Park. This image would suit any number of articles that discuss water activities.

Other Graphic Sources

Google Images
Authors may use the advanced image search capabilities at Google. Use the advanced search tool located at http://www.google.com/advanced_image_search which allows authors to specify the usage rights desired. Select "Only images labeled for reuse" and limit images for "Commercial use" and "Modification". The modification attribute may be omitted if you do not intend to alter the image. Google will return a list of images matching your keywords. Check the images to see if one fits your need. The web site hosting the image will have a usage policy such at a notice that the "Creative Commons" license applies to the work. Include a source reference to the image in your finished work.

Wikipedia Commons
Anyone may use images stored at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Welcome provided that they follow the terms specified by the contributor of the work. In many cases, this involves a simple credit to the photographer and a courtesy email. There are many images available in the Wikipedia Commons and more are added every day.

Another free photo site, http://morguefile.com has a lot of images that are freely available. Other than claiming that the photos are your own work, you are free to do what you want with the images. You can use them in your Infobarrel articles. You can modify them. You can use them commercially. It is a great site to use. The search engine helps you find images that fit your topics.

Public Domain Photos.com
While not a new site, this one was only recently found via a Squidoo article: http://www.public-domain-photos.com Opinions about this site are welcome.

Future Enhancements

This article is a work in progress and it will be updated to include additional image sources. If anyone finds other agencies that are useful for authors, feel free to provide a notice of the web address. As mentioned above, the Internet is great for delivering images with articles. In order to engage visitors, authors should include at least one image, and likely more, with each of their articles. These can be created by the author themself or they can be sourced from various others. Using the free sources listed can be an easy and quick way for authors to get suitable images, improving their articles.


Nov 25, 2011 7:05pm
Excellent article!
Nov 26, 2011 6:14am
Superb resource. Bookmarked!
Nov 26, 2011 9:41pm
Good list! Thanks!!
Nov 26, 2011 9:48pm
Great resource for writers wanting to add pictures to their articles. I will have to try some of these resources.
Nov 26, 2011 10:29pm
Very helpful.
Nov 28, 2011 6:13pm
Yes!! Excellent article. Added to favorites. Thank you for the resource!
Dec 1, 2011 10:59pm
This is a great article. I am always looking for free pictures.
Dec 2, 2011 11:15pm
excellent list! thx for collating these resources in one list. i may or may not have it bookmarked for later reference!
Dec 29, 2011 1:58pm
Fantastic links thanks!
Feb 4, 2012 1:37am
Very useful list. Thanks!
Feb 4, 2012 2:01am
Great article, very useful. Thanks!
Mar 14, 2012 1:50pm
As an Infobarrel newbie, this was a very helpful article. Much appreciated.
Mar 17, 2012 4:02pm
Hi javrsmith,
great writing. That's a really useful collection of image databases!

I'm developer and co-founder of Pixabay.com, a rather new resource of 20.000+ quality public domain images (and daily growing). We'd be really happy, if you took a look and *maybe* present Pixabay in your article.

Best, Simon
Oct 17, 2012 8:54am
I have written a companion article which is reviews Pixabay. This excellent service is described here: http://www.infobarrel.com/Pixabay_Review_-_Online_Free_Photo_Supplying_Web_Site
May 15, 2012 10:31pm
Super helpful! Many thanks.
Oct 26, 2012 11:59am
Just what I needed. thanks.
Feb 7, 2013 7:21pm
Great list, thank you for sharing.
Aug 29, 2013 7:59am
Thanks - great article for me being a newbie!
Sep 16, 2013 11:33am
thank you so much for the tip on using google images. Great
Aug 15, 2014 7:04pm
Great service!
Jan 2, 2015 7:54pm
Awesome article. Thanks for your creation. I saved all of these sites in a notepad file I stored on my desktop for easy access.

Jan 8, 2015 12:37pm
Really informative article, thanks!
Mar 2, 2015 8:36am
This is very helpful. Thanks!
Mar 25, 2015 9:22am
Very good and helpful information. Thank you much for your great input. It will be a good tool for me to use.
May 20, 2015 8:58am
Thank-you for your help.
Aug 5, 2015 6:12pm
Thanks for sharing.
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