The Insider's Guide to Proper Photo Usage

The Insider’s Guide to Proper Photo Usage

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I recently had an in-depth interview with attorney and social media pro Sara Hawkins to talk about proper photo usage on blogs and social media. Sara is currently a solo practice attorney & consultant. She handles legal consulting and advice for small businesses, entrepreneurs, bloggers, content creators, and online professionals. Sara also a speaker on legal topics relevant to businesses and entrepreneurs. And she's a writer.

Bloggers and people who use social media need to be aware of what the law says about proper photo usage and I asked Sara a host of questions on this very deep topic. Her responses will help you be responsible and stay within the law when you use photos on your blog and social media websites.

Sara has written comprehensive articles on the topic of how to use images online:

Guidelines for Posting and Using Photos on Photo Sharing Sites

“Some people believe that if it’s on the internet it’s free, they feel they can take any photo they can access and use it for whatever purpose. Unfortunately for many images that is not true. But the fact is that many people never actually read the Terms and Conditions of signing up for a photo-sharing site. And in bypassing that critical step they may unknowingly agree to a royalty-free license for anyone to use, modify or distribute their image. You may own the copyright but it’s basically worthless.”

Copyright Fair Use and How it Works for Online Images

“You’ve heard the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, but when that picture is protected by copyright, the picture is only worth three words: cease and desist. OK, that’s kind of a lawyer joke. But it illustrates how protective people are about finding their images used online without permission. Copyright laws were established not to give the author the right to deny their work to other people, but instead to encourage its creation.”

12 Most Picture Perfect Ways To Ensure You’re Legally Using Online Photos “Using images in our online work is crucial. It’s a visual medium and how better to tell your story or draw in your audience than with a compelling photo? But while some may be flattered you’re using a photo they took or an image they created, most are not. Besides all the SEO and search-engine ranking reasons, using someone else’s work without their permission is not only wrong but also may be illegal.”

Who Owns The Oscars Photo That Broke Twitter

In this video I asked Sara the following questions with the time stamp next to them so you can easily find the questions you're interested in:

  1. Do photo usage guidelines apply to blogs and social media? 1:57
  2. Can I take a photo from Pinterest, Etsy, or Instagram and post it on Facebook with a link to the place I found the photo?
  3. Can I take photos I find on Pinterest or other social media sites and put a watermark on them to use for my blog and social media? 3:49
  4. Do I have permission to pin from a blog if they have the “Pin it” button on their website? 7:25
  5. What is the proper way to give photo attribution assuming you have permission to use the photo? 9:54
  6. What can happen if you use images that you don't have permission to use? 11:51
  7. What happens if the Creative Commons license changes? 15:40
  8. Let's talk about memes and meme generators. Are these legal use of photos? 17:27
  9. Sites like PicMonkey make it very easy to get a screengrab of a photo from a website or blog. Can I take a section from a blog with the blog title, their byline, and the photo on the post and crop it to post on social media? 21:49
  10. If I embed a link into Google+ or Facebook and the photo pulls into the post, is this legal usage of the photo? 24:06
  11. Is using stock photos a safe way for bloggers and social media professionals to go? How do they make sure they are citing things properly with stock photos? 27:45
I hope you find this video as informative and helpful as I did.

To help you find images that you can use, here are a few places you can find free and legal images to use:

1. Free Pixels


3. Creative Commons is a great resourceMake sure that you check the correct box at the top if you are going to use the photo for commercial purposes or modify, adapt or build upon (like adding text or banners in PicMonkey).

4. Morgue File

5. Flickr

Thank you to Sara for sharing her time and expertise in answering these questions. I know that this will help people understand how to properly understand how to use photos online!

Other resources on proper photo usage:

Best Places to Find Free Images

Oh Snap, Can I Legally Use that Photo?

The Insider's Guide to Proper Photo Usage

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  1. Terrific post, Peg. I’ve shared it widely. I do have a question. [In reality, many. Hitting the replay button a few times too] I’ve been trying to track down the source of a photo. My daughter found it somewhere on the web about 10 years ago. She scrapbooked it on her computer as an inspiration swatch for our someday family coffee shop, Whirled Peas Cafe. She thinks its a vintage Scandinavian textile print. I dropped it into Google Images, but it comes up a goose egg. Really love the piece, but would really love to do the right thing. Suggestions?

  2. ltsailiata  I was going to suggest Google images too, I’m not sure how else you could find the source. I’m sure you probably tried text descriptions in Google search but I would try that too.

    Thank you for watching, reading, and sharing. I really appreciate it!

  3. Great post and very timely for me.  I work in the vacation rental industry which is a vast niche that generated $23 billion in 2012 and is growing exponentially. Although many of the properties listed on major sites are managed by agencies a vast amount are managed by private individuals who have their own websites and blogs where they post a lot of local images.  I have seen many in the Orlando area that proudly show images pulled from the official Disney website.  As a blogger and podcaster for the industry the information you’ve posted is exactly what I need to share with them and I’ll give them details of the Hangout too.  Thank you!

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