A recurring topic in conversations I have with bloggers surrounds the question of where to obtain photographs to be used with blog posts1. Here are four options for finding images to accompany blog posts while also staying legal and respecting current copyright law.
Your Own Photos
This one is probably the most obvious but sometimes is overlooked: use your own photos. For online use such as a blog, images don’t need to be high-resolution; the photos created by your average camera phone are adequate. If you have a decent compact camera or you have a DSLR for your photography hobby, that’s even better. You can choose to upload your images directly into WordPress or your blog software of choice, or you can share the images on Flickr or SmugMug and embed them into your blog.
License Images from a Stock Photo Agency
This is the next easiest option for the blogger who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time fussing with photos. Services such as iStockPhoto and Shutterstock offer millions of photos ready to be licensed for use. These “microstock” sites can provide a variety of images covering nearly every subject imagineable and it’s easy to license the photos for online use.
While there is a fee involved, prices are low (starting around a dollar) and the ability to quickly find and license photos makes this an attractive option for those who want good images with a minimum amount of time expended. If you’re making a bit of money with your blog, spending a few dollars a week for photography isn’t an unreasonable expense.
Find Creative Commons Photos on Flickr
Copyright law specifies that a photographer automatically owns the right to control their photographs, but a Creative Commons license allows photographers to permit usage of their work in certain conditions. Flickr offers millions of photos which can be used under Creative Commons licenses2. The easiest way to find them is to go to Flickr’s Advanced Search page, scroll to the bottom, and check the box for Creative Commons. If your blog is of a commercial nature, be sure to tick the box that indicates commercial use.
When you embed the image from Flickr, be sure to give attribution to the photographer. Generally this is done by a text credit line such as “Photo by Joe Smith on Flickr, used with Creative Commons license” and a link back to the original photo or to Joe Smith’s website.
License Directly from a Photographer
Another option, most often used when you find a specific photo that you really want to use but isn’t obviously available, is to contact a photographer directly and ask for permission to use the image. I’ve had numerous requests to use my images for various blogs and other purposes, and I always write back to the requester in a timely manner. My own personal policy is that I generally allow use with attribution for noncommercial purposes, or I’ll request a reasonable licensing fee if the proposed use is of a commercial nature. The worst that can happen is that a photographer will say no – but it never hurts to ask.
Have you found other great sources? How do you find images for your blog posts? If you have any questions about using images for blogs, please leave a comment below.