For last week’s blogging tip we discussed ways to automate social media. Not surprisingly some people weren’t really in favor of it, but others found it really useful to get some social media exposure while leading a busy life. This week we’ll be talking about finding free photos to use on your blog.
When creating a quality blog, you cannot underestimate the importance of including a good photo in each of your blog posts. It brings a post to life and adds lots of great color to your blog. Plus that photo will be included when your post is shared on sites such as Facebook and Google+.
Unfortunately when it comes to blog photos, I see a lot of beginner bloggers making a big mistake. They are simply searching for photos on Google or elsewhere and using any images they find anywhere on the web. Since it’s posted online, it’s free to use right? Nope. And just adding a link back to the site that you ‘borrowed’ the image from doesn’t cut it either. That’s a bit like a thief leaving a thank you note after taking your bike.
The Risk Of Using Copyrighted Images On Your Blog
If you happen to be blogging as just a hobby and don’t make any money at all, you may be safe enough. In such a case, the worst that could probably happen is a cease and desist letter from a lawyer asking you to remove the offending photos.
On the other hand, if you are making money from your blog and you’re using someone else’s copyrighted images, you are risking the money you’ve made. Basically you are using someone’s protected work to profit.
If you end up making a lot of money with your blog, why would you want to put that at risk? Would you even want to potentially deal with the hassle of having to replace images down the road? Personally I’d rather avoid that risk and have some peace of mind.
In all likelihood, a lawyer would just ask you to remove the photos, but what if you are out of town when that happens? Or what if some particularly cranky site owner or photographer decides to skip that courtesy?
Besides the legal and financial risk, there is also the ethical side of it. I know I get pissed off when I see some auto-blog scraping my posts or when people steal my images from my older websites.
Where Do You Find Free Photos To Use?
Of course the very best source is your own camera. Then you can add some real personality to your blog. Also Google really likes unique photos which can get you some additional Google image search traffic. Or you could upload them to photo sharing sites for more traffic. Plus you don’t need to add in a link to credit anyone else. If I had a camera I’d definitely be going this route more often.
I get pretty much all of my non-cat photos from Flickr. Just be sure to scroll down and check the boxes for ‘Creative Commons license’ and ‘Find content to use commercially’. Then it will bring up images where the photographer has granted everyone access to use their photos without monetary compensation.
The tricky part is that some images that show up in that search still want you to pay to use them. So when you click on a photo check the License section in the sidebar. Some will say ‘Request to license …’s photos via Getty Images’.
Here are some other websites that you may want to consider using to find Creative Commons licensed photos:
- Creative Commons Search
- Free Digital Photos
- WikiMedia Commons
- Library of Congress Prints & Photography Online Catalog
- US Government Photos and Images
Just be sure to double check that the photo truly is free to use before posting it on your blog.
Are These Photos Completely Free
Unless it explicitly says that the photos are copyrighted or require a special license, the images found on the sites above should be free to use. That doesn’t mean that you can just post the image and you’re all done.
You are still expected to provide credit to the photographer with a link. I’m not sure if it matters where you place that link, but I’ve been in the habit of just adding the credit link directly below the photo. I have seen lots of people credit the photographer at the bottom of their post and that is probably fine too. The key is that you’re not passing the photos off as your own creation.
I do admit that you will often find much better photos if you are willing to pay a bit for each one. Obviously that isn’t very feasible for new bloggers though. So I plan to keep using free photos until my blog is making more money. Then I’ll splurge a bit to take my blog to the next level.
If you are guilty of this mistake, don’t take this post personally. I know that it’s something that some people just don’t realize. I’d hate to see it cause problems for you eventually.
Where do you prefer to get your blog images from? Do you have any plans to eventually switch to buying photos? Any other tips to find good free photos?