The Five Best Places To Find Free Creative Commons Photos

Matt Smith 29-06-2012

Looking to add some images to your blog post? Obviously, I sympathize. All of the writers at MakeUseOf are on the prowl for ways to add some visual flair to our articles, but we also have to make sure we respect the rights of photographers while doing so.


That’s why we like Creative Commons content. There are a lot of places that you can find such images, some of which you may have already heard of, and others you probably haven’t. The five websites listed in this article certainly are not the only places you can find free images but they are my favorite.


creative commons

Hey! Flickr! Big surprise, right? Flickr has always been a great place to find photos. The only problem with the site is that a lot of the content can’t be re-used without specific permission. Yes, it is unlikely the photographer will ever find out you used his or her photo, but it can be embarrassing if they do.

Flickr lets you solve this problem by searching only for creative commons content.  We already have an article dedicated entirely to this feature How To Search & Credit Properly-Licensed Photos On Flickr [Firefox] Read More , in fact, so I won’t waste your time by repeating it. Flickr is where I find about 80% of the images I use in my blog posts and it is the first resource you should turn to.

The main problem with Flickr is the quality of its search results. User descriptions of photos are used to provide results, and they are often erroneous. For example, the second result for “bacon” is a photo of dog named Bacon.


Google Image Search

creative commons images

Google also now supports search for free-to-use content via Advanced Search. All you need to do is go to Google Image Search and type in a term. At the results screen click on the gear icon in the upper right and go to Advanced Search. Near the bottom of the resulting menu you will find a drop-down menu that lets you filter by usage rights.

Google Image Search is a nice resource because it will often turn up Creative Commons content that isn’t listed at a major site. The downside is that Google does not try to provide you with easy-to-find information about the details of the license and often lists results that aren’t clearly labeled as free to use. You’ll have to double-check by going to the website that hosts the photo.

Open Clip Art Library

creative commons images


The Open Clip Art Library lives up to its name. It focuses only on images done in the style of clip art – small, often cartoonish images that aren’t incredibly detailed but do a good job of conveying an idea.

The selection on this search engine is not broad and you won’t find images for niche searches. On the other hand, the results are almost always on-topic and of good quality. You don’t have to do a lot of shuffling through results to find exactly what you need.

Also, since everything on the site is available for free use unless otherwise noted, you don’t have to worry about making sure a specific image is properly licensed.

Creativity 103

creative commons images


This site focuses on abstract, creative images. It includes patterns, broad images of buildings and landscapes and macro images of complex objects. Instead of trying to provide photos of a specific subject it instead tries to provide content that could be used as a backdrop or inserted into an article that doesn’t easily relate to any specific photograph.

It is mostly successful in this endeavor. The lack of images relating to specific topics can make this site hard to search, but this is combated by grouping images into categories. Size also makes the collection manageable – there’s only around 2500 photos. All images on the site are licensed under Creative Commons and can be used with attribution.

creative commons

You can probably guess what this website is about. It includes a huge library of photos covering the animal kingdom. We’re not just talking about lions, tigers and bears – this site includes everything from the platypus to armadillos.


Like Creativity 103 this site is not the easiest to search but makes up for it by breaking photos into categories (by animal, of course). This makes it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. Some animals have just a handful of photos while others feature an impressive library. For the most part, the photos are free to use even without attribution (but hey, be nice and do it anyway).


These sites can provide an impressive array of photos for use on your website, blog or elsewhere. Using all of these sources will provide you with what you need to find a photo in almost any circumstance. Is there another site that you like to use for finding creative commons images? Let us know in the comments.

Related topics: Creative Commons, Image Search.

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  1. Tobias
    February 24, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Hi, thanks for this great article. I would like to recomend you an other great source for Creative Commons images. The Photos are licensed under the creative commons public domain license cc0.

  2. picdrome
    July 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Hi and thank you for the article!
    I can also add, a growing Public Domain picture collection, free of copyright and licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication. All items are free to download for personal and commercial use, without restriction and are available in high definition. New photos are added on a daily basis.

  3. Steve
    July 6, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Really, really helpful. Thank you.

  4. David Manney
    June 30, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    One place I frequently is is Wylio:

  5. Ravi Meena
    June 30, 2012 at 4:43 am

    Any site where i can find music tracks with creative common license?

  6. Denis Paley
    June 29, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Another two sites that I find handy when looking for free photos to use are the StockVault and the stock.xchng. I've used them quite often when I needed images for certain projects.