Where to find pictures, photographs and art-work for church use

This is a list of websites where you can find pictures, photographs and similar artworks that are suitable for church use - in slideshows, newsletters, worship aids, etc.

In particular, these websites let you find images that can be used freely or for non-profit purposes, - though in some cases you must attribute the picture as requested.   This is important because copyright applies to images just the same way that it applies to lyrics and sheet music.  So if you want images to use, you need to either:
  • Get specific permission from the copyright holder (which usually involves paying for the right to use it), or
  • Use a picture that is in the public domain or from someone who has given permission on a general basis.

Christian web-sites and image libraries

Art in the Christian Tradition

This "is a freely available, regularly updated visual image internet resource. Designed for scholars, students, pastors, and religious educators, all of the images may be used for educational and/or religious non-profit purposes."   It can be searched by keyword, scriptural reference, persons, icon and various other ways.

Bible Illustrations by Sweet Media

This is a set of pictures by American illustrator Jim Padgett (1931–2009). They were originally published in the Read'n Grow Picture Bible, but have now been donated to Wikimedia Commons by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing as part of a cooperation project. Sweet Publishing released these images, which are taken from now-out-of-print Read'n Grow Picture Bible Illustrations (Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984.), under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0.

The are extensive, covering many scenes from the four Gospels and from many other books of both the Old and New Testaments.  Originally drawn for children, for teaching purposes, they are usually not fine works of high art.  But they do give a concrete representation of scenes from Scripture.

Pitts Theology Library

A digital library maintained by a Lutheran college in the USA. Has "more than 48,000 images of biblical illustrations, portraits of religious leaders, printers' devices, engravings of church buildings, and other theological topics. They are available for teaching, research, and other non-commercial purposes."

Hermano León Clipart

This Spanish language site has a wide variety of images organised by theme and also according to the Catholic liturgical calendar.  The layout is clear enough for non-Spanish speakers to follow most sections.   There is a statement on one page that "This clipart have been gathered. They are frequently used in parishes and Spanish religious communities. We don't know who are their authors." - so perhaps some images are subject to copyright.

Includes a range of black and white images that would be simple enough to be projected onto not-so-great screens.

Images for use in Liturgy Programmes

A Flickr image-stream from MusicaSacra - black and white traditional illustrations.

Radiant Light 

Colour images by Elizabeth Wang, organised by theme:   Many Catholic (Marian) themes are included.  Many of the pictures are delicate and have subtle colours - they may not be able to projected well.   The site's copyright policy allows use for "non-commercial purposes which are personal or educational or religious" provided some conditions are met.

General purpose web-sites and image libraries

Google Image Search

Use the advanced option of Google Image Search. Select the correct option under “Usage Rights.”


The search feature of this photo-sharing site lets you choose which license type to look for:  eg  "No known copyright restrictions"

After searching, you see small versions of the results.  Hover the mouse over each one to bring up a small speech-bubble in the lower right corner.   Click it to open the summary screen:  if this says "All Right Reserved" then you aren't allowed to use the photo without getting permission.   But if it says "Some rights reserved", you can click the link to find out what restrictions apply - often you can use picture provided you include a line saying where it came from.

Wikimedia Commons

A library of images and other media files (eg sound)  These are all in the public domain, so can be used without worrying about permissions.

Creative Commons Search

This is a meta-search tool which acts as a front-door to Creative-commons licensd content in various other collections.

Other special-purpose image-search sites which may have useful content

Indexing and search-tools in these sites is likely to be less useful for finding images for church-use, unless you have some very specific purposes in mind  (eg illustrating creation with space photos).

NASA Images

This library of space and astronomy images is free to use provided you:
  • don't imply that NASA endorses a particular product, and
  • include a credit-line of “NASA/courtesy nasaimages.org.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A library of nature-related digital media.  All items can be used free-of-charge, but must be attributed.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A library of photos, mostly scientific / nature themed, all available for free with a few restrictions about attribution.

A listing of other US government sites 

with copyright-free images.


A commercial image library:  results include both free and premium (paid) photographs.


A smaller library of photographs, all of which may be freely used.  (The strange name is borrowed from the newspaper industry, and is about past project.)


A search engine for free photos - however photos come from many sources and some are licensed.  After searching, select a photo and you can click on the license or attributions link to see details.

Freerange Stock

A library of high-resolution free-use photographs and vector-based clip-art.  You must register to download, but all images are public domain.


An image placement and sourcin soltuion.

Using work by members and friends

Some churches use photographs and art-work created by members or friends:  even with these, it would be wise to document the permission that has been given.  This is particularly important if they are professional artists/photographers who make their living from sales or commissions.

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