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High-quality photos make a HUGE difference in the overall effectiveness of your website. This article will cover the details of how to find good photos legally and humanely, best practices for using them on the web and in email, and some suggestions of what editors are available for you to do it.

Where to find photos for your websites

Images found on have been specifically licensed for use on our website and are not to be “lifted” to use anywhere else. However, often permission has been granted for use across the wider Audubon network.

If you see a photo that you’re interested in using, please send an email to our photography team and they can confirm if the image can be used for your Communications needs:

The Audubon DAM

For instructions on how to access the Digital Asset Management System (Audubon's online photo library), see: How to find photos in the digital asset management system (DAM) 


For Wikimedia photos, please be aware that some images are loaded into Wikimedia via bots, so always check the fine print to make sure that the photo is indeed in the public domain or under a creative commons license. 


Search for photos under the creative commons license.

US Fish & Wildlife photo library

Birds of America

Don’t forget that all of the John James Audubon ‘Birds of America’ prints are in the public domain and available in high-res for free on the Audubon website. Find all the prints here:

Ethics Guidelines for taking photographs

• Please follow our ethics in wildlife photography guidelines:
• The North American Nature Photography Association’s Ethical Field Practices guide offers additional practical tips:

Important Rules about Image Usage

Adding Text To Images: Don't Do It

Images you use on the web and for emails should NEVER have text "superimposed" over them. There are several reasons why.

  • You can't control text size. Images get smaller on smaller screens. And that's good, we want images to be flexible, size-wise. But text you put on an image will shrink too, making it unreadable.

  • Lots of folks don't load images in emails, and if that happens, it means any important information you added to an image will be missed by them.

  • It's anti-diversity. Visually impaired people can't use screen readers to 'scan' the text if it's part of your image. What's more, it isn't translateable, so whoever doesn't speak the language in which it's written is out of luck.

  • It tends to clash, design-wise. Matching the fonts, colors, and sizes of text you have in the rest of the email is nearly impossible, so any text on your image will clash with the existing visual hierarchy.

So if you want to use words, put them on the page or in the body of the email. Don't add them to images, ever.

How To Reducing Image File Size, and Why It's Important

Big images mean potentially slow loading times. When it comes to phones, sometimes VERY slow — and that's how most of your readers are accessing your content these days.

The solution is called "compression" or "optimization" which reduces the file size of your image without changing the dimensions. Here's how you do it in several programs.

Photoshop: The "Save For Web" option. "JPEG High 60" is a good balance between image quality and file size. 

Pixlr: File > Save gives you a slider to adjust quality. Setting it a bit right of the middle is a good balance.

Preview: Use File > Export, make sure it's set to JPEG. Here again you'll have a slider for quality, and right-of-middle is good.

Free Photo Editors

If you don't have access to Photoshop or any similar desktop photo editing software, there are several free ones you can use for very basic cropping and resizing. Try these:


PC-users and Mac users alike can access a free, web-based full-featured editor that resembles Photoshop:

Two hints for using Pixlr: first, you'll have to allow your browser to use Adobe Flash on their site for it to work. Second, if you get lost,the first two lessons on Pixlr's tutorial blog are the first basic things you need to know, namely, cropping and resizing.


If you have access to a Macintosh computer, Preview — the same thing you use to view images and PDFs and such — is just fine for cropping, resizing, and compressing images. It also has some decent level-adjusting and annotation tools. And of course it comes standard with MacOS.

Photoshop Express Editor

And finally, Photoshop itself has a simplified tool that's free to use online:

Again, you'll need to install Flash for it to work, and the workflow is a bit odd. But this is the closest to Photoshop you can get for free.

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