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 creativecommons.org 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:
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.
"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."
"You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work."
"You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and derivative works based upon it — but for non-commercial purposes only."
"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
Number of Images
|Photographer community based site, where photographers contribute their work, good quality|
|Photographer community site, growing collection of images with good search features and quality|
|great looking managed collection of quality creative commons stock images, free registration needed|
|free textures backgrounds and some images, only lower resolutions are free other available for purchase on cd for $199|
|good clean site with textures and backdrop photos , non commercial share alike|
|specialist Entomology site featuring creative commons images of insets and creepycrawlies|
|limited selection of travel images from aaron logan attribution US 3.0 license|
|abstract, grungy and artistic images library, mostly french language descriptions, some very interesting / eye catching images, share alike license|
|plants listed by scientific and common name, relative small resolution, useful research tool, attribution license|
|attribution remix license, low resolution stock photos from a microstock contributor and an interesting collection of travel work from china|
|grungy textures and surfaces, good search tool and a few other freebies like photoshop brushes and desktop wallpapers.|
|varied collection including images from about 100 contributors, but sadly the search feature fails to find a lot of the images, creative commons attribution|
|Tiny collection of attractive landscape and animal images, CC attribution license|
|European library of cc stock images, science, abstract, nature, good search feature and broad image selection for its size|
|Small personal collection of creative commons images from a single photographer|