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Find Free and Fair Use Photos for School

By Keith Ferrell
February 10, 2021
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Grabbing images from Google is easy. You search, copy and paste. It’s a no-brainer and often the first thing students do when creating any sort of digital project that requires images.

But how do your students know if they have permission to use someone else’s photos? To be a good digital citizen and be in alignment with the ISTE's Digital Citizen standard, students need to understand copyright and how to find royalty-free images that are OK to use in projects.

One example of a digital activity that requires royalty-free media is a book trailer project I often assign to my fifth graders. Students create 60- to 90-second movie trailers of books they have read. The trailer consists of a series of images and text that work together to tell the story of the book that excites readers without giving away too much of the plot. The trailer is coupled with a royalty-free soundtrack (we use Soundzabound) to add to the drama and auditory aesthetics of the final product.

The images they use must also be royalty-free and fair use.

Here are four great sites I have found to search for royalty-free photos. These resources can help students learn at an early age the idea of copyright. Giving students the knowledge and tools to make decisions about their work is a key component of empowering learners.


Pics4Learning offers a safe, free image library for education. Teachers and students can use the copyright-friendly photos and images for classrooms, multimedia projects, websites, videos, portfolios or any other project in an educational setting. It’s easy to use, and all of the copyright information is available in a simplistic bibliography underneath any chosen photo.


flickrCC is a good place to start when looking for Creative Commons images. The panel on the left displays a collage of the first 36 photos matching your search term. Click on any of these thumbnails to get a slightly larger image and the attribution details displayed on the right. Right-click the image and choose a size. Most photos have small, medium and large sizes. Next, hit “save image as” and save it in a folder. Above the photo, you’ll find attribution text that must be included with any work you produce using the picture.

Photos for Class 

Photos for Class is similar to Pics4Learning. You simply run a search, click on a thumbnail and the photo downloads with the copyright information as a caption on the photo.

If it seems like finding royalty-free images is an extra step, just remember: As our students’ lives and school work move online, it is important that we, as educators, lead by example and show the ethical and appropriate ways to cite work and give credit where credit is due.

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Keith Ferrell is an educational technology coach at Singapore American School. He’s taught internationally since 2001 and has worked as a technology coordinator, integration specialist, classroom teacher and coach. He blogs at Follow him on Twitter @k_ferrell.

This article is an updated version of a post that originally published on Nov. 15, 2017.