Sourcing stock images from Flickr

Flickr - How to use flickr for stock images

When searching for stock images online, the chances are you’ll visit one of the many purpose created stock image libraries such as SXC or istockphoto. Should these sites not provide what you are looking for, you may wish to try Flickr.

Flickr - How to use flickr for stock images

With upwards of 5 billion photos hosted on the site, Flickr is the biggest photo management and sharing application online. The majority of its members use the site as a personal tool to store and share images with friends and family. However, many also choose to offer their images for use under a Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons is a copyright model that provides content owners with a more flexible alternative to the traditional ‘all rights reserved’ model. Creative Commons essentially allows Flickr members to communicate which rights they reserve, or waive to anyone wishing to use their work.

There are several different types of Creative Commons license, so it’s important to know the implications of each variation when searching for images. Here is an overview of the most frequently used Creative Commons license types;

  • Attribution License: You may copy, display and distribute a photograph – and derivative works based upon it – providing you give credit to the image owner.
  • Noncommercial License: You may copy, display and distribute a photograph – and derivative works based upon it – but only for non-commercial use.
  • No Derivative Works License: You may copy, display and distribute ‘exact’ copies of the work, but no derivatives based upon it.
  • Share Alike License: You may distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the work.

When searching for images on the site it’s best to use the ‘advanced search’ option because searching using this method allows you to filter images using sets of specific metrics, including keywords, date added and content type. This is particularly useful when trying to find the perfect image for use on your next flyer or brochure, for example.

To search Flickr for Creative Commons images exclusively using the advanced search feature, ensure that you tick the ‘Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content’ option. From here you can also search more specifically, for images to use commercially or edit, adapt and build upon.

To view the licensing restrictions of an image, first click on it to take you to the image’s hosting page. To the right of the image is the licence information, clicking on this link will take you to a detailed overview of the licensing restrictions attributed to that image. Here you can also submit a usage request and view any costs associated, which will differ from image to image and typically increase with the image’s size and quality variations.

If you’re ever unsure about the licensing restrictions of an image, we’d advise you to contact the image owner directly using Flickr’s internal messaging platform, FlickrMail. The easiest way to do this is to visit the profile page of the image owner and click the mail icon at the top of the page. Please note that you must have an active Flickr account to be able to do so.

Although it’s often quicker and easier to use a purpose-made stock image library, Flickr has an amazing array of content on offer and some hidden gems that you may not find anywhere else.


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