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Finding Elusive Images in the Public Domain

How often have you tried to find an certain type of image in the Public Domain, and no matter what you try, you can’t seem to find what you’re looking for? It can be pretty frustrating for sure! Just the other day, I received an e-mail from one of my UK customers who was experiencing that exact dilemma. She e-mailed me to ask:

“I purchased your “Easy Money Picture Project”.  As you are US based it’s not surprising that your links to internet sites for public domain are going to mostly contain US public domain material.  I am in the UK, I know most of the US material can be used here OK but I am interested in old images of the UK & I didn’t know whether you had come across any sites that contained such images or any UK websites that contained content from the UK.”

To be honest, I had never researched images specific to the UK, so I thought it would be a good exercise for my research skills. After spending 2 or 3 minutes with Google, I sent her a few of the results I discovered:

“Here are a few starting points for you:

  • http://www.historyworld.co.uk/
  • http://www.oldukphotos.com/
  • http://grumpystumpy.com/
  • http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/

Hope this helps!”

She responded back the next day with:

“I’ve just quickly linked to the sites you sent me & had a quick look & they look as though they will be very helpful, why couldn’t I find them? Must be doing wrong searches!”

I responded to her that searches can be tricky and offered keyword phrases I used to find the websites I sent her. After writing my response to her, I wondered how many MORE of you have encountered similar frustrations? So I thought I’d write a post to share the methodology behind how I research.

I’ve found that there is no rhyme or reason to why websites use the text they use in describing the contents on their websites. The sooner you learn that fact, the sooner you can move into conducting and enjoying meaningful research online.

First of all, you need to be aware of variations on your keywords. You can use a thesaurus if you get stuck. For example, let’s consider the keyword “photograph.” Photograph could also be displayed as:

  • Photography
  • Photo
  • Picture
  • Pic
  • Image
  • Graphic
  • Illustration
  • Still
  • Poster

To this end, you will notice in the screenshot below how this website uses the word “advert” for advertising, so if you were searching for “vintage UK advertising,” you may not find this site because of the variation.

Now, in the case of our case study, I simply used two keyword phrases:

  • “vintage UK photographs”
  • “old UK photographs”

Again, there are a number of variations for “old” and “vintage.”  The same holds true for “UK”: United Kingdom, Britain or British Isles…and don’t forget specific locations, such as “Gloucestershire” or “London.” I think you get the idea.

Another trick I want to point out is this…when you find a site you like in Google, very often you will see a link for “similar sites” in your search results as seen in the screenshot below. CLICK that link! It will reveal even more related sites for you. Of course, you can also use SimilarSites as I mentioned in a previous post, if they offer suggestions for your sites. In the case of the UK sites, they didn’t offer any results.

Now there is ONE keyword phrase that, oddly enough, you probably DON’T want to use in your search phrase…”Public Domain.” Seems odd to say that being that this is the Public Domain Blog, but the truth is that it’s not a common word that many sites use. Yes, you can find Public Domain images using that phrase in your searches, but I can tell you from experience that you will not get the kinds of results you truly want if you include it. As a matter of fact, with this case study, my customer indeed wrote back and said she was searching using the keyword phrase, “public domain vintage UK photos” among others and wasn’t finding the sites I found. Notice that her search phrase is a variation of one of mine except for a noticeable difference…she included the phrase, “public domain.”

To learn even MORE methods for finding and using images from the Public Domain, check out, “Easy Money Picture Project,” my comprehensive book on how to profit from Public Domain images and photos.

Easy Money Picture Project

2 Responses to “Finding Elusive Images in the Public Domain”

  • Hi Tony
    I really appreciated this article on Finding P.D.Images in UK, too often we seem to be neglected ‘ across the pond’. The tips you offered were very helpful, especially not using P.D. in the search.

    Thanks Tony
    regards
    Graham

    P.S. After your webinar with Jim Edwards on Using Magazines for P.D,I bought the program then realised after that I had to buy U.S. magazines off eBay which was pretty useless for me in the UK.

  • Thanks for this post, Tony. I, too, have had similar problems looking up sites… your post here helps the creative word-combo juices to get rolling… :-)

    By any chance do you know any sites for Italy?

    All the best and thanks again,
    Eileen

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