5 Ways to (Legally) Source Images


Nothing gives a website or brochure more impact than a well-chosen photo. You know this, because you’ve spent two full hours clicking through Google Images looking for exactly the right one to give your designer.

Do yourself a favor and STOP. Right now!

While grabbing images off random sites on the Internet may sound like a great, cost-effective way to get images for your marketing collateral, what you’re actually doing is violating copyright. If you’re caught, you could get yourself and your company in legal trouble. No graphic designer worth his stylus would ever take that risk, and neither should you.

Instead, here are some alternate ways you can legally source images:

1) Stock Photo Sites

There are many sites on the Internet where you can legally download professional-quality images. Each of these sites has a stock of photos (hence the name), either generic or on a specific theme. These images are offered royalty-free, meaning companies only pay a one-time fee to purchase them, instead of paying per use as would normally be the case. These sites even offer rendered 3-D images and hand-drawn cartoons in addition to traditional photos. It’s a great way to find images relevant to your business without having to worry about legal ramifications.

2) Contact the Image Owner

Sometimes you do see an image online that you really like, but isn’t available on stock photo sites. A family photo, perhaps; or maybe an illustration/photograph from an amateur or independent artist. Resist the temptation to steal it (because that’s what using it without permission is). Instead, try contacting the image owner and ask if they will be willing to lend you the rights. A small payment is usually required–though sometimes the owner will be willing to give it to you in exchange for some products. Just be sure you are transparent with the owner on how their image is going to be used.

3) Creative Commons

Creative Commons is an organization that promotes the free sharing and distribution of creative works for others to use and share. Participating artists and photographers offer up their work for free in exchange for certain rights, which are determined by the artists themselves. Some artists restrict users from creating derivative works from the original, while others don’t. Nearly all require the image to be attributed to the original artist, although there are others that release images openly in to the public domain.

Creative Commons is a great, free alternative to stock photo sites, although you do have to work a little harder to verify if an image is safe to use. However be very careful when you are using photos on your Facebook Ad Campaigns or other social media channels.

4) Take Your Own

The beauty about the digital age is that photography is now a lot more accessible. Digital cameras and storage allow you to take as many practice shots as you need, and photo editing software can help you tweak photos to be a bit more presentable. Learning to take your own photos is rewarding in many ways: you save money, you can manage a photo shoot exactly the way you want, and you learn a new skill.

Of course, if you don’t have the time or inclination to learn photography/take your own photos, you can always try to find an employee to take snapshots for you. Just be realistic with the quality of photos you’re likely to get.

5) Hire a Photographer

This is the time-tested method for creating marketing images, and there’s a reason photographers are still in high demand. Although there is a significant cost involved in hiring a professional photographer, it’s an investment that is more than compensated by the quality of work you’ll receive. Most photographers will work with you or your creative people (agency or in-house) to create photos that are tailor-made for your company’s unique message. Custom shots of your product beat generic stock photos any time of the day.