As a small business owner, the last thing you want to be caught up in is a legal battle and additional expense for an image you, at the time, didn’t think twice about using. Even though it is alright to share posts others have made on social media in most circumstances (typically because sharing a post gives credit to the source and links directly back to the original post), you should not assume that every image you find online is okay to use for marketing or on your website.
Watch out, you could be sued.
How to Find Appropriate Images (For Free)
Luckily, there are a handful of sites with tremendous databases of high-quality, “royalty free” images. Additionally, Google has a search feature to sift through search results to find images that have been marked for commercial use. As long as you are grabbing the images from one of the below sites and giving credit where asked for, you should be in the clear!
With over 920,00 free stock photos, illustrations, vectors, and VIDEOS, Pixabay comes in at the top of our list. Even for commercial applications, attribution isn’t required.
Food Blogger? Nutritionist? Just like food? This is the free image directory for you. With new images added frequently, FoodiesFeed offers a great selection of, you guessed it, food and beverage oriented photography.
Another great database of images offers images of architecture, food/drink, nature, people, urban, technology, textures, and other images. The wide variety is easy to sort and updated frequently.
Stokpic uploads new pictures every 2 weeks with a focus on lifestyle photography. These images are perfect for blogs and social media and the site is easy to navigate.
The Superfamous database of images offers a vast variety of nature, landscape, and abstract images. These images are free to use for both personal and commercial purposes.
What Tools Can You Use to Add Text?
Adding text to images can also help make them pop. I used to tend to make templates in Adobe Photoshop, however, this was a little overkill for most situations. Now I use free tools that are available to anyone online. My go-t0 tools include:
Canva allows you to make streams for different image templates allowing you to easy copy a previous image to then adjust the background and text. Additionally, with Canva you have the ability to upload new fonts if your brand font isn’t a present and select your brand colors so you are sure to stay on point. Additionally, beyond social media sized images, you can create banners for blogs, ebooks, infographics, and more. Canva comes with free images, text layouts, and icons, but does offer the option to purchase some premium ones for $1.
Buffer created Pablo as a way to make it easier to create images with text overlay. They offer a variety of different options you can control, such as filters and sizes, though much fewer than Canva. Pablo has free images you can use as backgrounds and various fonts preloaded. We use Buffer to schedule social media posts, so Pablo is a go-to choice for images with quotes that we wish to load directly to the client’s account.
What Happens When You Get an Email or Letter from Getty Images?
The goal should be to always use images that are released free of copyrights under Creative Commons, but at times everyone makes a mistake and overlooks using one image vs another. You may wake up one day to an email from Getty Images, for example, stating you owe $800+ for the use of a single image. My best advice here is Do Not ignore this notice.
Reach out to the sender and explain that you thought the image was royalty free and are incredibly sorry for utilizing it. Inform them that you have already removed it from the site (delete it from your image directory not just from the page it appears) and ask as politely as possible for them to work with you on the price of the violation.
Often they will come down in price depending on the number of copyright violations you have had. Just make sure you pay quickly and are more careful in the future!