When looking for images to use in your photo-manipulations, avatars, site layouts, etc., it is necessary to make sure that you do not break any image licenses and therefore infringe upon someone's copyright. Simply because you found the image via Google Image Search doesn't mean that you automatically own all of the rights to it.
I. Public Domain / Creative Commons Zero Images
- Use only images that have been declared Public Domain. Images that are public domain either don't belong to anyone, or their copyright has expired (meaning that the original copyright holder has likely been dead for over 70 years). Not everything on the internet is public domain.
- Use only images that have been given a License that says that you are allowed to use them. Make sure that you read the actual license because oftentimes there are rules regarding usage.
- Purchase Royalty-free images. The term "Royalty-free" does not mean that the images themselves are free. It simply means that you only have to pay for the image once, and you are free to use it perpetuity without having to pay any additional royalty fees. It's a pretty sweet deal.
- Hire an actual Photographer or Artist. There are plenty of them out there, and if you need something that is truly unique and professional, save up and hire the right person.
Images that are found on these sites are completely free for you to use.
II. Licensed Stock Photography
- Free Nature Stock
- Burning Well
- ISO Republic
- Old Book Illustrations - High quality vintage scans of woodblock prints, etchings, engravings etc.
- Copyright-Free Photo Archive
- A Clipart History - Free public domain clipart.
- Historical Image and Stock Public Domain Pictures - Nicely categorized original works from the 1900s and before.
- Death to Stock Photo - Email subscription based
Images that are found on these sites are likely to be bound by a license of some sort. Please be sure to read the licenses and give credit where credit is due.
III. Royalty-free Photography
- Free Images
- Flickr: Creative Commons
- deviantArt: Stock Images
- Every Stock Photo
You have to pay to use the images on these sites, but generally a percentage of the proceeds go directly to the artist/photographer themselves.