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Pretty much any image you see on the Internet can be subject to copyrights. Copyrights mean that you are not allowed to use, redistribute, share or modify the image in any commercial or non-commercial activity unless stated as such by the copyright owner.
This can be an issue for example if you are looking for some stock images to use in your website or blog, or your project or software, or many other cases where you need to use images that do not belong to you. For this, you need what’s commonly known as open source images, or royalty-free images.
Open source images are images that are licensed under one of the open source licenses, such as Creative Commons and other licenses. Those images do allow you to use them in any commercial or non-commercial activities as long as you obey the license terms (E.g some of them will require you to attribute the image owner, while others won’t). In result, you’ll be able to use those images wherever you wish.
Royalty-free images are not the same as open-source images, as they have some other restrictions on the images. But in general, they still allow you to use them in any commercial or non-commercial activity, or modify them, without attributing the author or having to obtain a license.
In today’s article, we’ll introduce 5 image hosting platforms that can provide you with open source and royalty-free images.
Open Source Images Websites & Services
All photos published on Unsplash can be used for free. You can use them for commercial and noncommercial purposes. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the photographer or Unsplash, although it is appreciated when possible.
Images on Unsplash are divided into categories. You may browse those categories till you get the image you want or simply use the built-in search engine to find images using a specific keyword you are looking for. If you are specifically looking for wallpapers, then Unsplash provides a special page for those images.
What’s special about Unsplash, is that it also provides an API for developers that allows them to access the uploaded images programmatically any time they want. The API is well-documented and maintained.
Unsplash provides images in large full size like 3562 × 4987, and does not provide them in any different sizes, so just make sure that you resize the image and re-export it later as a JPG or JPEG in order to save around 90% of the image size.
Like any other images website, you can reach the images you are looking for by searching for a specific keyword in the search box or by browsing the available categories. StockSnap hands you the images in full size (There’s no option to download them in some custom size), so just like Unsplash images, make sure you process them before you use them in your project.
Pixabay is one of the most famous places to get royalty-free images. Images uploaded to Pixabay are not specifically open source (as they are not clearly licensed under an open source license), but they are royalty-free, which means you can use them for any commercial/non-commercial activity, modify them or use them in your work however you like. The only exception to that is that you are not allowed to sell the exact same unmodified image, or redistribute it on other image hosting platforms. Except for those mentioned cases (in the license page), images on Pixabay could’ve been considered fully open source.
Pixabay has other sections for Vectors, which are SVG files that can also be used royalty-free, and illustrations, which are simple drawing stock images, and Videos which are royalty-free short stock videos.
One drawback to Pixabay could be that it requires you to sign up and login in order to download full-sized images or source files. Creating an account is totally free and takes less than 10 seconds, but can be still inconvenient for the long run.
Another royalty-free images platform. Pexels is exactly like Pixabay in terms of license, so you can use the images however you like with some exceptions like selling unmodified exact copies of the same image.
Pexels allows you to download images in many predefined sizes, or the original image size, or even a custom size you choose by yourself. All without having to sign up or login. You can also view images by color, which would display all images with that dominating color that you selected.
Pexels also offers a stock videos section.
Flickr may be the most famous image sharing platform ever. It was launched in 2004 and later acquired by Yahoo! in 2005 and many other companies later. It’s the social network of images.
Flickr has all the type of images you want, but images uploaded to Flickr by default are neither open source nor royalty-free; They are copyrighted to their authors, which would prevent you from using them in your work. However, Flickr has a built-in custom search that allows you to search for images released under a specific license, and you can use this feature to search for Creative Commons images or other royalty-free images.images
Despite being not actually made to host open source/royalty-free images, Flickr can still be a huge source of open source images. Currently, the website hosts around 750,000 images licensed under the Creative Commons license, and a total of +1.2 million images under the public domain.
We have seen so far many places to get open source or royalty-free images. As we explained earlier, those images are quite necessary if you are working on project/website where you need to have some images displayed. Keep in mind that you should avoid using copyrighted images/materials at all costs, as the law in most modern countries around the world does not allow you to do that.
If you have any other similar platform to what we have mentioned, we would like to know about them in the comments below.