Stock photos; finding royalty free images

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We get questions about stock photos from our clients quite often. When it comes to photos for your website – especially content marketing, blogging and social media – you need that extra visual punch. But stock photo services are expensive for start-ups and small businesses. I regularly advise my customers to use free stock photo websites to keep these costs down, whenever possible.

But turning to Google Image Search for photos won’t cut it. The search engine doesn’t allow you to view user agreements and can trip you up if you go this route. Copyright and license infringement is no joke and can bring hefty fines.

You might think, “It’s just a photo!” However, digital products are big business today. Photo supplier, Getty Images has, “an archive of 80 million still images and illustrations” according to Wikipedia and they are known for their feverish pursuit to enforce their licenses. To avoid legal headaches, here are some simple steps to ensure your business is protected.

Step One: Use a Dedicated Source

Instead of going to good ‘ol Google, try searching a website that only offers free stock photos. There are several to choose from, many with beautiful images and advanced search features.

Some of our favorite free stock photo websites include:

Step Two: Check The Image License

Once you have selected your photo, you’ll want to check for the content agreement. The license is generally easy to find. There’s typically a description of the license on every download page or a link to a license that you can follow.

When it comes to free stock photos, there are three types of licenses / agreements you’ll want to look for.

  • CCOCreative Commons Zero means that you can use the photos any way you’d like. Often called “Public Domain”, these photos are free for commercial use without credit or attribution.
  • CC BYCreative Commons with attribution means you can use the photo on your website as long as you credit the creator of the photo.
  • License / Content Agreement – This agreement is similar to a “terms of use” policy. It is a custom license the photographer has created for the use of their work. It can require attribution, request permission for use, limit use for commercial or personal use, etc.

Step Three: How to Give “Attribution”

Giving attribution can be simple. Mentioning the photographer’s name in the footnote of a page or post is a common practice, but my preferred method of attribution is adding credit to the photo itself.

  1. Open your WordPress dashboard and select “Media Library”
  2. Choose your photo to open the “attachment details”
  3. Add the attribution under “description” or “alt text”, depending on how you prefer to label your photos for SEO
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About the Author: Linda Carlson is a UX designer with a love for wire-framing, planning and CSS at SonFisher Web Studios. For over a decade, she has focused her attention on small business needs and quality web services. Her writing includes content marketing, SEO localization and brand reputation.

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