The Creative Commons Search tool makes it easier to search images licensed for free commercial use. The tool currently indexes 10 million images from Flickr, 500px, the New York Public Library, the Rijksmuseum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.
You need a photo for your email campaign. The photos you have on file are all out of date. You don't have the budget for a photo shoot. What do you do?
You might have a look at online image libraries. There are millions of stock photos available. Unfortunately, you will quickly discover that stock photos tend to range from the boring to the bizarre. The ones that are usable have typically been used repeatedly.
Even if you do manage to find a suitable photo that hasn't been used a thousand times, stock photos come with highly restrictive licenses and astronomical fees attached to them.
You may be tempted to just use something you've found on the first page of Google Image results. Resist this temptation. Images you find with Google are not automatically fair game for commercial use. Many companies and public figures have suffered reputational damage as a result of using improperly-sourced images.
Fortunately there are tools for finding visually interesting, high-quality images that won't eat your entire budget in one go. The Creative Commons manages a set of licenses, some of which allow works to be used for commercial purposes for free.
You can search for images licensed under the Creative Commons using the Creative Commons Search tool, or by filtering your Google Image or flickr search by usage rights.
Just because a work has a Creative Commons license, doesn't mean you can do what you want with it. Make sure that it is licensed for commercial use and that you include an image attribution in your email.
It's important to stay on the right side of copyright law. Images you find online cannot automatically be considered available to use. Always make sure that you have the right to use any images you have included in your email newsletters.