There are many educational situations in which we might need a good, photographic illustration (in-class activities, websites, header images for blogs like this one, etc.). But, we can’t just publish something we’ve copied from the web. We need photos that people have agreed to share.
The best site I’ve discovered so far for royalty-free photos is Stock.XCHNG (sxc.hu). After signing up for a free account, users can search a huge database of high-quality and high-resolution images such as “Modern Library,” uploaded by Fred Kuipers. I’ve used these photos extensively to add visual interest to Ohio TESOL Journal. The license agreement essentially allows for free, non-profit use of most photos. This is pretty close to a creative commons license (though I’m not a lawyer and can’t articulate any differences that may exist between the two.
Another way to find royalty-free photos is to use the advanced search on Flickr (Yahoo’s photo sharing service) and check the appropriate creative commons box(es). There are a lot more photos to choose from, but you will usually find less-professional-looking photos. With a little digging, I was able to uncover Chicago-Kent College of Law Reading Room by s5hiara. I’ve often found that if I like photos from one user but not a specific photo, I can click on their name and find more. s5hiara was no exception; I found several more pictures of library in her profile.
Unfortunately, I did have to dig through countless snapshots before finding something useful to me. (Around page 9 of my search, I came across a user named Old Shoe Woman who had uploaded a dozen snapshots from an educational technology conference in Georgia — not what I was looking for!)
Incidentally, I first got the idea of trolling flickr for creative commons photos from the Radio Lab website. More on Radio Lab in another post.