Using High-Impact Images without Getting Yourself in Hot Water

So you've created a brilliant blog post and you're ready to share it with the world, but it's missing something. It's missing that thing that will grab a viewer's attention and make them want to read. What you need is a great image to go with your post, but you can't just go out into the interwebs and use whatever you find. You have to have good Internet etiquette and that means knowing where to find images that you can use either for free, or that are royalty-free or under Creative Commons license terms. If you don't follow the rules, you might find yourself in a big steaming bowl of trouble soup.

Free images

 Free images are images that are considered public domain. They are free and don't cost you anything to use and you aren't required to give credit to anyone when you use them either. In case this leaves you a bit skeptical, most free photo sites will tell their site visitors in a prominent location whether or not these images are completely free. However, be cautious. Depending on the website, some images are uploaded with the stipulation that you, as the downloader, will give the photographer attribution wherever you intend to use the photo in order to actually use the photo, but this information isn’t always easy to locate (especially if the site you visited links to another website entirely). The most polite, and safest thing to do is to track the image back as far as you can and try to credit its creator anyway, even though nobody is asking you to do so. It's just nice. 

Some free images can be very old photos from around the world like the ones from New Old Stock (warning: you WILL get sucked in looking through these), or artsy and meaningful like the ones from Unsplash (you'll get sucked into that site too!). There aren't very many sites out there and some aren't as awesome as others. For example, Pdphoto.org has bunches that are public domain but not all are extremely high quality, so make careful choices there.

Free images for Personal vs. Commercial use

And while loads of awesome, free images to download sounds tempting, before you go hog-wild you should familiarize yourself with the difference between images that are free for personal use only, or both personal and commercial use so you know what you can use depending on the project you’re working on (this rule also applies to any free fonts you download!). As the term implies, "commercial" use photos are intended for any promotional/advertising/merchandising materials that will help earn your business money, and "personal use" photos are not intended for commercial/monetary gain i.e., newsletters, blogs, wedding invitations, etc.

The general rule of thumb is: if you’re going to use it for a business, avoid using anything labeled “personal use only”. 

Creative Commons

Creative Commons photos are licensed in such a manner that the way you use them are restricted in some way. Some Creative commons photos say that you can use them for non-commercial purposes, which means that you cannot use it if you're trying to sell something. Some are No Derivative Works, which means that you cannot change or edit the image at all. Basically, a Creative Commons photo waives all rights of the creator in the public domain as long as the rules are followed. A place where you see these kinds of photos a lot is onFlickr.  Type "Creative Commons" in the search window and you'll see a bunch of photos taken by folks who have agreed to let you use their photos as long as you fulfill their requirements. Many people would like for you to attribute the photo to them with a link back and recognition that the photo was taken by them.

Royalty Free 

Royalty free images are the kinds of things you can find in places iStock or Shutterstock. You can purchase them once and then not have to pay to use them again. You can use them any way you want and edit them to suit your purposes. This does not mean that you own the copyright. You just paid for the right to use the photo.

No matter what you choose to do, be sure you know what the rules and restrictions of use are before you use any photo you find on the web. This includes Google Images, which can be a good place to find images, but you have to make sure you're playing by the rules if you use one. 

Our post today is just a brief overview of the rules. For more great websites that offer images you can use and more details about rules we've talked about today, go here and over here to learn up! The more you know about using images, the better! 

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