How to Find Great Images for Your Site (Without Getting Sued)

find great images - film strip

Note from the Editor: We all want to find great images for our author site or blog. However, knowing what image you can safely use is a minefield.

Even here at Write to Done we have had problems with copyright.  Only this week we were putting the finishing touches to a new course (stay tuned for more on this later next week!) when we found that the image we were using had a copyright dispute outstanding.

We quickly swapped it for another and all was well 🙂  So even if you think you know the basics, it’s worth having a read and making sure you can find great images for your site without getting sued…

How to Find Great Images

The use of images with your written content shouldn’t just be an experimental move. Use of images is a must because it is one of the best ways to leverage the natural architecture of the human brain.

With our brain being able to process visual content 60,000 times faster than written content, it makes sense to include as many images in your pages to make them visually appealing and connect with your audience faster.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that as per the industry report by social media examiner, 32% of the marketers believed that visual images topped as the most important form of content, followed by blogging. social

If you belong within that 32%, you must have also used or wanted to use images while posting your content. An apple falling from a tree, a child swimming, people busy with their phones, there is no limit to what kind of image may be relevant to your content and what you may need to use.

But, if your first course of action is to head to google and type, “a child swinging,” and post whatever you like, it’s better you stop and take a step back.

girl on swing

Posting any image from Google may seem lucrative and be convenient, but it can cost you a lot if the owner of the image decides to sue you. Without checking the reuse rights, you might end up violating copyright laws and subject yourself to troublesome lawsuits, or even in the less severe cases, with hefty fees, amounting to as much as $25,000.

Which brings us to the most important question, ‘what is copyright’, and the other technical jargon that may come up during image use.

Copyright is the legal right provided exclusively to an assignee, or in most cases, the creator, to publish, perform, print, record or film any artistic, musical or literary material and to provide the authorization to anyone else to do the same.

Any such material generated using creativity, like a design or photo, to which its creator gains the exclusive rights to use and distribute becomes the intellectual property of that person and gets protection under copyright laws.

So, for using such intellectual property, one needs to grant a license from the originator that permits him to use the creative material, like an image for your web content.

One way to avoid such hassles is through the use of a public domain, where creative materials are available to the public completely and not subject to copyright laws. Another way is to use materials available from Creative Commons, which is a non-profit organization that allows the use and sharing of its creative content through free, legal facilities like copyright licenses.

Knowing about such terms is essential to make sure that you don’t end up using an image, believing it’s reusable, but is bound by copyright laws.

So, to altogether avoid the scenario where you end up violating some law or get embroiled in a legal tiff, you can use the below three options to make sure you get wonderful visual content without any added risk.

Option1: Pay for the stock photos

There is no dearth of stock photo sites that will enable you to buy images from them, mostly at a small reasonable fee. Such sites are a good choice if you are looking for high-quality visual content, but do take care that you might have to pay for every image, which might make the idea seem a bit unfeasible if you need lots of images.

In such scenarios where you are in need of a lot of images, many stock photo sites still prove to be beneficial because they offer subscription plans. Such plans allow you to get a specific number of images within a particular amount, which may be more lucrative, in case your needs fit within that amount.

There are many stock photo sites, but the most reputable among them are:

Fotolia  (editor note: Fotolia are now Adobe Stock)

Shutterpoint
iStockPhoto
Dreamstime  (editor note: Good option for a low price)
Shutterstock

Even if paying and using is not your style, or fits out of your budget, you can dip into these stock photo libraries once in a while to check the quality of the images they sell. Just make sure to read the terms and conditions before using any such site, because sometimes people end up using images for free, only to realize later on that there was a cost attached.

Option 2: Make use of images backed by Creative Commons license

In this process, you would be offered two options, images for commercial use and images for non-commercial use. Non-commercial use images can be used when you are posting content as a hobby, for instance during blogging. But the best option is to use images that are licensed for commercial use because doing so will help you in the future scenario when you decide to monetize your site.

It is important to understand that since the images are free, they may vary in quality and in some cases may not be up to the quality you are expecting. In other cases, the images that you are hoping to use may have already used by other blogs belonging to the same niche. In all these cases, it is important that you don’t lose hope and keep on looking for images that satisfy you. The best part is that since you are availing the images for free, you always have the option to select another one and use it.

Below are some of the sites that offer images, either in the public domain, or using creative commons license. So, make sure that you read their terms and conditions properly before using them.

Unsplash
Pixabay (editor note: the first call for a lot of our images on Write to Done)
Stock.XCHNG
Pexels
Photo Pin
Stock Free Images
morgueFile  (editor note: another favoured source)
Images from Flickr with creative commons tag (editor note: oddly, never quite seem to find what I’m looking for here – is it just me?)
Wikipedia: Check out for the comprehensive source list of public domain visual content.

Option 3: Create Your Own Images

This option can be used by those who enjoy art and would like to put their own images in the blog or are not finding good choices on the net. One can carry it out using various means, including sketching, drawing, creating digital art, taking photos or by other means.

(editor note: If you want to create your own images a good FREE alternative to the industry standard Photoshop is Gimp, but beware, they both have quite a learning curve.).

Even though this is a time-taking option, this step has its benefits as it would offer your blog or site an authentic and personal touch, which would appeal more to your readers than the commercial images.

Conclusion: How to Find great Images and Evade Lawsuits

Images are a great way to enhance the visual appeal of your content and should be used while developing your blog or site. However, it’s equally important to make sure that none of your actions are crossing the legal boundary, since doing so might backfire and cost you not just money, but even your reputation and your reader base.

Therefore, ensure to use the images in the ways mentioned above and enjoy blowing away your readers with your attractive content.

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About the author

Anthony Bergs

Anthony Bergs is the CMO at Writers Per Hour. He implements marketing strategies for authors and bloggers. Feel free to connect with Anthony on LinkedIn.

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