The Hidden Costs of "Free" Photos on Your Website
How many pictures do you have on your website? When you add up the sliders and background pictures on your homepage, all the photos on your about page, and the images accompanying your blog posts, the answer is probably “a lot”. And for good reason! A well-chosen, carefully placed picture can do a lot to improve the impact and the conversion rate of your website.
There’s just one problem… if you grabbed that carefully placed picture from a Google image search, it could be doing you a lot more harm than good.
Finding images for your website
1. Use images that have been voluntarily placed in the public domain commons license.
2. Purchase licenses for the stock photos you want to use.
3. Create the images yourself.
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“Free” images can come at a steep cost
Many people operate under the mistaken belief that any images they find on the internet are “in the public domain”, and therefore free to be used by anyone who wants to. Unfortunately, that is totally false.
Anytime someone takes a picture or creates an original image, they hold the copyright to that image, and they get to say how the image is used. If they are paid to create the picture or image, the copyright belongs to the person or organization that hired them. Putting an image online does not affect copyright. In fact, most works created after 1977 won’t be in the public domain for decades.
Other people believe that using an image they found from Google is very difficult to catch, or that “no one cares” about violating copyright if it’s just an image or two on their small business website. However, search tools like TinEye and Google’s Reverse Image Search make it incredibly easy for photographers and other artists to determine whether someone is using their material. And it’s worthwhile for those artists to pursue it – according to Purdue University, penalties for copyright infringement range from $200 to $150,000 for EACH work that’s copied.
How to make images work for your website
So, if you don’t want to be on the hook for potentially thousands of dollars in copyright infringement fees, what can you do? There are a couple of options:
1. Use images that have been voluntarily placed in the public domain under a creative commons license. Some artists and photographers allow their work to be used for free, without copyright restrictions. CreativeCommons.org has a search feature that allows you to look for “content you can share, use, and remix”. However, it’s still your responsibility to verify that any images you find through this search are licensed as CC0, available for commercial use without attribution.
2. Purchase licenses for the stock photos you want to use. There are many places to buy stock images online. We use and like both Adobe Stock and iStockPhoto, which offer photos, illustrations, vector images, and even video. You can choose from subscription plans, which allow you to use a set number of images per month, or purchase credits to get occasional images on an as-needed basis. When you’re choosing a stock library, make sure you search their library thoroughly to see if they have the types of images you’re looking for before you sign up for a subscription.
3. Create the images yourself. Whether you use your smart phone’s built-in camera or hire a local photographer under a work-for-hire contract, when you’re responsible for creating the images on your website, you know exactly where the copyright lies. You’ll also get the bonus effect of photos that are specific to your business, your product, and your area, which looks far more professional than a site full of generic stock images that only barely relate to your content.
Whether you’re looking for guidance on branding your business or a ground-up redesign of your marketing, Daley Design is here to help. Our full-service digital and print agency can take the stress out of making marketing work for your business. Ready to create a brand that takes you where you want to go? Let’s talk.