In the search for images to use on your blog, you may come across the term Creative Commons. Creative Commons is a way that photographers (and writers, and anyone who creates something really!) can say how they are happy for their product to be used by other people.
Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation that has created copyright licences that are easy to use by anyone, and free, which can be a huge barrier to some users. Creative Commons gives the creator a degree of flexibility in saying how their images are used – some people may be happy for you to do whatever to their work, while others may ask that you don’t modify it.
There are four different aspects to Creative Commons, and these can be combined to specify exactly how the photographer is happy for their images to be used.
No derivative works means that the original image can be displayed, but you can not modify it in any way (so no adding text, or cropping, etc.).
Share alike means that derivative works (i.e. images that you create using someone else’s image) can be shared by others under the same licence as the original image.
(Icons taken from the Wikipedia page, originally taken from the Creative Commons site)
Besides these options (which can be combined in many different ways), creators can also put their work in the public domain with a CC0 licence – “no rights reserved“. This means the creator (photographer, writer, etc) can waive all rights to their work. That’s what the creator of the header image, Jay Mantri has done – check out his site for some beautiful images.
Sites like Flickr and Google Image Search will allow you to search by a specific Creative Commons licence, even if it doesn’t specifically say so. On Google Image Search, after doing your search, click the drop down for Search Tools, then usage rights. Always be sure to double-check the usage licence on the actual website the image is on, instead of relying on Google to get it right. “Google said it was OK” isn’t a good enough defence!