Written by Alison Newth ~ Northeastern BC, Canada
Many artists use reference photos to help them at some point in the painting process...perhaps to take a closer look at the details of a certain animal or how light falls and creates shadows. Often times, these photos are taken by the artist himself. However, because some artists cannot travel around the world to capture their own images every time, it is helpful to have some resources available to use.
There are millions...billions...of images on the internet. But that does not mean you can use them. All works of visual art have copyright protection but some are in the public domain and allow certain types of use. Unless you know otherwise, you should always assume you cannot use an image.
Creative Commons License
Some people choose to offer their work under a Creative Commons license. Here, Flickr discusses the differences between the different licenses (accessed August 6, 2014 https://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/):
Briefly... Attribution means:
Free Image Sites for Artists
In addition to Flickr, there are other online databases you can search. I have compiled a list of online resources that are in the public domain and are allowed to be used by artists. I cannot guarantee that every image in the following websites are indeed in the public domain, so be sure that you check the copyright status independently. Here is an interesting online discussion about how to check the copyright status of images ...it might not look like much at the begining, but there is actually some good information!