Blogging: Using Creative Commons Search to Find the Perfect Picture

by Ron on May 11, 2009


A great picture can drive a blog post, but the key is finding the right one and making sure you have permission to use it. Just because a picture is available in Google Image search doesn’t mean it’s free to use. In fact, chances are it’s copyrighted. That’s why you should check Creative Commons, the modern copyright that lets artists share their work online according to the conditions they define.

I’ve found that Flickr is a great place to find art work for my blog posts, but the problem is that you have to check each picture for the copyright until you find one with a Creative Commons license,  and whether you can use it depends on several factors. Is your site commercial? Does the owner of the work allow you to share? Does it require attribution? Can you alter the work?

I look for pictures that it’s OK to use on a commercial site. If you use your site for business purposes, I would assume it’s commercial even if you aren’t making money directly.

There are a couple of ways to search for Flickr photos. You can go to Flickr and search by Creative Commons license, but this means you have to figure out which license is OK to use. I’ve found a better way is to go to Creative Commons and search by Flickr. This is easier because you can simply search for all Flickr photos for a commercial site and the search engine finds the right ones for you. (It’s still a good idea to check the license terms before you select the photo.)

To do this:

  1. Go to
  2. Enter your search term and click the check box next to Search for works I can use for commercial purposes.
  3. Click Go.
  4. Click the Flickr tab.
  5. Find the work you want and check the license to be sure you can use it by scrolling until you see the copyright in the right column. (I’ve found it’s best to open the license in a new tab by right-clicking and selecting Open Link in New Tab).
  6. Right-click the photo and select Save Image As to save the image to your hard drive.
  7. After you insert the photo into your blog post, be sure to add a credit at the bottom of your post with a link back to the artist’s Flickr page.

Although Creative Commons includes Google and Yahoo! image search, you will find many of the results do not fall under the Creative Commons license and you are better off using the Flickr search to find an appropriate photo.

Photo by wlodi on Flickr.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mark Sherrick May 11, 2009 at 10:13 pm

I’ve never tried using pictures in a professional blog, i can never think of the right kind of stuff to put into a marketing blog that would be fair use without being promotional…I’ll definitely have to try again, though. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places.

2 ron May 12, 2009 at 7:02 am

Hi Mark:
The trick isn’t to be promotional at all (although sometimes a product picture could be appropriate for the right post), it’s to find a playful picture that captures the symbolic essence of the blog post. This blog post is about using pictures people have given permission to share, so I chose a picture about sharing.

Once again your question, has given me an idea for a future post on choosing the perfect picture. Thanks for reading and for contributing with comments so regularly. We both appreciate it.

3 sefcug May 12, 2009 at 10:33 am

Good advice.

My only problem is that I am locked out of Flickr at work, so even at lunch when I have an idea, I can not gain access.

Any ideas other than Flickr?

4 ron May 12, 2009 at 10:48 am

If you go through Creative Commons, instead of directly to Flickr, as I suggest, does that work?

If not, there are lots of good sources of free photos.:

40 free stock photo sites.

5 sefcug May 12, 2009 at 10:51 am


No either way I am blocked.

Thanks for the link.

6 Mark Sherrick May 12, 2009 at 11:42 am

Thanks for the response Ron. I just never really thought of putting up a picture that was an alternate representative of something, rather than a direct.

As for all the comments, they’re my pleasure…with blogs and such, comments are really one of the few ways you can show support and appreciation, etc.

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