Sources of FREE images

One of the big problems I am facing as communications director at Conference level is the copyright and permissions issue.

Oftenly I receive articles to be published at the Conference website, and, besides the lack of journalistic style, there are no photos attached to the document or e-mail. This is not good, since I have to search pictures on my own, and quite usually the event is over and nobody took any photo. So, I have to search on my own images that could be somehow related to the subject.

Other times, I receive images with people in them. I have to ask if the author had permission to take these images. Other times there are minors and I have to blur their faces since here in France we need the authorization of both parents, only one is not sufficient enough.

And in the worse cases, I receive images attached to the article and I need to pay attention because I see the high quality of the images and the person who sent them to me does not have the skills… So, I am systematically suspicious. I ask and I find out that these images were, either searched in Google carelessly of the copyrights, or as I have been told several times, “we have the rights, because I found them in an Adventist website”.


We might find pictures, images, photos in many places of Adventist institutions, ministries or churches that we can NOT use. Why? Simply. Probably they have pay for the royalties, and this authorizes them to use the image in their Website, magazine or any other platform, BUT that license IS NOT extensive to all the Adventist church around the world, or even in the same country or city. We should pay ourselves to the copyright owner to use the same photo. Otherwise, we could be asked to show the receipt by a lawyer or buffet because we have used one image that someone else payed for (and we thought we had the right just because they used it).

Making it short. The safest way to publish images are three:

  1. Buy the photos or images to a provider and keep the receipt for several years (that will depend on the country, 5 years or more). If you are asked to, you will be able to prove that you payed for that picture.
  2. Produce your own content. Take photos on your own.
    1. This means that you also have the written permission of all those who appear in the photo, or of the legal tutor in case of minors.
    2. This means as well that probably the quality will not be as good as you would like, unless you have a good pro among your church members.
    3. This also means that you could use general pictures, not showing people at all if you cannot manage the written permission.
  3. In many cases, the easiest thing to do is to visit search engines and websites specialized in Royalty Free or Creative Commons (Copy-left) content. By doing so, you may access high quality content for free and ready-to-use.

And this is the point for me today. The first website I visit when I search for content is There I can mark or unmark the conditions for the search. Since I do not produce any commercial content, I always unmark the “commercial purposes” box.

The second box has to be considered carefully. Sometimes I need an image, and I can uncheck the box “modify, adapt or build upon”, so the results will be more extensive. But that means that I have to use the image as-it-is. I cannot crop it, modify it or adapt it.

The safest way of working is leaving the second box marked, so if I have to crop, edit or modify somehow the image, I know it is safe. If not, I may use it anyway.

Within the Creative Commons licensing there are many sub-categories. In some cases you do not need to mention the source nor the author, in others, you only need to mention the author, or the source. Normally what I do is, to add a text mentioning the source and the author’s name in a corner of the same image. Why? If it is not needed, that does not hurt anyone, even says a lot about our transparency. Other times we are requested to mention the author, or source or both in the Photo footnote. But since we might forget to add the picture footnote, or because the template of the CMS we are using simply does not allow to show the footnote, we can be always sure of showing the credits by adding the data in a simple plain text within the image. Any image editor by default in Mac or Windows can do it easily, you do not need any expensive software to edit that, and add just a line of text.

There are many other sources of high quality images for free on Internet, and before going with more annoying details, here is a long list of sites where you might find ROYALTY FREE images of HQ. PAY ATTENTION, since you might be required to mention the credits in a different way depending on the platform where you download the images (and some mix copyrighted images to sell).


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