Use Images in Blogs

We live in a visual world.  In a sea of words, images are used to draw attention to information even before any reading begins.  An image along with the title or caption helps a reader decide if the information is worth reading.  In marketing, this is not only true for advertising, but also for blogging and Search Engine Optimization.  An attractive image along with an interesting title will draw people to the information you are trying to relay.

Using Online Images

Small businesses and individuals can rarely afford a large budget for images to accompany blogging, websites, and SEO marketing.  The temptation is to just copy something from the Internet and insert it, but this may cause problems down the road.  Just because you can copy an image does not mean you can use it.  Images have copyrights which means someone owns that image and unless you have permission from them you cannot use it.  Heavy fines can be levied against you if the owner of an image discovers you have used it without permission and removing the image from your blog or website does not release you from the liability of using it in the first place.

Free Images With Conditions

There are a number of sources on the Internet that offer free images for use (compiled list below).  Free in this case means no payment is required (also known as Creative Commons), but there are often conditions on using the image.  When pulling images from these sites read the conditions carefully so you are not violating the licensing agreement.  Licensing agreements can contain multiple license types (i.e. There can be an Attribution-Non-Derivative- Non-Commercial License).  Here are some explanations of the terminology used:

Original Copyrighted Work:  The completely original image as a whole as the owner presents it.

Derivative Work:  Any work that starts by using the original copyrighted image, but alters it in some way to create a different image.  This includes adding words, changing colors, adding special effects, etc. or copying the essence of the work in creating an image (i.e. dressing up your cat and posing her as the Mona Lisa is a derivative work of the original painting).

Attribution License:   The owner permits you to use the original copyrighted material and any derivative work, but only if you give the owner credit.

No Derivatives License:   The owner will only allow you to use the original copyrighted image as a whole with no alterations.

Non-Commercial License or Editorial Use:  The owner permits you to use the original copyrighted work, but only for non-commercial purposes (you can’t use it to make money).

Share Alike License:  You may distribute and allow others to distribute derivative works you’ve created, but only under a license identical to the license that governs your work. (Example:  If you created a derivative work under a Non-Commercial license, you cannot give permission to anyone to use your work for commercial purposes).

Violations of any conditions of these licenses allow the owner of the image to take action against you.

When Free Really Means Free

There are two conditions when you can use an image without any restrictions whatsoever.

Public Domain Dedication or Copyright Waiver: When the owner of the copyrighted image releases the original work into the public domain waiving their rights under the Copyright Laws.

Public Domain:   These are works that do not or no longer fall under the Copyright Laws.  These are images where protection under copyright law has expired, images that are not eligible for copyright protection (such as images created by the US Government), or the original owner failed to follow certain required formalities to protect the image.

Free Image Websites

With a better understanding of the use of images, here is a list of some websites that offer free images with some notes about the site.  Be sure to read the licensing agreements before using the images.

Albumarium – Limited photos, Search function that brings up albums, but then you must search in each album for pictures
Compfight – Click on creative commons, check if credit is required
Designer Pics – Limited number of photos
Fotor – Small icons for viewing, Check if credit for a photo is required
Free Digital Photos – Only smallest size is free, larger sizes sell for $3-$10
Gratisography –  Unusual photos, no search function only categories
Kaboompics – Limited categories, search function
Morgue File – Limited photos in some categories, Many are not high quality
New Old Stock – Vintage Photos, no search function
Pexels – Limited number of photos
Pixabay – Good
RGB Stock – Good, small icons for viewing, but enlarge with cursor
Stock Snap – Limited number of photos
Stock Vault – Limited number of photos
Pikwizard – Over 100,000 completely free images

Cheap Photo Sources

If you don’t want to worry about licenses, but are still on a tight budget here are a few sources that sell quality photos at low prices.

99 Club – Access over 5 million of premium stock images for $99 / year
Can Stock Photo – Great quality photos, good search engine, each photo comes in different sizes, prices vary according to size, $3-$12 per photo

Additional Resource

Free Stock Photos: 74 Best Sites To Find Awesome Free Images


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