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Using Stock Photos for Your Business’s Online Marketing

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If you’re using social media for business, chances are you’ve used stock photos. The challenging part is knowing whether the photos you are using could be cause for a lawsuit! If you use stock photos, as a marketing manager or even HR manager who posts to social media, you’re going to want to read this one. I’m talking all about stock photo use and giving you my best kept secret stock photo source!

Copyright Infringement Can Lead to REAL Lawsuits

It’s easy to believe that the World Wide Web is so large that “no one will find out.” However, it is very simple to do a reverse lookup search for an image on the web.

A few years ago, stock photo giant Getty Images was actively searching out illegal uses of their images and mailing legal action warnings to businesses. I personally know of two business owners who received these letters (not my clients at the time!). The proposed fines were approximately $4000! It was a big news story, and really forced people to pay attention to their image sources.

Since that time, you really have to be careful about where you are getting your images.

Depending on budget, there are stock photos out there for every interest and industry. From healthcare to automotive, entrepreneurs to large corporations. I have researched many stock photo sites over the years and have narrowed my list of where I go for images down to these five.

My Top 5 Image Sources:

  1. pexels.com (Free!)
  2. pixabay.com (Free! This is my best kept secret, until now!)
  3. 123rf.com (mid-range)
  4. istockphoto.com (premium photos)
  5. fotolia.com (premium photos)

Watch for Licensing Regulations and Restrictions on Stock Photos

While the aforementioned sites offer images for sale, it’s important to check the license information. Some photos may be “for editorial use only”, meaning you cannot use them for business, simply for story-purposes. These are typically images of private buildings/events or government-related images. There are other regulations as well, such as using an image on items you plan to resell. It’s always best to double-check.

Common Questions:

Q: But I just shared the post, so I’m not liable, the other person is.

A: Technically, you have now shared it to your networks and are also responsible for the unlawful distribution of the content.

Q: Do I need to give author credit?

A: With stock photos that you have purchased, this is not required. I would recommend giving credit when you share an artist or colleague’s work with their permission, as a thank you.

So, before you use an image for your blog or social media marketing campaign, always remember to check the license and restrictions on image use. A little bit of extra legwork in the beginning can save you a major headache in the end. When in doubt, ask the author directly about use and photo credit.

What are some of your favourite stock photo websites? Please share in the comments!

If you’d like to discuss your website needs with us, or for more tips like these you can follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn. Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter as well for more education and inspiration!


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