Can I Use This Picture On My Website?

A picture speaks a thousand words, or so it is said. A picture in this digital age is worth more than words – countless studies have demonstrated that adding a relevant image to a social media update enhances engagement with that post. And if you want to get your cleverly crafted blog post shared online you need to add a great picture. Throw Google Image search into the mix and you’ll begin to see just how vital it is that you have quality images on your website, properly indexed so that Google can see them.

It’s tempting to use an online search to source those pictures that you need – it will offer you a huge choice of images based upon those key words that you typed in – but if you use an image without being sure it’s OK for you to use, you could end up in a whole heap of trouble. Just because an image appears in an online search doesn’t mean that it’s free to use.

But”, we hear you say, “who’s going to know? We check our analytics and we don’t get too many clicks on our blog posts, so we’ll be fine.”

Trouble is, that picture may well contain hidden meta data that means that even if nobody but yourself has checked out your website, you could be tracked – and penalised.

Best piece of advice? Assume it is copywritten unless you are 100% sure.

So how do you get around this?

Three Ways To Source Images For Your Website

Pay For Them: There are a whole host of websites offering you pictures in return for payment, the most well known probably being Shutterstock, Getty Images and iStock. Be warned though, often the images come at different prices for different sizes – make sure you don’t spend out on an image you won’t be able to use because the resolution is too poor for your website, or you download an image far too big that you then have to try and edit down.

Free Image Sites: Trawling through the free sites can enable you to make savings on your marketing budget, but you still need to double check the rules on these; some may only allow you to use on non-commercial projects, some may require you to name the source/author. The disadvantages of this option include you seeing the same images across multiple sites, and lack of options when you pop in your search terms. Check out Unsplash, PhotoBucket and MorgueFile if you want to go down this route.

Take Your Own: Ouch! We can already feel the sharp intake of breath from professional photographers. And they will be right – it is unlikely that you will be able to replicate their professionalism in your own attempts. But sometimes it is worth it. If all you need is an image of a dog, bring yours into the office and snap away until you get a good enough image that matches what you’re trying to say online.

Ultimately, never use an image unless you know you’re OK to do so – there’s the obvious legal ramifications and we have heard of websites being taken down. And whilst we would never cast aspersions upon designers and fellow web guys and gals, it’s always worth double checking with them when they work for you that all the images are OK. If your web developer puts images on your website, you are still responsible for your website. The last thing any business needs is bad publicity over “stolen” images when there are alternatives readily available.

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