By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning nonprofit content writer, website publisher, and author of 9 books.
I love freebies. Most of us do. And what better way to enjoy free than with free images on your blog or website?
But I and so many others have learned that it’s not right or legal to simply hop on the internet, find an image, and then just copy and paste it onto my blog or website.
There’s a little issue called “copyright” which assigns ownership to photographers, just as copyright applies to writers, too.
If I infringe on a photographer’s work product, I can face some nasty fees or other legal challenges.
Plus, as a fellow content creator, I have deep respect for these artists and their intellectual property.
So where do I find images for my blog or website? I don’t want to spend a fortune. And I confess that my own photos aren’t always award winners.
There’s good news. Plenty of free images are available to bloggers and other creatives who are on a budget. But those of us who are less familiar with photographic lingo need to understand how different kinds of images are labeled. Get familiar with these terms so you don’t mistake free images for ones that have a cost
Stock images are professional-grade photographs that are available to the public to use. Some stock images are free. Others require a license. The photographer retains the photo’s rights and chooses how the stock image will be used.
Photographers occasionally license and sell stock images on their own but increasingly use stock agencies to take care of marketing and selling. In some instances, photographers offer stock images as a dedicated income stream. In other cases, stock images are leftovers from a photographer’s other work. Why not gain a bit more income or exposure from a photo session by selling the extra images?
The healthcare blogger, for instance, may not have time or funds to hire a photographer to take images for his site. Nor may the blogger have access to photos of patients and doctors in a healthcare setting. But a healthcare photographer (yes, they exist!) makes available those kinds of images and everybody gets what they need: the blogger has a photo for a post and a photographer has a bit of money in his pocket or a bit of notoriety from a photo cred.
Royalty-free images are not free. They’re stock photos that are licensed for a fee.
That means once you purchase the license you need not pay additional royalties to use it multiple times … hence the term, “royalty-free.” When you purchase a royalty-free image, you’re buying the right to use the photo. The photographer retains ownership of the image. Tricky.
Let’s look at an example. Say you purchased a royalty-free image to use on your website homepage. You could use that same image on your social media profiles and in your brochure without incurring an extra fee.
A rights-managed image is a stock photo with a one-time use license. The owner “manages the rights” to the image. That means you pay the fee and you use the image once (and in the way that’s prescribed by your agreement) ... and that’s it.
My fave! And they’re true to their name. Free stock images are professional-grade images that are available to the public at no cost.
They’re licensed under the offering site. That means you can download them and use them for personal and commercial purposes – on your blog, for a client, for a project, or for whatever – and no money changes hands.
I have three go-to sources for free stock photos and videos: Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash. Contributors to these sites license their work under Creative Commons licensing, which allows free and legal creative content sharing.
Unsplash’s license, for instance, “allows you to copy, modify, distribute, and use the photos for free, including for commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer.”
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