Flickr Photos: A Guide to Finding and Using

I don’t think this blog would be a fraction of what it is, without Flickr. The images included with many posts draw the eye to the page and create an atmosphere for the rest of the piece. It’s also one aspect of a blog that is commented on the most. I believe that images are something that creates a good impression with many visitors to a blog.

I am often asked how do you find such great images on Flickr? More importantly, how to find such great images that you can use freely?

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In this post, I want to share how I’ve learned about how one can quickly and easily find Flickr’s best images to suit your needs, whether it’s for a blog post, an eBook, a design, an artwork or anything else. I also want to explain how Creative Commons works for Flickr images and what that means.

Why select Flickr photos?

The most common options are Google Images and various websites offering royalty free or stock photos. However, there are some problems with both these options.

Google Images

It’s difficult to protect yourself against copyright infringement when using Google Images. It is difficult to know the original source of an image and the page does not have to submit copyright information.

I’ve heard of a blog poster who used Google Images to display an image for one of his blog posts. Unknown to him, the website from which he had taken the image had, in turn, copied the image from Corbis, who subsequently sued him for copyright theft. Whether or not this is a true story, it is entirely possible. Don’t run the risk.

Stock Photos

Whilst stock photos don’t expose you to the risk of getting into trouble, there are two principal drawbacks.

  1. they often cost money
  2. they tend to be bland.

Also, they are so well matched to business friendly keywords like ‘truth’, ‘environment friendly’ and ‘success’ that most seem disingenuous.

On the other hand, Flickr hosts millions of photos taken by amateur and professional photographers who take photos of that which interests them, not their bosses. The best of Flickr is dynamic, innovative and compelling.

Sourcing images to suit your needs

The type of photos you want to look for will depend on where you want to use them. Flickr images are controlled by either a traditional copyright or Creative Commons license.

You are not allowed to use Flickr images marked as ‘All rights reserved’ for your own purposes unless you get express permission from the originator. Most of us don’t have the time or the patience to put up with the hassle.

So, in this post, I want to concentrate on Creative Commons licensed images.

Non-copyright images on Flickr fall under a different kind of license called Creative Commons. Every image is available, subject to one of six customized licenses; each one designed to influence where and how the image may be used.

The starting point of a search for Flickr’s best photos is the Flickr: Creative Commons page. From here, one can enter search portals for each of the six Creative Commons licenses.

Attribution License

Many of the images used at come under this license. It allows you to modify the images (for example, by cropping them, or writing on them) and to use them in both commercial and non-commercial aspects. The only requirement is that where you use them you credit the author with a link back to their profile.

Attribution-NoDerivs License

This license allows one to use the photo freely in any context, so long as you credit the photographer. It’s more restrictive than an Attribution License because you’re not allowed to modify the work in any way, which includes cropping and writing on the image.

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

This license allows you to use photos, together with a credit to the originator, so long as they are not modified and providing you’re not profiting from the context of the image, e.g. blogs displaying advertising, inside products, on-line stores. That is to say, anywhere it could be argued that the photograph helped increase your income

If you’re not intending to make money from your site at present, but want to leave your options open, it’s a good idea to stick with the more flexible licenses above.

Attribution-NonCommercial License

This license allows you to display and modify the image in any non-commercial site, together with a link to the photographer’s profile. Again, if you plan to profit from the site in future, you’re better off sticking with the more flexible Attribution License.

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

This license allows you to use photos on non-commercial sites, with a credit to the origin. There is, however, one further requirement. You must link to the license page with the image credit (alongside a link to the photographer’s profile). Share Alike means that, wherever you use the image, you must make clear the license of the image. Here is a link to the Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license page, though you’d probably just link to it under license.

Attribution-ShareAlike License

This license allows you to modify the photo and display it in any context, provided that you link to the photographer’s profile and the distribution license for the photo. Here’s a link to the Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.

Finding the best images to suit your needs

Having navigated to the search page appropriate to where you want to publish the photo, it’s time to start sorting the good from the ordinairy.

Let’s use the search page for Attribution Licensed photos as a test case. Open the link in a new window or tab and search for the keyword “fishing”. This will search the tags and title of each image for matches. You’ll be returned with a number of “most relevant” results, but not a lot of particular interest.

Now, click on the “most interesting” link above the thumbnails. The search algorithm changes and will return images for that keyword with the most “buzz” around them (i.e. comments and favorites). You will find that the images are a much higher quality.

Within a few minutes you have a quality photograph, targeted to use with a blog post or wherever you want to use it.

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Posted in Photograph Post Date 02/26/2016






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