From grannies with well-worn family photo albums to the teenage girls taking selfies on their new iPhones, since its invention, photography has been important to people. For myself and fellow content creators who use photography to help tell their stories, imagery is equally important for very different reasons. Images and photography can add a burst of color, a needed reprieve from blocks of copy or a helpful illustration that acts as a visual aid. However, it can be a challenge to find the image that’s just right for a blog post.
Unless you are a photographer, have a photographer on staff or are allowed access to a photo library, chances are, your first stop for blog photography is a little website called “Google.” I’m here to tell you from personal experience–the search for free photos can be a treacherous one.
Wait, so I can’t just use any photo I find online for my blog post?
No, absolutely not. Photos, like most any content published online, are protected by copyright law unless explicitly presented as free-use or public domain content.
How do I find free images?
Google makes it pretty simple for you to find photos marked as “free to use” within their search filters. Simply go to Google’s Image search, input whatever you’re looking for, then click the “Tools” button, which will produce a drop-down that includes “Usage Rights.” Within that dropdown, simply select “Labeled for Reuse” and you can use every photo you see before you…right? Wrong.
So I can’t use the photos I find on Google, even after filtering for free photos that are “Labeled for Reuse?”
No. In most cases, you are forced to cite photos regardless of their labeled use. Also, photos may be simply mislabeled and demand that all who use them link back to the photographer’s website or online portfolio, or even include the licensing agreement in your work. These can be as simple as including a “Photo by: John Smith” caption to your photo but you have to know for sure before making any assumptions and potentially being served with a firmly worded takedown notice.
How can I avoid the headache of having to worry about the confusion that comes with having to attribute and cite photos?
Unless you are able to take your own high-quality photos, create your own imagery or buy imagery from a stock site (iStock, Shutterstock, etc.), consider using a fully free photo site, like Pixabay and Unsplash. These sites provide free images with no attribution or citing necessary. As Findsome & Winmore’s copywriter and resident blog guy, these two sites, in particular, are a goldmine of free images that help me sleep soundly at night.
Though the internet is chock full of photos just waiting to be downloaded, resources like Flickr, Wikimedia Commons and even Google Images can be virtual landmines of less-than-clear attribution and required citing. Keep in mind, I am not a lawyer. I admittedly don’t know the intricacies of copyright law, and because of that, I suggest you either follow all citing and attribution rules on images labeled for reuse or simply find free images from Pixabay or Unsplash. Happy (and safe) searching.