Long time readers of Freelance: the Consultant’s Diary noticed that a few months ago, I was inspired to regularly add artwork to the posts, something that in the 9 years I’ve been writing for you had been done only four times (including one movie trailer video). Regularly including artwork with the posts occurred to me after I went to see the Tall Ships Parade at Boston Harbor one Saturday afternoon in mid-June. I used my iPhone to take photos of those amazing ships and decided to post one on my LinkedIn site and another on a blog post. I loved the look of the photo with the post, even if it in no way referred to what was written. I was just giddy over the fact that I took a group of nice-looking photos, something that is not guaranteed with me! I was off to the races.
But where could I obtain interesting, free and legal images on a regular basis? In the U.S., intellectual property laws are enforced and using the work of a photographer or painter without permission or (sometimes) payment could result in a lawsuit.
Some of you will recall that a few months ago I served as an (uncredited) editor and photo editor for a short women’s history book. My job was to source mostly historic (and preferably free) photographs. I visited the Boston Public Library website, which has links to Flickr and Digital Commonwealth collections that were very helpful. You’ll find thousands of historic and other photos on the site and nearly all have no copyright restrictions and are free to use. BPL appreciates a line of attribution, “Photograph (or image) courtesy of Boston Public Library.”
The New York Public Library is another excellent source of (mostly) free historic photographs Wallach Collection of Prints and Photographs . NYPL would also appreciate a credit for images used in your published content. Be sure to confirm who has rights to the image and follow the directions for inclusion in your content.
Not every photo is free to use. From the British Museum in London’s site (where there are hundreds of thousands of images of paintings, photographs and fine art objects), there are guidelines to keep marketers and researchers on the right side of the law copyright and permissions . I’ve requested and received permission for three or four photographs. Lucky me, I obtained those permissions within 24 hours, but if a photographer or other artist is deceased and the work is now controlled by a foundation, it could take a month or more for the board to review your request and make a decision. BTW, copyright and IP laws are applied more loosely for a blog or newsletter that features no advertising and more strictly for a book.
When looking for free contemporary stock photos, you’ll find 200,000 mostly in color on Unsplash . The photographers would appreciate a credit line and a thank you sent. Morguefile is another site that I’ve successfully used, with its 350,000 mostly color photographs to comb through. Be aware, however, that stock photos often do not resonate with viewers, even if what you find illustrates the story you are telling. That is why most of my blog photos are fine art paintings or photographs.
The images that you include in your newsletter, website, blog, ads, or social media should reflect your brand and reinforce the story you tell. Searching for appropriate images is time-consuming, but I consider it time well spent. You, gentle reader, are well worth the investment.
Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving,
Image: Freedom from Want (The Thanksgiving Picture) Norman Rockwell, 1942 Courtesy of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA