You don’t need me to tell you that high quality pictures can really make your blog posts “pop”. You probably already use eye-catching images to “stop the scroll” on social, or to break up long blocks of text on your website (I mean, our eyes get tired reading after a while!).
Pictures also showcase your personality and awesome taste. Honestly, would you rather read about the detailed aspects of a tomato, or look at some mouth-wateringly gorgeous photos of flaky crust and crimson tomatoes on a chef’s recipe blog post? I can’t be the only one drooling over the recipe pictures, can I!?
Pictures do so much heavy lifting for business owners who need to get potential customers to pay attention to their digital content. (Ahem, that means you!)
Adding great images to your blog—and to the social media channels where you’re promoting it—will also give you a huge return on traffic and engagement. On Facebook, posts with photos get 84% more click throughs and 104% more comments than those without. Bring on those pretty pictures!
But don’t forget that if you’re sharing photos that you didn’t take yourself, you *could* be breaking copyright law. I know, I know, it was an accident! But you could still get in legal hot water because the original photographer can justifiably make you take down the content that you posted with their intellectual property (that’s legalese for their created work that they own the rights to).
So before you find and share the perfect visuals for your digital content, read this short blog post where I’m teaching you the basics you need to know about using copyrighted images in blog posts.
How To Use Pictures On Your Blog Legally
“Copyright” is basically the right of ownership that a photographer/copyright holder has over their picture (or a writer has over their story). I know you don’t have time to get in trouble for copyright infringement, so I’ve got you covered with the basics—your blog will be filled with gorgeous images and still 100% legal. No need to enroll in law school (I already did that 😉).
Here we go!
Copyright Law 101
Tempted to Google image search “tomato tart” or “laughing women” and nab the first picture you love?
NOT SO FAST!
You don’t want to do that.
Images, just like articles and blog posts, are automatically copyrighted to the person who created them. You wouldn’t want someone to snag your blog post, publish it on their website, and take credit for it, right? The same is true for photographers and artists.
While it’s not super likely you’d get sued for inadvertently using someone else’s art without permission, you risk upsetting someone and looking unprofessional. And you very well could get sued. You’re breaking the law, and you are financially liable for using copyrighted items on your site. It’s absolutely not worth the risk.
How To Use Pictures On Your Blog Legally
A basic rule of thumb is that you can use a photo, video, or text on your blog or website (or in your Instagram feed!) if either you personally created it or if you have permission to use it.
Taking your own photos, or working with a professional photographer, is a simple way to own all your content and avoid getting into any legal trouble. If you don’t have the skills or the budget, you have options: you can find free stock photos, or pay for individual stock images or a subscription to a stock photo website.
Types of Legal Images To Use For Blog Posts
Here’s a brief overview of the different kinds of pictures on the web:
A picture whose copyright either has expired or never existed in the first place is in the public domain. These are fair game to use for personal or commercial purposes. The only real exception is if the image is of an identifiable person, in which case you may need his or her permission before you post.
Royalty free images are exactly what they sound like: you are free from having to pay royalties on these pictures’ use. That’s often because a place like a stock photo site has already paid a fee, so you don’t have to pay it yourself. Your membership to the stock photo site covers this, if you are paying a monthly subscription fee.
Creative Commons is a global nonprofit organization that “enables sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.” It’s a way for artists to license their images and define how they can be used by the public. The most prevalent Creative Commons licenses you’ll find are CC0 and CC BY 2.0. If something is CC0, it means the owner has relinquished the rights to their work, while a CC BY 2.0 requires attribution. Pro tip: If an image is licensed under CC, make sure you’re extra careful to attribute proper credit to the photographer. They’ve gone through effort to protect their work, so be sure to respect that!
Best Free Image Sources
There are so many resources for great stock images, so that you can sleep easy at night and attract and impress Instagram readers and website visitors with top quality photos.
Read the license terms and conditions carefully to make sure you understand them, and that your intended use is covered.
Here are some places to seek out stunning and legally legit photography:
You can use these pictures for free, as they have a CC0 license. Score!
Another free stock photo and video source. Attribution is not required, although giving credit to the photographer is always appreciated.
Free public domain pictures and photos, ready for your creativity!
Stock photos, illustrations and videos, plus infographics and animated graphics. You’ll pay a monthly fee based on the number of images you sign up for.
If you’re a food blogger, or just a food lover like me, this is a great spot for lovely food images under the CC0 license from photographers around the world.
Boost your content library with unlimited access to millions of high-performing & authentic stock images, videos, vectors and icons for $24/month.
A database of royalty-free stock photos and creative works.
There are many more! It’s worth researching some of the big names in the game: Shutterstock, Bigstock, and Adobe Stock Photos.
Plus, check out this list of more places for free stock photos that don’t disappoint.
Happy browsing! I can’t wait to scroll through your dazzlingly pretty — and legally legit! — blog and Instagram feed.
And if you’re ready to take the next steps to legally protect and grow your whole business, snag your spot at my free workshop to ensure you’re taking the right steps to legally protect your business as it grows. Click here to watch the free workshop so you can get legally legit right now!
Note: Remember, this isn’t legal advice. Although I’m a lawyer, I’m not your lawyer — under any circumstances. This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to supplement or replace seeking advice from your own attorney. Do not take health coach scope of practice advice or tips from anyone other than a licensed attorney. I see a lot of bad / false information circulating online and social media, and it’s very dangerous to blindly accept non-lawyer advice.