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An Overlooked Resource: Public Archive Photos With No Copyright Restrictions

October 29, 2019

Who doesn’t like old photos? And they’re made to order for blogging and social posts.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Stock photos look posed and phony. But a lot of old archive photos have this natural quirkiness– probably because they aren’t trying to be something they’re not.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can almost hear them saying: “Come on, add a caption! Stick on a new head!!”blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Here’s an example (below). I used an image editing program (Pixelmator) to select the two figures and paste them onto a plain background. Then I added dialogue and substituted my pretty face for the certificate.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I used the After image in a promotional video. You can view it here.blank vertical space, 32 pixels highBefore & After old royalty-free archive photo manipulated edited substituted face in place of framed certificate

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highThe original photo had no copyright restrictions. I could modify it and use it for free.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Where do you find such images? I find mine in the The Commons, which is run by the photo-sharing site, Flickr.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The project’s goal is to provide access to publicly held photo collections.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Some of the biggest and best: Internet Archive Book Images (over 5 million images scanned from books), The British Library, The Library Company of Philadelphia (some great illustrated posters), The U.S. National Archives, The New York Public Library, and The Library of Congress.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

There are about 115 participating institutions. You can see the full list here.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

 

You never know what you’re going to find: photos, prints, woodcuts, diagrams, maps, advertisements, illustrations, cartoons, postcards– and on all sorts of subjects.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Most Commons images do not have any copyright restrictions. In such cases, you’ll see “No known copyright restrictions” displayed beneath the image. You’re free to use those images any way you want.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

 

Note: You can search the photos in each collection by keyword: “buildings,” “sports,” “music,” etc.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Tip: Before entering your keyword in the Search field at the top of the page, click the magnifying glass icon just above the first row of images. That will activate the Search field and restrict your search to that particular collection. Then type your keyword into the Search field and hit enter.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Search results vary from excellent to baffling… 😊blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Here’s another example. I used the After image in the same video.blank vertical space, 32 pixels highBefore & After old royalty-free archive photo manipulated edited added captions word balloons two guys in suits talking at receptionblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, editorial, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Doug Busk, VP Communications, Emory U. former Global Group Director Social Media at Coca-Cola

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 3, 2019 5:05 PM

    Very Cool! What a great resource. Thanks for the info!

    Like

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