Finding free photos and illustrations online

October 2016

Where can I get free pictures that can be legally used to illustrate the pages of a web blog, or e-commerce site?. There are several online photo services that offers millions of photos covering many different topics, but most of these images are not free. An alternative solution is to find free photos under Creative Commons licenses or other types that can freely use in the context of a commercial activity. But how to perform this search, and especially respect the framework for the use of these images, not to infringe copyright?

Images under Creative Commons licenses: conditions of use

To find free images for your website, search for images under "Creative Commons License". They provide a framework for a clear use, avoiding the risk of violating copyright. Note that some platforms are dedicated to searching for images under Creative Commons license (see below).

What is the Creative Commons license?

Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization whose goal is to offer an alternative to authors wishing to release their works to allow other users to reuse/distribute them in a specific context (eg business, non-commercial).

To do this, Creative Commons has created six licenses that govern the rights over a work and define the authorizations given by the authors.

These rights are expressed by different icons chosen by the author.

Comply with the conditions of use

Creative Commons licenses are governed by four major conditions, which can be combined. These conditions are represented by icons, usually displayed on the same web page as the work.

Allocation / Attribution: Mandatory for all images under Creative Commons licenses. Users must credit the author of the original work, the way it is asked too (eg, the name, location, date optional)

Noncommercial: You may reproduce and distribute the work for any use other than a commercial one.

Share alike: the author authorizes you to reproduce, distribute and modify their work under the same distribution terms as the original work.

No change: the author allows you to reproduce and distribute the original work, but you must get permission before changing it.

Some of these restrictions can be combined, giving a total of 6 licenses.

Where to find royalty free pictures?

  • Wikimedia Commons: The multimedia database of the Wikimedia Foundation centralizes millions of free media, including a large amount of visual art accessible via a search engine. These photos are then grouped by themes.
  • This site covers various search engines and platforms hosting photos/media under Creative Commons licenses: Europeana, Flickr, Fotopedia, Google Images.
  • The famous photo hosting platform includes all type of works hosted under the Creative Commons license, which facilitates the search for free photos.
  • This search engine connected to Flickr can quickly filter results by criteria (commercial use).

Where to find free cliparts?

  • The cliparts are small drawings and symbols that can be use to illustrate different parts of a website (graphical design).
  • site lists thousands of royalty free cliparts.
  • You can find useful illustrations to help in the navigation on your website, or to improve readability, as shown by the clip art below:

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This document entitled « Finding free photos and illustrations online » from CCM ( is made available under the Creative Commons license. You can copy, modify copies of this page, under the conditions stipulated by the license, as this note appears clearly.