Sourcing Free Images 2.0

paulus self portrait

Paulus Moreelse self-portrait from the Rijksmuseum

I needed an image of a Renaissance self portrait for a recent post on my blog,  but having made an expensive mistake once, I’ve become hyper vigilant about sourcing free images.

In my search for digital images I could use free and clear, I made two discoveries worth sharing. First, I stumbled across Open Culture, which proclaims to be “the best free cultural and educational media on the web.” There, I found links to over twenty world-famous museums that make images of their collections available on-line.

Museum in Valencia, Spain. Photo by Margit Wallnery via pixabay.

Museum in Valencia, Spain. Photo by Margit Wallnery via pixabay.

Essentially, it’s possible to see a significant portion of the world’s great art with the ease of a few keystrokes. While this isn’t the same as visiting the Museum of New Zealand in person, for those of us in North America, it’s a lot cheaper. And while I’d love to spend a week at the British Library, or visit the Getty in Los Angeles, or even stroll through the National Gallery in Washington, DC, traveling requires the dual resources of time and money, which are not always available separately, let alone at the same time.

Should time and money allow, however, these websites could

The Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre, in Paris. photo from pixabay

The Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre, in Paris. photo from pixabay

serve as a wonderful primer in advance of a trip. And for the blogger in need of images with which to illustrate a post, these sites offer a wealth of images.

Not every museum gives carte blanche, however, so blogger beware, and follow the rules. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, for instance, has made 400,000 high-resolution images available on-line, but has restricted downloading them to non-commercial use. Looking closer, The Met’s free-use policy is even more restrictive: the images are available for “Open Access for Scholarly Content.” As I understand it, this excludes using an image from their collection on a personal blog.

The image from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam that I used in my recent post at

The image from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam that I used in my recent post

The Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam, on the other hand, not only makes most of the collection available on-line, it also allows ordinary users to download and manipulate their images, whole or in part through their Rijks Studio – a program that allows a viewer to save, edit and change images. I was glad to make this discovery and found an image that served my purpose well. And I’m determined to return to the site and figure out how to use the tools fully.

I’m also intrigued by Open Culture which offers a great deal of free material, including on-line courses, free audio books, e-books, movies, free music and more.

Where do you find open source images for your posts?

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is the author of the award-wining novel Into the Wilderness, a love story between people in their mid-sixties, set in Vermont in 1964. She blogs at

47 thoughts on “Sourcing Free Images 2.0

  1. I just discovered Pixabay, which offers free images to download. You can choose to support the particular artist or photographer by buying them a “coffee” (donating a few bucks) or supporting Pixabay itself with a donation. I’m finding some great images there.

  2. Pingback: Sourcing Free Images 2.0 – The Writer

    • Thanks for this info. I’m going to check out these sites – and I’m sure other readers will, too. I love this “hive brain” aspect of blogging!

  3. I usually use my own photos. It gets difficult, when taking a photo of a postcard. When you see only the postcard that is clearly a violation of the copyright, isn’t it? When you see the postcard in a new composition, is it still infringing the copyright? And what of all the users of a postcard-exchanging site who upload their received/sent postcards for other participants to see? Violation of copyright?

    • These are good questions for which I don’t have the answers, just the caution to always err on the side of the owner’s rights, and respect them!

  4. There are a lot of Federal Government sites for photos–some are copyright free, and some aren’t, and you have to give credit for photos you use. I’m usually looking for scientific images. Here are a few sites I use:

    National Library of Medicine

    NCI (National Cancer Institute)

    NIGMS (National Institute of General Medical Sciences)

    CDC Public Health Image Library

    List of CDC and other Federal sites (some images free; some copyrighted)


    National Science Foundation (multimedia)

    National Institutes of Health Image bank (also has links to Institute images)

    • Thanks so much for this list. I was actually looking for an image from a colonoscopy or other medical procedure when I stumbled upon, so I’m thrilled to know about these caches of possible images. I’ll definitely look them up!

  5. Pingback: Sourcing Free Images 2.0 | Toward the within...

  6. Since my blog is a personally essay blog, all the pictures I use I’ve taken myself. Or my wife has taken them. I am lucky to have a wife who’s a great photographer, so I can get most of what I need from her personal collection. Yeah, not always an option for folks.

    • Lucky you, to have a talented wife.
      I’ve been taking more and more of my own photos for my blog, but I don’t always have them at hand, so I’m glad to go to pixabay – or some of the other sites other readers have suggested. All best.

  7. Pingback: Sourcing Free Images 2.0 | worldninfo

    • I’m glad you find this post helpful. (Do check out the earlier one, too, for sources of photos in the public domain.) And thanks for letting me know you’re reading the blog.

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