Photos are key for tourism promotion, so you can never have too many great photos to use online. However, most photos you find online are NOT public domain, so you do not have the right to use them. There are some enthusiastic photographers who are posting photos that they’d love to have you use. Here’s how to find some of them.
|Bicycling in Palmetto State Park,
near Luling, Texas.
Photo (CC) by JimmyHere on Flickr
Creative Commons licenses are a popular way for photographers to give open permission for anyone, including tourism groups, to use their photos, with certain restrictions. You may see the phrase “Creative Commons,” the (CC) abbreviation, or one of the Creative Commons badges, or the phrase, “Some rights reserved.”
So, what are the “certain restrictions” I mentioned? The photographer can choose to require any or all of these limits:
- share alike
- no derivative works
A full description of each of these restrictions is on the Creative Commons license page.
To know which limits are required, you have to look at the license where the photo is posted. On Flickr, there is a “License” to the right of every photo. If it says “All rights reserved,” you have to ask for permission before using the photo in any way. If it says “Some rights reserved,” that is a link you can click to read the full license and restrictions.
The best place to look for Creative Commons licensed photos is Flickr. Here are two ways to do that.
1. Use the Flickr Advanced Search, and scroll down to the bottom of the page. You’ll see the Creative Commons logo. You can search only for photos you can use commercially, or only ones that allow you to edit them. If you check all three boxes, the search will return only photos that require attribution only. You can use these photos for commercial purposes and you can modify them as needed.
2. Use Photopin. Photopin gives you a graphical search of photos with Creative Commons licenses at Flickr. Then it makes it easy to use the photo by giving easy download links and a pre-written photo credit to include in your story.
photo credit: jimmyhere via photopin cc
Notice how Photopin gave themselves a link there? Yeah, that’s not my favorite way to do it. I think I’ll stick with Flickr’s own search.
Bonus points for tourism:
Leave a comment on any Flickr photo you use. Tell the photographer how you used it, how it benefits your community, and then say thank you. Almost no one ever does this, so it’s a great way to stand out and maybe even build a good relationship with a talented photographer.
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