How To Find and Reference Creative Commons Images In Your Content

we love creative commonsHere’s why you should get familiar with Creative Commons. (Click to Tweet.)


I’ve talked before about how images spice up your digital content. People just don’t read online content unless there are pictures and graphics to make it easy on the eyes. Of the three websites I use to find cool photos, one of them is the creative commons Flickr pool. First of all, I love Flickr for the veritable feast of eye candy there. However even if you find the most amazingly perfect image to use in your email, you can’t just swipe it and use it without permission. Enter the Creative Commons pool.

The first thing I do when I find an image I want to use from Creative Commons is to make sure I have permission to share, remix and make commercial use of the image. The attributions page I’m hoping for looks like this. Important: if the artist/photographer does not give commercial permission, then you can’t use it on your blog. You could always contact the artist and ask him or her personally, but I think it’s easier to just move on and find something else. (Every time I’ve tried asking, the artist denied usage.)

Earlier this year I used in a blog post a creative commons photo by fellow Flickr member “Jerry Bunkers.”

Although notification about usage is not required, I wanted to let him know I appreciated his work. I wrote him a note via Flickr messages. He was kind enough to take the time to educate me about referencing Creative Commons contributors, including examples. 

Here’s what Jerry Bunkers shared with me, In his own words:

Hi Jen,

Yes, the credit looks ok. Even something as simple as “Photo courtesy of Jerry Bunkers”, “Source: Jerry Bunkers”, or even just “© Jerry Bunkers” would be ok. The link back to my Flickr photo stream is fine, but it isn’t a necessity, at least not for me. If you do link back to the source, I think it looks better if the link is only on the photo, and not the credit text itself (unless the credit is at the bottom of the page). That way the credit is black, instead of blue, which won’t distract your readers as much (in my opinion). Even though the photo would still be clickable (IF you attach the photo stream link to it) it won’t be as obvious… Less things to click means your readers stay on your page longer. :-)

I like having the credit near the photo, like you’ve done, but a lot of times publishers will put the photo credit somewhere else on the page, usually at the end of the article, as it doesn’t disrupt the flow or “look” of their page or column as much. That is ok with me too, because the credit is still visible to readers. If you place the credit next to the photo, to me, the less text the better. Many times people associate text by a photo as being a caption, something explaining the photo or adding to the article, so if there is a lot of text there (aka, a long photo credit) it may draw peoples eyes away from the article to read the “caption”, only to realize it isn’t a caption. If the credit is short, it will be less likely to draw the attention of your readers away from the other, more important text on the page. If you want to put in a longer credit, I would maybe put it at the bottom of the article somewhere.

Like this:

Or this:

Once in a while people will put the credit in the HTML code of the page, so the only way to know who the photo is credited to is to view the actual source code, which nobody is going to do. I don’t like it done that way.

Here are a couple more examples of how others have done it:

Sorry this was such a long note, but I hope it helps give you some ideas. Thanks for writing, and I hope my photos can be of use to you in the future.

Jerry Bunkers

To sum it up briefly, the idea is to give the Creative Commons artist proper credit without interrupting the flow of the article or blog post.

By the way, Jerry Bunkers is no longer an active Flickr member, which is too bad because his images were beautiful and of a high quality you don’t always find among the Creative Commons pool.His advice is useful for future reference, though. Keep it in mind as you scout out interesting Creative Commons photos to use in your content.

photo credit: steren.giannini on Flickr


  1. Brac Areal says

    This is a great blog post. Thank you very much for the fantastic insight and we really appreciate the time you took to write this. Thanks again.
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