If you’re thinking about using photos, images, artwork, music, text – basically anything on the web – there are some very important things to remember regarding how you acquire them. To start, you should always err on the side of caution and assume that images you find probably have copyright restrictions because they usually do. But you’re in luck because we’ve compiled a list of places that do offer images for free for commercial use. Just be sure you double check any terms a particular image might have.
Below are a list of websites where you can find and use images for free. Sometimes the images come with stipulations so be sure you research and read any information beforehand. Keep in mind, it’s often beneficial to hire a photographer to create specific and exclusive work for your business.
Sources of Free Stock Images
There are dozens of other paid stock photo websites out there with great content to browse after signing up. When and if you want to use a photo they’ll typically charge a one-time usage fee. There are some perks to signing up for some of these sites such as Shutterstock, which offers account holders a free photo and vector of the week.
Once you know where to get stock photos, there are a few things you should know about using them legally and effectively.
Just because it is online or you can ‘right-click save,’ does not mean it is free to use.
Think of it like walking into someone’s home where you see a photo you like on the wall. You wouldn’t walk over and rip it from the hooks, put it under your arm and walk out, would you? Or walk on stage at a concert and take the microphone from a performer? The fact is, taking and using work online could have greater repercussions financially for you and your business and the law is not on your side. What you’re taking isn’t just an image that would look great; you’re taking a person’s hard work to get to that final image. You’re taking the back story and their business, all while opening yourself up for a lawsuit you will most certainly lose. Don’t believe us? Here’s one example: Photographer wins $1.2 million from companies that took pictures off Twitter
No one wants to get into trouble, and sometimes the copyright world seems murky to navigate for those unfamiliar with it but who have good intentions. Check out this infographic with handy information on copyright regulations.
Use Caution with Social Media Images:
You’re the owner of a restaurant and someone comes in to celebrate their birthday. They’re a consistent patron and you all have a great relationship. Someone in the party likes your business on Facebook and posts photos of their celebration on their Facebook wall. The photos are awesome! They really show what your business is all about! But that in no way entitles you any right to take that photo and use it. Always ask permission. The average non-photographer will probably just give you the photo if you ask.
Likewise, if it’s a terrible photo of your business you could complain to Facebook. Most likely they won’t take it down because legally the creator and owner of the photo is granted rights. This is true even if it is a photo of your business, in your business, or even if it is a picture of you. That changes if they turn around and use the photo commercially. For example, they might sell it to a company that makes a poster out of it to sell a product. In the case of commercial photography, the creator would need a model release to use your ‘likeness’ and most companies require these from the creators at the get-go. Editorial use is different.
Build a Library:
As you collect images, begin to build a library and organize the images into folders by theme or topic like, “Beach,” or “Homes on the beach.” Designing a workflow at the start will help with efficiency down the road. From images searching, to saving, to renaming and key wording the images. There are programs like Adobe Bridge, Lightroom, and PhotoMechanic that allow you to organize the photographs and batch rename, keyword, as well as sort through and search when it’s time to use an image. Think of it as a process rather than just downloading a photo to use and throwing it in a folder with potentially hundreds of other photos.