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One picture is worth a thousand words

Why use images in your materials?

Images can help tell a story, they can educate, elicit emotion and promote attention. Images also increase engagement. As this article explains:

  • Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without images.
  • Tweets with images receive 150 percent more retweets than tweets without images.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words,” which may or may not be true, but it certainly doesn’t have to cost a thousand dollars. No one wants to pay too much for images either by fees, licenses, or the really undesirable cost of fines and penalties from using copyrighted photos.

The good news is there are several sites available that offer free images for use both commercially and personally.

Understanding copyright law

However, “royalty free” and “free download” do not mean there is no cost. Often, sites advertise with these catch words but most often take you to a site where you’re required to pay.

Additionallly, even if you find a site that allows you to download an image at no cost, be extremely careful to read the use information. Copyrights are complicated and lawyers make lifetime careers explaining, creating and defending them. So be very careful using images that you do not know the source and creator. You don’t want to finance the copyright lawyers next European vacation.

Your best bet is to use a trusted source, and I’ve outlined a few below.

Where to get images?

1. DANSR’s Kitchensink site

Agricultural Communications Services has created a repository of images pertaining to OSU, DASNR, CASNR, OAES or OCES, including 4-H, FCS, OHCE, Rural Development, and our ever-growing special programs and partnerships. We call this site the Kitchensink because it has everything but the kitchen sink. We have proper releases for people in the images and are free for you to use for DASNR-related activities as long as they are not used to endorse or disparage any person, product or service.

While the site has existed for many years, we’ve recently moved it to an outside resource provider to increas uptimes, reduce costs and improve search results.

To download images from the site, you can create a free user account. Creating an account on the site allows us to give you more download options but you must let us know that you have created an account as that information is not automatically transferred to us.

You can search for images using keywords, but the search function on Photoshelter is not as sophisticated as Google or other search engines. For best results, use simple keywords each separated by a comma. For example, search for cattle, wheat rather than brown cow on green wheat.

The Sink grows every day, so check back often!

2. The public domain

The public domain refers to copyright-free works that anyone can use in any way for any purpose. Copyright.gov explains the public domain as follows: "A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner."

Wikipedia has a great list of collections of images in the public domain. However, as always, read the use info carefully before you download or use an image.

3. Creative Commons

A Creative Commons license enables free distribution of otherwise copyrighted work. Authors can license their work through Creative Commons to give others the legal right to share, use and build upon their work. The Creative Commons organization works with groups like Flickr, 500px, Vimeo, YouTube and more. Learn more about types of CC licenses.

Other photo resources

Below is a list of other sites I have found useful.

  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Digital Library is a collection of selected images, historical artifacts, audio clips, publications and video, most of which are in the public domain.
  • The NRCS Photo Gallery contains natural resource and conservation related photos. If you use any of these photos please use one of the following credit lines; Photo by (photographer's name), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; or Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS. There are several regulations in place, for more information visit the NRCS website.

  • Free content from photographer/artist/designer here.
  • Snappy Goat provides 14 million free public domain images, photos and clipart.
  • Pixabay is a website where you may find and share images that can be used for commercial purposes.

Thanks to Ursula O’Hara, manager of communication services in the College of Human Sciences, for sharing the following sites.

  • The digital images found in the SNAP-Ed Photo Gallery provide a complimentary resource by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP). Photographs are to be used for communicating nutrition education and outreach messages. However, these pictures can only be used for promotional, informational and educational purposes.
  • Stock Snap is another option for free photos and images.
  • For those with interest in fun and historical photos, the OSU library archives has many black and white options.



Todd Johnson
Communications Specialist