Thousands of photos taken by U.S. Government employees as part of their official duty are free of copyright and free to use. Based on my extensive review of government photo libraries, the best collections below. Or just use the search I made.
Awesome, high-resolution photos of landscapes, sunsets, mountains, flowers, animals, science, and much more. You can browse or search. You can get the highest resolution available for all the images quite easily. Photos are Creative Commons, not actually "copyright free", but most have few restrictions set by the artists.
Image Quality: Excellent!
Quantity: Tens of thousands
Beautiful, high-resolution photos of plants, animals, agriculture, and agricultural research. Browse using the categories on the left. The site displays a request form when you choose to download the high-resolution photo, but you can simply bypass it by clicking “download photo”.
Photos of soldiers, vehicles, and operations in Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines. Finding just the right photo is time-consuming, because the search tends to return thousands of results. You can also browse by category by clicking "search images by topic". New photos are added regularly. Try searching for "bomber" or "sunset".
Image Quality: Good – Excellent!
Photos of everything in the park including scenery, plants, animals, wildfires, geo-thermal activity, park visitors, etc.
The library is organized in helpful categories, but there is no search feature. Some photos are beautiful, but many are somewhat unimpressive. Ex:
Image Quality: Average – Excellent!
Photos of disasters, recovery, community relations, congressional relations, and much more. There are many search options, but the search engine is picky about keywords. If you search for “fire” you won’t get a superset of the results from “wildfire” or “wild fire”. Try different search strings. No browse available.
Wide variety of NASA photos including: Earth, shuttles, jets, and experiments. To get high-resolution, click "+ More Details” after performing a search. Unfortunately, high-resolution images are not available for many of the photos. Try searching for "f-15".
Image Quality: Poor – Good
Quantity: Several thousand
Historical and some modern photos of all U.S. National Parks. Most of the photos are black and white, and there is no way to filter them out, but some of the parks have good color, high-resolution images.
Image Quality: Average – Good
Quantity: Many thousand
Includes photos of laboratories, scientists at work, new-age dwellings, and even Housing for Humanity construction projects. The catch is that the site charges $42.00 per high-resolution photo. This restriction is in place despite the fact that there is no copyright on these photos. If you want, however you should be able to get them free by filing a freedom of information act request with the Department of Energy.
Image Quality: Average – Good (high-res for $42.00 fee)
Quantity: Several thousands
In case these are not enough public domain photo libraries for you, you can find more links to Government photos on USA.gov. However, not all the sites linked from that page contain truly public domain photos, so always read their guidelines for photo usage. Also, I excluded many of the sites at USA.gov, because they were too difficult to use to find good photos.
Please feel free to add comments below if you know of other good Government photo libraries that you recommend!
The list of .gov watch picture collections is awesome. I wish I wrote more on some of the collections subjects so that I could utilize the pictures more. Three seems to be really high quality available!
On the site I write for subjects vary a lot and so I do anticipate being able to use some pictures in my ehow articles. Thank you so much for maintaing this site.
I hope so Robin There are some fantastic spots all over Europe to get images from.Here in the US we have a quite a variety of beauty to capture. I have personal photos of a large portion of the us. I am lacking some urban stuff though.
All I can say is great news!
Brad West ~ onomnoney