Before the invention of digital photography, writers and journalists solicited the services of professional photographers to snap images for their projects. Still, some writers and journalists did the job themselves. The internet heralded a new age of photography. Many photography websites mushroomed. Writers and journalists could get royalty free images for only a small membership fee. Flash forward to today, and the internet is littered with photography websites offering both paid and free images. In this column, we are going to talk about the upsides and downsides of free public domain images:

Upsides to using public domain images free

• You get free images for websites and other purposes

Get free images for websites

Face it; almost everyone loves free things. Just advertise in a forum today that you offer something free and you’ll see a ton of people flocking to your site. The same applies to images. Many people will flock to royalty free image websites that don’t require permissions or legally binding agreements to use as applies to copyrighted images. That explains why public domain images attract many photographers, writers, and students when undertaking their projects.

Copyrighted images, on the other hand, carry restrictions on how to use them. For example, you cannot download a copyrighted image online without the owner’s permission. You are also not free to manipulate the copyrighted images. For example, you cannot convert a full-color image to black and white and use it for your project before consulting the owner. Those restrictions do not apply to public domain images. You are a liberty to do pretty much everything you like with the images such as cropping, using parts of them, editing them or changing color temp and exposure.

• They offer a huge library of free images downloads

Public domain websites have the largest collection of royalty-free images than any other photography website. In other words, they harbor just about any subject you can think of. That means you will not miss finding the kind of image you’re looking for in these sites. The array of choices is simply overwhelming. Not to mention that photographers are still adding more photos every day.

Downsides to using public domain images free

• Free images downloads are not always top quality

Library of free images downloads

There is an adage that states: You get what you pay for. Free things are mostly of inferior quality. That’s because most images uploaded to public domain websites are taken by rookie photographers who just use their Smartphones. On the contrary, images taken by professional photographers are always of high quality because they invest in digital cameras. They also take aspects such as lighting and exposure setting seriously.

While some public domain images are of high quality, chances are those images you need the most might not be high-quality.

• Some public domain images free websites have disclaimers

If you’re a photography enthusiast, you’ve probably come across public domain websites that have a disclaimer stating that they will not be responsible in case the photos they offer turn out to be copyrighted. So users will carry the responsibility if it turns out that the images they downloaded were copyrighted.

• Public domain images free may require model release or property release

Although public domain images are pitched as free, some will require you to have a model release or property release document to be able to use them. Model release document comes in when the image you’ve downloaded contains a picture of someone famous. The model release is a document signed by the famous figure permitting you to use the photo. The property release is where the image contains a recognizable building. The image must be accompanied by a document signed by the building owner that permits you to use the building.

Free images online

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