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Bill Gumula

PublishedApril 8, 2013

Did you know that just because an image is returned in a Google Image Search does not mean that it is free and clear to use? In fact, most of the images that appear in these results are copyrighted images displayed on websites who themselves have obtained the proper permissions to use said image. While Google, and various browser plugins, make it simple to download and save that perfect image, the truth is most likely by downloading and reusing that image you are violating copyright law.

So how do I find great images that I can use in my work? This is the question we all must ask before we begin our search. Believe it or not there is no shortage of sites that allow use of their images. The key to most is attribution. This means that we somehow attribute the image to its creator in a way that clearly demonstrates that they are the creator of that image. This could be accomplished in many ways, through a watermark on the image, through a caption, or in a traditional “works cited” sort of way.

So, can I still use Google? Yes, but you have to change the way you search. Instead of going straight to Google you need to find the advanced search page. Ironically, this is only available after you do a search. So go to http://google.com and choose “Images” and then do a search. Once your results come back you will see a window like the one shown here.

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First, click on the gear icon, and then second click “Advanced search.” You will now see a page that looks like this:

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You are looking for “usage rights” all the way at the bottom of the page. (They make it easy to follow the law, don’t they?) When you click this you will receive several options to choose from:

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Here you want to make your choice based upon how you intend to use the image. For education, since you will not be making money off of the image you could select “free to use or share” or “free to use share or modify.” Select the latter if you plan on changing the image you ultimately select in any way. Click the “Advanced Search” button and Google’s magic will go to work and return images that it believes meet your requirements. It typically does a good job so this is a pretty way to use a familiar tool.

But wait, there’s more! There are numerous sites on the Internet that provide images for free. Some require attribution back to the site or the artist, some require none at all. Check each photo’s requirement before sharing it. There are too many great sites to list them all, but here are some of my favorites:
Each of these sites offers artistic, beautiful photographs that you can use in your projects, providing you attribute when necessary! By being a role model of appropriate use of photographs, and by requiring your students to model back this behavior you will help ensure not only that you do not get a DMCA image takedown notification from a copyright holder, but also that we remain supportive of those who have given their lives and talents to the hard work and training necessary to create photographic art.