You’ve probably already noticed that images have a huge effect on your blog traffic and bounce rate. There’s no question about it – you have to have at least one great image in every blog post. However, contrary to popular opinion, every image you see on the Internet isn’t yours for the taking. Some of them – most of the great ones, actually – have a copyright attached, making it illegal (against the law!) for you to use them. There are lots of websites you can visit to find images for your blog, but first let’s define the word “legal”.
Why aren’t all images free for the taking?
A lot of the images you see on the Internet are pictures taken by professional photographers and they’re either promoting their own work or selling those pictures (to websites, magazines, newspapers, etc). They own them, they have the right to say who can use them. Some of the images are the work of graphic artists or designers doing the same thing. Again, they created the image, they have the right to say who can use it.
“Legally” you can use these images – IF – you first contact the copyright owner and get his or her permission. In most cases they’re going to require compensation, either in the form of cold hard cash or a link back to their website, maybe even both. If you don’t have prior approval to use their images then they can file a DMCA claim with Google, and/or their own lawyer, and have you take their images down and possibly even shut down your blog. Of course, they can also sue you for monetary damages. One stolen image can get you in a world of hurt.
What images can you use legally?
Pictures you take yourself or artwork you create are always safe. The benefit is, they’re yours, you own the copyright, and if someone else wants to use them you can charge a fee and/or ask for a link back.
Images you purchase, as long as you pay for the right to use them for commercial purposes. Some people don’t mind letting bloggers use their images but if they find out you’re using them to dress up your blog so you can make more money, then they want more money for their work. Even if you just have a “personal” blog, if it’s monetized in any way, then you need to have commercial rights to your images.
Where can you find images for your blog (the legal way)?
For free images, I like to use Wikimedia.org, PublicDomainPictures.net, and FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Between these three sites I can generally find something I can use. However, it’s important to check the rights before you just grab one. Most require at least attribution (a link back to the owner.) and some do have certain commercial restrictions.
For inexpensive images I like to use iStockPhoto.com. This site is so huge you can spend days just surfing all the beautiful images. You have to buy credits, first, and then use the credits to buy images. Most images come in a variety of sizes and prices, which is great for bloggers. You don’t need a huge image so you can get photos that are just the right size for as little as one or two dollars. On the upside, once you buy the image it’s yours and you can use it over and over again.
In the beginning it was a no-no to use images from Pinterest but they’ve tightened up their terms and copyright policy. Now, if you see an image on Pinterest you like you can grab an embed code and use it on your blog. That code drags along the attribution link, too. There an iframe around the image and it might not blend with your blog, but there are some beautiful pics on Pinterest so it’s worth a look.