A small business looking to find commercial-use, stock photos doesn’t need to pay for licensing. There are plenty of great places online to find media that can be used commercially, altered, and even posted without attribution.
A great resource to start with is Unsplash. Simple and straightforward, you can search images by their tags, check out featured collections, or browse what authors have submitted recently. The photos on Unsplash are offered free of charge and without any condition, using the Creative Commons Zero license. The Creative Commons Zero license states that “You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.” The author of this work has waived all of their rights to this work and released it to the private domain. You can see some examples of commercial projects used with Unsplash images on the Made with Unsplash page.
There are multiple Creative Commons licenses, ranging from the Zero which gives you full access with no restrictions, to those that require attribution or do not allow modification. These other licenses are referred to as “some rights reserved.” The Creative Commons Search page is a powerful tool to find Creative Commons licensed images. The most effective and content filled option for searching is Flickr. You can choose whether to search for images that you may use for commercial purposes, as well as modify, adapt and build upon.
Of course, not every author is going to give you a Zero license and full use of their work. If you’re looking for splash images you’d like to use commercially, say on your corporate twitter account, you’ll need to search for images that give you that right. Most often these will fall under the Attribution 2.0 Generic license. This license lets you not only copy and redistribute images, but it also lets you adapt them by remixing, transforming or building upon them. The caveat is that images under this license require attribution. You must give credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate any changes you made. You have a fair amount of leeway in how you do this, as the license simply requires you to do it in a reasonable way, and not suggest that the author endorses you or your use of the image.
One of our methods of attribution is by inserting text onto the image itself, in the format CC by 2.0 @ . So an example would be CC by 2.0 HusariaMarketing @ Flickr 123123. We choose an appropriate color and size for the text that blends into the image, but is easily readable by anyone. The Creative Commons 2.0 license has been superseded by the Attribution 4.0 International license, so when using new content that is the one you would want to use. The only real difference in attribution for us would be to change the 2.0 to 4.0
A final option we’ll discuss is what your hosting provider may offer. We are hosted on GoDaddy and use their WordPress hosting package. With it is included a library of images that can be used for free, many of which you will find throughout our website, and an example is posted above. These are all of excellent quality, and for a small business should be more than enough to use as-is, though modifications may be an issue. The license states that “Images available and licensed for use are intended for GoDaddy hosted customers only and are subject to the terms and conditions of third-party intellectual property rights.” Reading the Terms and Conditions, GoDaddy also states that if you leave their service, it is up to you to get permission to continue using each image. Keep that in mind if you are planning to switch hosting providers!
Creative Commons licenses give businesses great resources that they can use to generate content and build their brand. As long as you carefully read the conditions of each one, you’ll have an enormous library to choose from with no cost to you. It’s also worth checking out if your hosting provider offers stock photos, as they may include them in your overall package.