How to Find Cool, Quirky, Copyright Free Photos on Flickr

I think we’re all always looking for that touch that makes a design feel fresh and different – a pattern, a photo, or a texture that doesn’t feel like stock. One of my favorites sources is Flickr – but probably not the way you use it.

Sure, most of us know about Flickr’s vast library of creative commons licensed images but there’s another rich vein of fascinating imagery worth exploring.

J.L.M. Lauweriks. Alphabet, [1900]. NAI Collection

J.L.M. Lauweriks. Alphabet, [1900]. NAI Collection

Many of the world’s great libraries, government agencies, private companies, national & state archives, museums, and historical societies use Flickr as a catalog for their book, documents, illustrations, and photographs. All in the Public Domain and copyright free.

This includes organizations such as:

The Internet Archive of Book Images alone has been digitizing lapsed copyright books for well over a decade now, and now has more than 5 million images on the site.

The works fall into two broad categories.

  1. Works with lapsed copyright: These are old works – books, magazines, posters and advertising materials – where copyright and often the creator/s themselves expired long ago.
  2. Works of unknown creator/s: Often archive photos, these are works where the creator’s identity (and by extension, copyright) can no longer be established.

Accessing these images isn’t hard. Perform a standard search, click the ‘Any license‘ dropdown on the top left and hit ‘No known copyright restrictions‘.

Flickr search - no known copyright restrictions

Flickr search – ‘No known copyright restrictions’

How might you use these images?

Clearly we’re not talking about the kind of smooth graphics you’d expect to find on a big stock site, so you need to be strategic. This is a gargantuan library so you could be clicking that ‘next page’ link for days.

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Source: Sitepoint