Understanding royalty-free images (Part 2)
This is the second of a two-part guide to help you understand how to legally use stock photography and other images that you find online.
In the first of this two-part guide to understanding royalty-free images, we explained the licence agreements and general rules around:
- Royalty-free images
- Rights-managed images
- Creative Commons licences
In Part 2, we’re going to explain why and when free images are good to use and answer some of the common questions around image use, including stock photography, infographics, illustrations and more.
The pros and cons of using free images
It’s so easy to find any image you can think of and if it’s a free image, even better! But the age-old expression, “You get what you pay for” has never been more appropriate.
- They’re free!
- They’re everywhere. There are some decent free images and they’re very popular, which might be OK, but like anything that gets overused, it can lose value and that might not work well for your brand.
- Poor quality. If you need an image that is going to look good in higher resolutions, particularly for anything that is going to be printed rather than exclusively used online – a free image generally won’t cut it, quality-wise.
- That image might not actually be free. Copyright laws are complicated and some images that are being used on a ‘free photo stock’ website might not actually be free. The worst part is the responsibility for making sure if they’re genuinely free or not lies with the user, so it could be you that is in breach of copyright. This could result in you having to pay for the image regardless, having to take the image down or, worse, getting a fine for breaching copyright law.
What is copyright infringement?
Essentially, copyright infringement is the unauthorized use of images covered by copyright law, in a way that violates one of the copyright owners’ exclusive rights. Breaching copyright law can involve:
- Using the image beyond the scope of a license or permission granted
- Recreating an image identically with another photographer
- Use of whole or part of an image without permission i.e. “mash-up” or derivative work
art rendering, where someone adapts an image without permission
I just have a small non-commercial personal blog. What images should I use?
The non-commercial nature of your work does not grant you immunity from copyright law. Even if you are not making money from other people’s work, you can still be in violation of copyright, so the same rules apply. You should use royalty-free images or ones that have explicitly declared that it’s OK for you to use, and this is typically found on the photographer’s website.
A good place to start is stock photography sites that come highly recommend. We’ve recently looked at the best stock photography sites and are always on the lookout for more.