I am running a web site design service for local small business owner. I want avoid legal issues on the images I use. Usually, the images found on Flickr are forbidden for commercial use. Where would be a normal channel to get pictures for commercial use with minimal cost? How can I validate that the picture I used has no legal risk?
Most of the time images with proper documentation can avoid legal issues there are so many sites having such images, they will provide you the whole uses document on request:
Hope this will help.
http://www.freeimages.com (formerly sxc.hu) is very good source with royalty free photos
Always ask permission from the photographer if you want to use the Image In website templates that You intend to sell or distribute. For creating printed reproductions that You intend to sell. On "print on demand" items such as t-shirts, postcards, mouse pads, mugs (e.g. on sites like Cafepress), or on any similar mass produced item that would contain the Image in a dominant way.
Pixabay.com offers over 1,000.000 photos, cliparts, vector graphics, and even video footage - all of which published under Creative Commons CC0 as public domain. So the pictures may be used worldwide without giving credits and without asking for permission for any purpose and without limitation.
According to Pixabay's terms, it's the uploaders responsibility to make sure contributed images are legal. Additionally, the images are checked manually upon upload. You can also use "Google Search by Image" to check the origin of possibly illegal images on your own. All in all it's very safe, but if course, it's not 100%. I'm one of the founders of Pixabay, by the way.
I did not see http://dreamstime.com listed above... So here it is!
Here is one more site: http://freestockphotosgallery.godotmedia.com/ .
About validation of legal risk, the sites say state usage criteria while you go to the download page. You need to follow the criteria, like attribution to ensure that you don't fall into legal issues. Hope that helps.
Adding Unsplash to the list, as a more recent and popular source for good images.