Creative Commons Image Libraries

Creative Commons images are a special subset of 'free images'. Creative Commons came about as a way to simplify the minefield that is 'free' content (view our listing of free stock photo sites) and allow photographers to provide ('license') their work for free under easy to understand terms which benefit both the photographer and the user.

The good people at explain this better, but CC allows photographers and illustrators or creators of any content to clearly license their work, and tag it in such a way that it can be found online easily.

For the image user creative commons makes it clear if the images can be used in commercial applications, if changes can be made and in ALL cases an attribution as specified by the creator must be included when the image is used. The details of this attribution are usually displayed along with the image on the source web site often in a series of icons or a link to a licence page: as an example:

creative commons attribution non commercial

The above icon specifies that you can use the specified content for free in non-commercial applications, provided that you attribute (link back) as specified.

creative commons attribution

"You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give credit the way you request."

creative commons sharealike

"You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work."

creative commons non commercial

"You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and derivative works based upon it — but for non-commercial purposes only."

creative commons no derivative

"You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it."

The above information was sourced from the creative commons licenses information page.

Creative commons is just one of several license types that are commonly used in the stock photography industry to allow photographers and buyers to use and control image use. Read more about stock photography licenses.


Sources of Creative Commons Images

I'm not certain on the exact figures but with services like Flickr allowing users to easily license their images as Creative Commons it seems that there are more CC licensed images out there than there are on free images stock photo websites. BUT a quick look at Flickr (more than 100 Million CC images) reveals that most of these are not intended or at all useful for use as stock photos.

The difficulty in creative commons images for stock is actually finding the stock images amongst all the other creative commons content. There are a couple of places I recommend looking:
Allows you to search google and flickr for creative commons images, and several other search providers for non-image based content (try attaching "image of" or "stock photo" to your search terms.
Click on "advanced image search" and then select for the "Usage Rights" dropdown, ALWAYS confirm that the images you find are actually licensed as you selected.
more than 10 million categorized, photos, illustrations, footage, sound bites etc.
More than 100 million CC licensed images from the popular photo sharing site (15 million with the most flexible "attribution only" license).
contributors submit images covering locations all over the UK sorted on ordiancesurvey map references.
Search a selection of free images sites, the license selector in advanced search allows you to filter by creative commons and other free license types.
unusual selection of textures, backdrops and abstract photos and illustration
Specialist collection of animal photos, well categorized.
A rev-heads wet dream, browse car photos organized by marque and model, sourced from flickr


Commercial useCommercial Use
signup neededRegistration Required
image resolutionApprox Resolution
number of imagesNumber of Images Commercial useYes   signup neededNo image resolution2000px(v) number of images19,000
Photographer community based site, where photographers contribute their work, good quality Commercial useYes   signup neededNo image resolution3000px(v) number of images10,000
Photographer community site, growing collection of images with good search features and quality Commercial useYes   signup neededYes image resolution3264px number of images3,000(?)
great looking managed collection of quality creative commons stock images, free registration needed

kavewall Commercial useYes   signup neededNo image resolution800px number of images1000?
free textures backgrounds and some images, only lower resolutions are free other available for purchase on cd for $199

X Commercial useNo   signup neededNo image resolution1024px(v) number of images770
good clean site with textures and backdrop photos , non commercial share alike Commercial useYes   signup neededYes image resolution1500px(v) number of images330
specialist Entomology site featuring creative commons images of insets and creepycrawlies Commercial useYes   signup neededNo image resolution900px(v) number of images600
limited selection of travel images from aaron logan attribution US 3.0 license

trip album Commercial useNo   signup neededNo image resolution1600px(v) number of images100's
plants listed by scientific and common name, relative small resolution, useful research tool, attribution license Commercial useYes   signup neededNo image resolution3000px(v) number of images660
grungy textures and surfaces, good search tool and a few other freebies like photoshop brushes and desktop wallpapers. Commercial useYes   signup neededNo image resolution1000px(v) number of images5000
varied collection including images from about 100 contributors, but sadly the search feature fails to find a lot of the images, creative commons attribution Commercial useYes   signup neededNo image resolution2568px(v) number of images80
Tiny collection of attractive landscape and animal images, CC attribution license Commercial useYes   signup neededNo image resolution1600px(v) number of images2600
European library of cc stock images, science, abstract, nature, good search feature and broad image selection for its size Commercial useYes attribution linkNo signup neededNo image resolution2848 number of images100s
nice fresh wallpapery/moody images, trendy square crops, but rubbish site features, lack of search, categories etc. means you won't visit often

Im Free Commercial useCheck attribution linkNo signup neededNo image resolutionVaries number of images100s?
search tools to browse creative commons images from various sources Commercial useYes attribution linkNo signup neededNo image resolutionVaries number of images100
limited collection size, 100 images when we visited, of little use Commercial useYes attribution linkYes signup neededNo image resolutionto 5760px number of images100+
beautiful collection of atribution license images by Markus Spiske


DollarPhotoClub the clear winners IN THE SUBSCRIPTIOn IMAGE MARKET, high resolution at $1 - Specialist Australian CC Free stock photo library


The 2014 Edition of our Photo Resource Book listing the best of Free and Paid Stock Image Libraries:

stock photo resource book



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