A few lifetimes ago, a charity I was working for received a cease and desist letter from a photo agency. It turned out that, unknowingly, the charity had been using unlicensed images on their website. And oh, by the way, they had to pay a five figure fine.
There’s no doubt about the power of images to transform a blog or social media update (double the engagement rate at the last count, especially for social media). However, sourcing those images can be a legal minefield. How do you know which ones are copyrighted? And what’s all this stuff about Creative Commons anyway? Surely, there’s a legitimate way to source images without breaking the proverbial bank?
The short answer to the above questions:
- As a rule, assume all images are protected by copyright (as they should be). Just because it’s on Google doesn’t mean that it’s available and free to use
- Creative Commons licenses is a standardised way of granting licensing permissions for creative work. There are different levels, and you can read all about them, here
- Yes, there is and we’ll show you how, below.
How can I exclude licensed images from my Google search?
Go to Google>Images>Tools>Usage rights and then, filter your search accordingly, as per the image below.
Enough already, where can I find royalty-free images for my blog and social media?
Calm down. Here are five of our to-go places for good quality royalty-free images.
The story goes that the founders of Death to Stock were so fed up of seeing unimaginative stock photos on websites that they set up Death to Stock as its antithesis. The result? Beautiful, immersive visual images that make storytelling their centrepiece.
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Gratisography is the brain child of Ryan McGuire, a visual artist with an inclination for whimsy. His photos are inspired by every day events and actions, with a big dose of out-of-the-box thrown in.
He may not be to everybody’s taste, but his photos will definitely add a splash of the unusual to your blog and social media platforms.
Unsplash is fast becoming the destination website for people seeking bold imagery for their online platforms. The website showcases images from up and coming photographers. You can search for images by theme and even follow your favourites photographers on the platform. There is no sign up – simply right click and download.
Flickr may seem like the forgotten child of the internet, but it hosts a treasure trove of images from photographers from all over the world (including budding ones like, ahem, yours truly), some of who offer Creative Commons license for their work.
Do it yourself
If the thought of scouring through these websites looking for photos seems like a lot of work, take photos on your smartphone, use editing apps such as VSCO to edit, and you’re done.
And finally, just because these websites say that their images do not need attribution, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t attribute. The internet is a fickle place and you don’t want to be caught out in a legal minefield not of your making. So, as a matter of course, attribute.
Over to you: what are your go-to places for images? Please share below!
Also published on Medium.