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 are low-cost, or 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 to use an image, you need to either:
  • Get permission from the copyright owner (which usually involves paying for the right to use it), or
  • Use a picture that is either in the public domain or belongs to someone who has given permission on a general basis (eg with a Creative Commons licence).

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 of mainly black-and-white engraving style images for liturgical programmes, collected by American-based traditional liturgical music organisation. 

Their collection is also hosted on this website  (it may be more up-to-date). 


Radiant Light 

Colour images by Roman Catholic artist Elizabeth Wang (d 2016), 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.

Their copyright policy allows use for "non-commercial purposes which are personal or educational or religious" provided some conditions are met.


Bible Illustrations by Gustave Dore

A collection of 250+ black and white detailed drawings of biblical scenes by French artist Gustave Doré (1832-1883).

No search tool is provided on the site - but you can use the search function in your browser to find references.


The New Bible Symbols

Line-drawings from a book, from a book published in 1922 and so now public domain, of 250+ illustrated lessons,. 

All images are laid out so it is possible to take just part of a lesson by cropping a picture.


La Página de Cerezo Barredo

A collection of works from Maximino Cerezo Barredo, described as a "liberation painters" (cf liberation theologian) His drawings widely used in Latin American publications without copyrights or royalties, photocopying photocopies until they wear out "... as a true "property of the Latin American People". Not clear if they really are free-use or not but possibly they are.



Free Bible Images

Downloadable download free sets of Bible story images for teaching use in PowerPoint, PDF, Keynote or JPEG formats. 

The website has a tool for selecting images by the book of the Bible which they relate to.


Illustrations of Gospel Stories by Jerome Nadal, S.J

Woodcuts (black and white pictures) from Jerome Nadal's Evangelicae Historiae Imagines ("Illustrations of the Gospel Stories") 1593 and 1595 editions.


Art and the Bible


This is an on-line version of the King James Bible, with illustrations.

 The works of many artists have been included - you may need to check the copyright status of individual ones.



Symbols in Christian Art and Architecture

A collection of symbols and patters. Use the Index function to search for specific words. Low resolution line drawings or clip-art can be taken from the site or email for access to high quality EPS files.



Diocesian.com 

This American communications consultancy sells various church resources. 

They also provide a collection of free clip-art, organised by theme. 




ReverandAlly

This English minister makes her religious-themed doodle-drawings freely available for anyone to use.  Many are labelled by season / event.


Missale

This website presents the Gospel reading for each Sunday, based on the Roman Catholic lectionary   It's not clear which country's liturgical calendar it follows - readings are available in English, Dutch and French.   These are accompanied by a set of pictures, and many (not all) of these are in the public domain.


Christian Symbols drawn by Rudolf Koch (1876-1934)

Black and white line-drawings of various symbols. Not cross-referenced to scripture. This is a subset curated by Fr Felix Just, and includes a link to a German-language website with the complete collection.




The Bible Revival

A collection of images from many sources, some from the 1800's and thus now public-domain.   No index, you need to work through the collections manually to find pictures for specific topics.




Church Galleries


A collection of low-cost (from $2) high-quality colour images, with a search function.



General purpose web-sites and image libraries


Google Arts and Culture Project

This on-line platform gives access to high-quality images of art-works that are stored in over 100 participating museums, and has a search tool which lets you find images by title or topic. 

Copyright concerns mean that in general only public-domain images are included in the platform.   However that even if the artwork itself is now public domain (eg because the artist has been decease by 100 years or more), the picture of is is not necessarily public domain - Google's policy says that:
The high resolution imagery of artworks featured on the platform site are owned by the museums, and these images may be subject to copyright laws around the world. 
So you may need to check the status of particular images before using them.



Google Image Search

Google is the world's largest search tool - and it works for both words and pictures (which is calls images). 

The  advanced option of Google Image Search has an option (currently at the bottom of the page) to choose the Usage Rights:   set this to Free to Use or Share


Canva

This graphic design platform has a tool which lets you search its free-use stock photographs.   Canva has a big focus on beauty, and was originally a tool to create great images for social media (it's still great at that, if you don't have other tools available).

There aren't many of explicitly religious photographs - but there are a good number which can be used to support concepts. 

The site also has useful tools for general graphic design work, eg colour-combination suggestions, design tips, etc.


The Met

350000 pictures from the collection of the Metropolitan Art Gallery New York .  English-language search engine.



Flickr

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 meta-search tool is like a front-door to Creative-commons licensed content in various other collections.

Some people find that their old search portal is better, because it lets you choose which source is searched.


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.


Stock.xchng

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


MorgueFile

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.)


EveryStockPhoto

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.


Eyekons

An image placement and sourcing solution.


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