There’s nothing like some well-chosen photographs to add visual interest to your website, and, thanks to Flickr, you have an almost limitless assortment to choose from. If you need pictures of blooming flowers for a gardening booklist, or of the Pyramids for a pathfinder on Ancient Egypt, or of dogs and cats for an announcement of the library pet show, or nearly anything else you can think of, you’re likely to find exactly what you need on Flickr. You can even find pictures of your own community, and sometimes your own library on Flickr!
And it’s all free and legal, too, as long as you choose photographs that have been assigned a Creative Commons license by the photographer. Creative Commons licenses come in a few versions. All require Attribution, meaning you must give credit to the photographer, which in the Flickr world usually means a link back to the photographer’s Flickr account. Some Creative Commons licenses limit usage to noncommercial use, which shouldn’t affect library websites. Another option is whether or not the photograph can be used for derivative works. If not, you have to use the photograph in its original format. If derivative works are allowed, you can crop a photograph to fit your purpose, superimpose text, use it as part of a collage, etc. There’s also an option called ShareAlike — if this is in the license, it means that if you make a derivative, that new work has to be assigned the same license.
All Flickr photographs are labeled with copyright information. The Creative Commons ones are labeled as Some Rights Reserved and those words are a link to the specific license. For example, here’s a link to the license I use for most of my photographs: Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike.
The easiest way to find these photographs is to do an Advanced Search, and limit by license. You can limit to any Creative Commons license, or add the Derivatives option if you’re looking for photographs you can crop and otherwise alter.
And here’s my best tip — when you get your search results, immediately change the sort to Interestingness. This is a formula that looks at things like the number of times an image has been viewed, how many times it has been marked a favorite, etc., and it tends to bring the best images to the top.
As long as you comply with the terms of the license, you don’t need to ask for permission to use the image. However, be sure to include the photo credit which is part of the terms of all Creative Commons licenses. It’s also common courtesy to send a message to the photographer telling them what you’re doing, including a link showing how you’re using it. If you have a Flickr account, it’s also a good to add a comment to the photograph with a link to your page.
You should also make sure you record the source of all images that you use on your website, noting that they were used in accordance with the Creative Commons license. This can be important in dealing with copyright issues later on, if people remove their photographs from Flickr and/or change the license. (You’re allowed to keep displaying photographs under the license that was in effect at the time you downloaded the image.)
- Creative Commons — Flickr’s Creative Commons Page
- Flickr’s Advanced Search — With options for limiting by license
- Sample Search: Tulips — Limited to Creative Commons licensed photographs that allow derivative works, sorted by Interestingness