Finding Images for Your Brand: Creative Commons


Creative Commons (CC) Licensed Images

Let’s take a closer look at how you can use free Creative Commons licensed images in your brand’s creative projects.

Creative Commons allows artists and photographers to choose how to license their work for public use. There are many variations of the CC license: from Attribution (which allows you to use their work for just about anything, as long as you give them credit) to Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND (which allows you to share their work, but not alter it or use it commercially, so you can’t use it in your business branding) and many more licenses in between.

You can read all about the different license types here:

!!!! When you find a CC photo or image that you want to use always check to verify that it is in fact CC licensed. It should clearly say which license it grants. Then, you can follow the rules of that particular license. Pay close attention to attribution requirements and commercial vs. non-commercial use limitations. If your design is being created for your business blog it is a commercial project.

Pros and Cons of Using Creative Commons Images

Pros of using Creative Commons Images

1) Free.
2) Lots of variety of images.

Cons of using Creative Commons Images

1) License restrictions can be prohibitive for commercial use.
2) Limited resolution and size.
3) Adding attributions adds clutter to designs.

Search for Creative Commons images here:

Creative Commons
Compfight (Has a WordPress plugin to make it easier to use images on your blog, too!)
Photo Pin
Pixel Perfect Digital free stock photos that are CC licensed

Choosing just the right photos and illustrations can play a huge role in how your brand feels to your ideal clients, and how you feel about your brand.

Last week I shared some resources for finding stock photos and illustrations. In future posts I’ll provided resources for free for commercial use sites, public domain images, and free illustration/icon sites.

Then, I’ll circle back and talk about how to select the best types and styles of images for your brand. If you need help figuring out what images would best fit your brand there’s a step-by-step discovery process in the Online Branding Basics course which is included in all subscriptions to Jewels Branch.

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  1. Hi Christie, Great post – and very timely for me. I have a question that I have been trying to find an answer for and wonder if you might know. If using the image in a compiled work, does the attribution need to be on the image itself, or can it reside on an acknowledgements page with clear indication of which image is referenced where? ANy help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • christie on at

      Stormy – (I’m not a lawyer) but it’s my understanding from CC that “You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor” When you use a CC photo on your blog attribution under the photo is good. See this: When in doubt check with the creator of the image.

      • Christie – this is a great suggestion (to check with the creators), and the web resource is very helpful. Thank you for pointing it out! A lot of Flikr images have limited “stated” attribution guidelines (other than the license type), so I’ve taken another look at the CC guidelines and, in addition to the attribution format, they suggest that end-of-work attribution is probably fine in a compiled work like a video or book, and that an online page (that can be searched) is a good practice for offline works that use CC images…so that’s my next step. Oy – such great images! I just want to make sure I give appropriate credit.

        • christie on at

          I think you’ve got this Stormy! You’re definitely making a good faith effort!

          From your link: ” Is your attribution good enough? Ask yourself whether an interested viewer/reader/listener/other user is able to easily discern who gets credit (attribution) for the original work, and the freedoms associated with that work (license notice). If they can, great! If not, consider whether you are making a good faith effort to use the licensed work according to its terms. “

  2. This is a good post to share with my blogging friends – I know one in particular who wasn’t so sure about the rules so these are great resources to get her started.

    I like to take all of the images on my site – not only to retain the rights but because playing with pics is just plain fun for me ;).

  3. Phoenix on at

    Great! I avoid using images sometimes because I am just not sure of the rules, however i have started taking more of my own. How do I prevent my own images from being used without permission? Love the article!

  4. Jennifer on at

    Love this post Christie… as everything you do, very helpful, informative and super clear!

  5. You have THE best info on graphic design…ANYPLACE! Thank you for sharing all your information with us Christy!

  6. Mindy Crary on at

    Thanks for the resources! I was SO mad at Photo Pin the other day when I would try to search on “Couples Arguing” and I was getting back pictures of kittens, rock bands and anything but couples. Sheesh. I am checking these out TODAY! :o)