Photos are key for tourism promotion, so you can never have too many great photos to use online. And the U.S. Government is here to help.
Most photos you find online are NOT public domain. One exception is “Photos prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties.” Most federal agencies have public databases where you can download photos that are free to use.
|A sail boat races across Bellingham Bay in
Puget Sound with Mt. Baker in the background.
Source: U.S. E.P.A., public domain.
Bonus: because the US government has a global presence, photos are available for almost every country.
A few of the most tourism-friendly photo databases are:
- US Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library. Especially look at the categories for Recreation, Wildlife, and Habitats and Landscapes.
- US Geological Survey Photographic Library. Check out the National Parks section for your local parks, museums and seashores. Lots of terrific historical photos, too.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Photo Library. Of course, lots of weather related images. Nice selection for America’s Coastlines.
- Search.USA.gov Image Search. This will let you pull up photos from all across government websites, all the way down to local government sites. That means you must use caution, because not all the photos returned are public domain. Federal photos are public domain. Some state photos are, and some are not. Most local photos are not public domain.
- Flickr’s US Government Works search. Quite a few federal agencies are posting photos to Flickr, and this search makes it easy to find them. That’s where I found the sailing photo for this post.
So, how about a fun challenge?
Using any of these databases, find the coolest photo of your small town (or from your county) you can and share a link to it here. On your mark, get set, go!