SMALL BUSINESS TIP #12: How to Legally Use Free Blog Images

By Published On: July 21st, 2020Categories: Tips

Our 12th small business tip will bring you up to speed on how to legally use free blog images.

Oftentimes people rush through the process of choosing an image for the blog they wrote. But, you shouldn’t.

As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Photos convey feelings and using the right photos on your blog has a powerful effect.

And, if you choose the wrong one, you may get yourself in trouble.

The Golden Rule

If you found something you created on someone else’s website, you’d be upset. You’d be even more angry if they were passing it off their own.

If they were making money off of it, chances are you’d take legal action because that money should have gone to you.

Professional photographers deal with this often and they’re fighting back legally more and more these days. Can you blame them? It’s pretty tough earning a living when people think nothing of stealing your work.

So, when it comes to using free blog images, following the Golden Rule is the right thing to do.

The good news is that the Golden Rule doesn’t mean you have to pay for your images! There are free blog images all over the internet that you can use legally.

Before I tell you where to find them, let’s get a little educated about how to legally use free blog images.

Copyright & Copyright Infringement

As soon as a photographer snaps a photo, they automatically have a copyright on that image. This includes all of the images you find on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram.

A copyright gives the photographer full rights and control over an image, including if it can be reproduced, displayed, distributed, and sold or transferred, among other things.

At the very least, they can send you a cease and desist order to stop using their photo. At the most, they can sue you for damages for unlawfully using their photo.

In short, a copyright is a big deal—and so is copyright infringement. Violating a copyright could cost you up to $150,000 per infringement!

That’s a huge price to pay, so this is why it’s crucial to know what you’re doing when you add a photo to your blog.

You can always contact a photographer and ask for permission to use their image. If they grant you permission, print it out and keep it in case you need it later.


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Creative Commons License

Some photographers don’t mind sharing their work with certain conditions. In this case, they may grant you a Creative Commons license.

You’ll often find these types of images on Flickr or Google images.

With a Creative Commons license, the photographer still owns the copyright to their work, but they allow others to use it under the terms of the license.

Sounds nice, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple.

There are different types of Creative Commons licenses and the license comes with the responsibility of doing certain things in order to activate it.

For instance, you must give public attribution in a specific way. Or, you may not be allowed to use it for commercial purposes.

And, because the license can be revoked at a later date, trademark attorneys recommend that you print out the license that was valid at the time you used it so you can’t be accused of a copyright violation in the future.

Personally, I avoid using Creative Commons images as I don’t find it worth the hassle or the risk.

If You Think You’re Infringing Now

Have you been using images you found on Google in your blog posts? If so, you’re probably guilty of copyright infringement.

Don’t panic! Upload the blog images in question into the Google Images search bar by clicking on the camera icon.

Find the image and take note of the original source. If it looks like you don’t have the right to the image, take it off your blog and substitute a free blog image.

How to Legally Use Free Blog Images

There are many truly free blog images out there, you just have to know where to look.

Lots of photographers don’t mind you using their images for free and don’t put any restrictions on you if you use them. They just appreciate the exposure of their art.

Here are my top three sources of free blog images:

Let’s take a look at each of these three sites because they’re some of the best places for free blog images.

Unsplash

Unsplash has every type of photo imaginable and you can find plenty of free blog images.

Many professional photographers offer some of their best, high-resolution photos for your use with no strings attached.

All photos downloaded from Unsplash are free for both commercial and non-commercial use. Attribution is not required, though the photographers always appreciate it.

While I didn’t used to bother with attribution, I do today whenever possible. It’s just the polite thing to do for a hard working artist trying to make it in a highly competitive world.

Pixabay

Pixabay is another great site providing a plethora of images for free. Once downloaded, you’re free to use them for commercial or non-commercial use.

Like Unsplash, the photographers appreciate attribution, but it’s not required. Be sure and go the site and read their FAQs for more information about this awesome free images site.

Canva

You can kill two birds with one stone by using Canva.

This amazing graphic design tool offers a wealth of free images you can use in your graphics and your blog. Canva is a great solution!

You can have a free account or the paid “Pro” account. The free account offers over 8,000 templates, as well as hundreds of thousands of graphics and photos.

For $12.95 a month or $114 per year, you’ll get over 60,000 graphic design templates and the use of over 60 million photos, graphics, and videos.

See below for some other sources for free blog images.

Your Own Images

Don’t forget to consider using your own photos in your blog! You don’t have to be a professional photographer, but do follow these guidelines:

  • Make sure your images are clear
  • Pay attention to lighting
  • Watch your composition

Fuzzy images are off-putting and make your blog appear unprofessional. If you shake when you hold the camera, try using a tripod or monopod.

Most smartphones take good web-ready photos. Buying a professional-grade camera isn’t necessary for most blogs.

If your blog is about photography, or photography is the star of the show, then it’s better to use high-resolution photos from the free sites or hire a pro.

Lighting is key in photography. If your photos are too dark or too light, the details get lost. If you’re taking selfies or lots of portraits, consider setting up lights or standing in front of a big window.

Pay close attention to your composition. What do you see when you frame the photo? If you’re taking a photo of a person outside, what’s behind her?

It’s not uncommon to see a photo where someone looks like they’ve got something growing straight out of their head, like a telephone pole or tree branch!

Optimize Your Blog Images

The loading speed of your website has a huge negative impact on your Google ranking, so it’s important that your images are not too large.

Google actually punishes sites by knocking down their ranking if they move to slow and large photos have a huge impact on website loading times.

The rule of thumb is that a website image shouldn’t be any larger than 100kb.

While sometimes it’s not ideal to have an image be this small, such as with a full width banner, this size does work for most blog images.


RELATED | How to Speed Up Your Website


Using Free Photos for Blogs

If I’ve taught you one thing today, it’s to take copyright law seriously! It’s just not worth it to use Google or Flickr as a source for free blog images.

Just say no to invisible strings and use one of the reputable websites offering truly free blog images that I mentioned above.

And, if you suspect you’re in violation of image copyrights, take the time to check the source of all your images or, even better, hire us to make sure you’re in compliance with copyright law. We can potentially save you big money!

Free Blog Images Resources:

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Janet Doré, CEO (Chief Everything Officer) | Your Resource for Small Business Services | SCRIBACEOUS.COM
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Scribaceous, Inc. provides virtual assistant, graphic design, website design and webmaster services to small business owners throughout the world.

We’re here to help bring balance to your life and success to your business through quality work, reliable assistance, and creative thinking.

Janet Doré is the CEO (Chief Everything Officer) of Scribaceous, Inc., and has been passionately supporting her clients since 2013. Learn more about her here and connect with her on Linkedin and Facebook!

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