Find Free Images Quickly With Compfight

Pola love

Creative Commons licensed photos are a sort of internet miracle: By providing an easily-understood syntax for attribution and permissions, they make it possible to add visual interest to blog posts, web sites, syllabuses, presentations–anything you like, really. They also facilitate remixes and other forms of creative adaptation (or deformation), which can be useful in a wide variety of teaching and research contexts.

We’ve written about Flickr & Creative Commons before: I explained how to do creative-commons limited searches, and Julie suggested integrating creative commons-licensed material in your classroom. I also reviewed Wylio, a website that searches Flickr. (Wylio has since adopted a different business model.) Beyond photos, George has detailed how to find free, re-usable content for your classroom.

Today, I want to introduce Compfight, a service that lets you quickly search Flickr for Creative Commons-licensed photos that you can use in your blogs, syllabuses, presentations, and more. Compfight’s been around for a while; I learned about it only last week from Raul Pacheco.

Compfight offers a very simple search interface:

Compfight screenshot

Click for full size.

The various search options are presented in the left-hand column: you can search either just the tags associated with photos, or throughout all the text (title, description, comments, and tags); you can do a general Creative Commons license search, or look only for photos that permit commercial use; you can check to see if the photo you’re using is an original; and you can toggle safe search.

One thing that’s a little frustrating is that it’s not possible to search for a specific license–for example, if you want to search for something that permits remixing, or that only requires attribution, or some other very specific license. Search results are sometimes a little wonky–for example, repeating the same search will not always bring back the same results–but I put that down to the Flickr API, rather than the service, since that wonkiness is also present in Flickr’s own search. Finally, where Flickr allows you to sort by recency, relevance, or interestingness, Compfight doesn’t capture these.

Clicking on a thumbnail opens the photo in a new webpage, where you can find versions of the photo that will be useful for you. (On this point, CogDog’s Flickr CC Attribution Helper is a time-saver.)

WordPress users might be particularly interested in Compfight, as it offers a plug-in that lets you search for Flickr images right from the “Add new post” screen.

It is worth acknowledging that Flickr is no longer the world-beating community it once was. But as a place to find licensed, free images, it’s still the best. Compfight makes searching it a little easier. Do you have a preferred tool for finding Creative Commons-licensed photos? Share in comments!

Photo “Pola Love” by Flickr user ben▐ / Creative Commons licensed BY-2.0

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