Using Images Online

We find ourselves frequently needing images. We use them on websites, landing pages, social media, online ads, blogs, in e-books, and for those of us that also do off-line work, we use them in flyers, advertising, postcards, brochures and more.

There are many places online where we can get these images. However, unless we've taken the images ourselves with our own camera, we need to be careful we’re not violating a copyright.

For that matter, even if we take our own pictures, we need to be careful of copyrights. For example, are you aware that photographs of buildings in the United States built after December 1, 1990 require the owners permission to be used in many cases? Buildings built prior to that date are exempt from the copyright laws, but for ones built after that date, it's always best to get the owner's permission.

Most of us, though, are going to use photos or images taken by other people.

Get a license

All images can potentially be copyrighted in some form or fashion, and when using them, we need to be sure that we are not in violation.

The best way to do that is to get a license to use the image. There are different types of licenses generally available. We will usually want to get a royalty-free license. That means that once we have acquired the license, for whatever time period the license is valid we do not have to pay individual royalty fees every time the image is used.

Some licenses are only for non-commercial use. We could use them on a website such as a personal blog or social media site, but we couldn't put them on a monetized page or in an ebook that we have for sale.

Other licenses allow for commercial use as long as the image is not the primary commercial attraction. An example of this would be in image used for an e-book cover or on a sales page for an info product. The person purchasing the e-book or going to the webpage is not there for the image. They are there primarily for the content of the page or the e-book.

An image on a mug or T-shirt is an example of an image as the primary commercial appeal. These usually require a special license, and in most cases they are much more expensive.

There are also licenses available that don't cost any money. You simply have to give attribution to the photographer or the copyright holder and you are in compliance. Creative Commons is an example of this type of license. Again, be sure to find out what uses are covered under that license. Sometimes you can use an attribution if it's for noncommercial purposes, but for commercial purposes you need to pay a small fee.

Fees for copyright licenses can range anywhere from a dollar into the thousands of dollars. This will depend of course on the image and for what particular use you need it.

Use Reputable Sellers

You also need to make sure that the person selling you the license is authorized to do so. Unfortunately, there are scams out there. You need to do your due diligence and make sure the person you are buying an image license from is reputable.

Some companies, such as Getty Images, are ruthless and relentlessly persevering when it comes to tracking down and penalizing license violations.

I know too many people who have gotten Cease and Desist letters from Getty Images, with threats of punitive damages in the thousands of dollars. if this ever happens to you, don't panic, but remove the image immediately, not just from your website but also from the server.

So long as you are using a reputable seller, and you've done your due diligence and purchased the correct type of license for your use, you can have a lot of fun by spicing up your websites and products with great looking images.

A Few Recommended Sites

A lot of people go to Google and just use whatever images they find there. That is an easy way to get yourself in trouble with license violations.

There are many places online where you can get legitimately licensed images. Below are just a few of the sites I recommend.

Creative Commons: This is one of the best places to find free images. Read the license carefully, as there are several different types. The most common is one where you have to give an attribution to the photographer. Again, just be sure that your usage of the image matches the license.

Unsplash: I found this site through my friend Avani Misra. This is not your typical photo site used by most marketers. The photography here is simply phenomenal. Most pictures, but not all, are of nature. All pictures are completely free to use. This site is worth visiting just to see the beauty of the photographs.

Dollar Photo Club: This is my primary go to place for images. You will notice I do not do much advertising on this site, but there is a Dollar Photo Club banner on the right sidebar of almost every page. I love these guys! Most images cost a dollar. You can get an extended license which allows you to use it on things like mugs and T-shirts for $50. There are millions of images, the site is easy to navigate, and if you're doing work for a client you can even download a low resolution copy of the image for free to show them to make sure it's what they want. Highly recommended!

123RF: This is not a site I use often, but they do have some images available for free. Most of them cost a dollar or more. This site is highly recommended by a lot of Internet marketers, which is why it makes the list here.

iStock Photo: This is a site owned by Getty Images. There are lots and lots of images available here, but some can get very expensive. It makes the list because of the sheer quantity of what is available. If there is something you can't find on another site, chances are you'll find what you're looking for here.

Premium Stock Photos: This is a site run by Ed Mercer. I did some joint venture products with Ed, and he is a great guy, but more importantly, he’s a top-notch photographer. All photos on this site were taken by Ed and he offers unlimited royalty-free use of every image on the site for a flat annual fee. There are currently almost 7000 photos here and Ed adds 200 new ones each month.

Please share some of your favorite image sites in the comments section after this post. The more resources we have to find images, the better looking our sites and products will be. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

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  1. Thank you for writing this article! It is a treasure for a blogger.

    • My pleasure! We all need extra image resources, and we also need to remember to check the licenses! I hope many bloggers find this helpful.


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