I’ve always kind of liked Yahoo! Image Search because its variety of search options let you REALLY narrow down what you are looking for. Need a black and white, 200×300 picture of a barn owl? No problem! Yahoo has recently added another search filter: the ability to find Creative Commons images. The good news is that you can search for commercial-reusable items as a subset of CC material. The bad news is that you can only search Flickr content at this point.
Y!IS’ advanced search is http://images.search.yahoo.com/images/advanced. The Creative Commons filter is near the bottom. Note that you can specify two types of CC content: “Commercial use,” and “Remix, Tweak, Build Upon”. While the Flickr-only restriction is a bit of a bummer, there’s enough Flickr content to keep you busy for a long time.
Back to the barn owl search. Searching for barn owl in all CC content found me 854 pictures — wow! Even limiting the search to those pictures which allowed commercial use found me 236 pictures. And thanks to Yahoo’s extra set of search options on the results page, I could easily come up with several large creative commons pictures of barn owls. And while you often have to accept some goofiness in image search results, I found only a couple of images in my search results which weren’t, well, barn owls. (your mileage may vary, of course. Be sure to be as specific as possible.)
It’s frustrating, once you’re playing around with Y!IS, to note that Google’s image search can’t do the same thing. And Google’s advanced image search has some crazy options — find clip art, faces, line drawings, specific colors, etc. But no creative commons filter. I did find that if I ran a query for image keywords first, then the phrase “this work is licensed under a creative commons”, I had some luck. At the very least I found blogs which were CC licensed and were either using CC images or gave image sources. I think I’ll use Y!IS for my initial CC image searches, with Google search and some unique phraseology as a backup…