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True, it’s only my opinion. But I genuinely believe sxc.hu to be the best place to find copyright-free photos on the web. Especially useful for charities, individuals and small organisations who are seeking to ‘visually appeal’ or convey a message, as they rarely have a wealth of photographers and decent equipment at their disposal, nor do they have the budget to acquire them.

In minutes you can find high-res, non-blurry images that are free to download and use in any way you wish* – magical. Drawbacks (as there always are) are numerous but slight, depending on your needs. Things like it’s fairly small photo library, sometimes strange search terms or less obvious keywords, and the predominantly amateurish quality of photos come to mind first. But what can you expect for nothing?!

Before using any photo from a stock site, free or otherwise, first stop and ask yourself, “Have I seen this image before?” and “Am I only using it because it is expected?” If so, it may be better to try something different, look for abstract images or try to crop them to look totally different. Come on people, shake it up and don’t get lazy! 🙂

Of course the obvious ‘next step up’ (i.e. low-cost) option for images is istock, where photos usually only cost a few hearty American dollars. The negatives of this type of site (I say ‘type’ because there are plenty of other great sites like this) are more to do with… shall we say ‘discernment’. Most of the pictures could definitely be described as cheesy, but perhaps that is linked to my next identifiable drawback: the fact that most images are obviously American! That means shiny perfect people and predictable compositions a lot of the time.

But who am I to complain? Nobody that’s who. I know how to use a picture, know how to edit, manipulate and crop, know when I see a good one and, conversely, a bad one… But I am utterly hopeless with a camera. So, to all you photographers out there, I salute you!

Moving on to feedback time, what other image sites can YOU recommend?

* Whenever you use a photo, always check that you are allowed to use it first! Take a moment to read up on what level of Creative Commons Licence an image has – sometimes a photographer or designer will ask for attribution or payment, or they may only provide their images free to non-profits. You should always honour their wishes.
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