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Images have become a vital component of online content.   This is partly due to the increase in internet speeds and partly due to the rise in popularity of sharing content on social media services. From a reading perspective, images are important as they break up long postings and make it easier to digest information.  Many pastors are now using images on screens while preaching for this exact reason.

One of the most asked questions we hear from church website operators is where they can download images from – should they pay for them, can they get them for free, should they take their own pictures etc.

First and foremost – we suggest NEVER using an image tool such as Google Images because most all of the images are under copyright and just because it is available online DOES NOT mean you can use it.

Let us take a quick look at the most common licenses that you will see for images:

  • Public Domain – Images in which the intellectual property rights have expired or images in which the owner has released them to the public domain free of charge. They can therefore be used in any way you see fit.
  • Creative Commons – Can be one of several available licenses. Some licenses allow you to use and share the image if it is unchanged, whilst others require a credit link to be displayed. It is important that you read the Creative Commons license that an image has before using it on your website.
  • Royalty-Free – Do not let the name fool you, Royalty-Free does not mean that an image can be used free. It means that once you have purchased the image, you can use it as many times as you want. That is, you do not pay a royalty every time you use the image.  This concept is a bit confusing for many people.
  • Rights-Managed – This allows the image to be used a limited number of times. If you want to use the image more than the defined amount, you will need to pay for the privilege.

Here are a few places where you may obtain images to be used on your website:

  1. Flickr:  Flickr, while having a large repository where anyone can upload files – they also have a large archive of public domain images. Known as The Commons, the catalog hopes to become the world’s public photography archives.
  2. Public Domain Pictures:   A wide collection of public domain images. Although the images are free to use, some restrictions do exist for commercial users, so be sure to check the usage conditions for each image.
  3. FREE Photo:  A free photo archive that contains over 130,000 images. A link back to the image is required in order to use them.