📸 Free stock image safari

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📸 Free stock image safari
By Dan Mason • Issue #8 • View online
Are ‘free’ stock images really free? Let’s ponder that as we explore a few tried and trusted sources … then step off the beaten track.
👋 New here? Welcome to Useful Stuff for Storytellers, for creatives who like practical tips and fast, free tools.

Bring on the search for photo inspiration. Photo: Picjumbo/Pexels
Bring on the search for photo inspiration. Photo: Picjumbo/Pexels
One of the most frequent questions I’m asked - ‘Where do I find free stock pictures’ - is one of the easiest to answer. In fact, the most difficult part is narrowing the choice.
The first place I DON’T look is Google Search. Because Google pulls images from all over the web, most of which don’t carry clear copyright information. That’s why so many have that ‘images may be subject to copyright’ line. Google just doesn’t know, so neither can you.
Yes, you can tap Tools > Usage Rights and select ‘Creative Commons licenses’, with mixed results. I’d rather go where I know I’m safe to use the images, with the blessing of the creator.
Google Image search can be frustrating, even using the Creative Commons filter
Google Image search can be frustrating, even using the Creative Commons filter
The simple rule is: don’t use an image unless you have permission. Often, that permission comes courtesy of those two words above: Creative Commons. It’s a kind of extended copyright for the digital age, managed by the non-profit organisation of the same name.
In fact, the Creative Commons site itself is a search gateway for over 500 million images 🚀
Creative Commons licences (six of them) range from ‘look but don’t touch’ to ‘do whatever you like’. Most images carrying the CC logo sit somewhere in the middle: ‘Use my image with pleasure, but don’t sell it, and please give me credit’.
Just remember, ‘free’ means free with conditions. Now, let’s tango with the stock image stalwarts …
Pixabay
You can download and use images from Pixabay, even for commercial use, without restriction or attribution.
Nevertheless, always try to credit the creator with a link (usually in the caption). If you use an image for a major project, send a nice message, and if you are feeling generous, there’s a ‘coffee’ button. With free registration, you can download higher-resolution images.
Pixbay also has a growing library of free music (think video and podcasts), sound effects and video (think promo backgrounds and video outros).
Pixabay: 2.4 million images and counting. And music. And video.
Pixabay: 2.4 million images and counting. And music. And video.
Unsplash
Unsplash is hot on Pixabay’s heels. You don’t need to register to download images and, again, images are free to use (but a link is encouraged). It can be worth exploring the curated Collections linked to your search and there’s a neat search-by-image option.
Pexels
Pexels pictures have the same (almost) anything goes licence as Pixabay and Unsplash. Sometimes, Pexels can surface more earthy ‘real’ people pictures, as does the next candidate …
Flickr
Flickr is still the giant among online photo libraries. You don’t need to register to search, download and use images, but you DO need to pay attention to the licence - not all images are free to use.
Enter a search, then look for the Any Licence dropdown, choosing Modifications Allowed (if you are, for example, a charity) or Commercial Use Allowed (a news website).
Flickr: At its peak there were more than 3.5 million pictures being uploaded per day
Flickr: At its peak there were more than 3.5 million pictures being uploaded per day
Quick crop and edit tools
You would be hard pushed to find a faster way to crop and save an image than the ResizeMyPhoto Chrome extension. Click, crop, download - job done. It won’t enhance or optimise, though. (I covered image optimisation tools in this newsletter).
ResizeMyPhotos: The Chrome extension that does just what it says on the tin
ResizeMyPhotos: The Chrome extension that does just what it says on the tin
For general editing, my favourite among the online tools is Pixlr. It comes in two flavours - E is the more advanced version, while X is good for basic tasks. Pixlr is among the tools for cutting out images I shared in this newsletter.
Icons
Too much choice! 🤯 But … Freeicons.io and Iconfinder both have vast databases of free icons that can be downloaded in PNG (transparent background) or SVG formats. SVGs allow you to scale and transform the image without quality loss using an editor such as the free Method Draw.
And I couldn’t move on without mentioning the legendary Noun Project - unsurpassed for creative icons.
With a free account, icons will be downloaded in black and require attribution. But you can easily colour icons using an editor such as Pixlr, the duotone tool in Canva or this simple ‘image colorize’ tool.
Screenshot annotations
I’ve tried so many, but the online tool I return to is Nimbus Capture, a Chrome extension. Nimbus is also a screen recorder (I prefer Screencastify) and part of the Nimbus Note suite.
If your aim is to annotate and collaborate on screenshots, Snippyly is a terrific addition to the fast, free toolbox.
Nimbus: Annotations are added in a new browser tab using the toolbar along the top
Nimbus: Annotations are added in a new browser tab using the toolbar along the top
Illustrations
Let’s get funky. UnDraw is a labour of love by designer Katerina Limpitsouni, offering classy, free PNG and SVG illustrations that you colour as you browse.
Meanwhile, Blush features stunning collections from dozens of designers. A Blush free account does have limitations, but the way it allows you to stylise human forms is just amazing.
UnDraw: Free illustrations created with love for your next project
UnDraw: Free illustrations created with love for your next project
Word clouds
Definitely different to a stock image, but eye-catching. In WordArt you can create word clouds in a variety of shapes and styles. You’ll need to register a free account to save your finished masterpiece as a PNG or embed an animated version on your website.
Profile pizazz
I confess. This tool has nothing to do with stock images. But to finish, Profile Pic Maker is fun and it works like magic. Upload a portrait image (which the tool will cut out) then choose a serious or psychedelic style. It will create a matching header image too.
Choose from dozens of profile styles. Bella says the one on the left goes with her eyes
Choose from dozens of profile styles. Bella says the one on the left goes with her eyes
⭐️ Main photo: Picjumbo.com/Pexels
Thanks for reading 👏
🌍 I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing creatives and causes around the world as a trainer and educator. I welcome ‘how do I …’ questions, so I started this newsletter to share the answers for all.
If you enjoy it, please share it! And if you have a question, suggestion or useful stuff you’d like to share, get in touch: dan@danmason.co.uk 🔗 bio.link/masondan
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