Photos you can use on your blog without breaking the law…

Image by Digital Sophia

What kind of photos can you use on your blog?

Sure there are loads of bloggers who lift images from other sites, but due to copyright infringement laws, they may be breaking the law, and vulnerable to lawsuits. Yuck. So which images can you use?

Referencing the source, isn’t always enough. Some websites will allow  you to use their images for a fee, as I heard this morning from a blogger who was notified by a well-known fashion website that she had to pay to use their images… Now, I love copyright law as much as the next gal, but this particular website asks bloggers all the time for free images, and they certainly benefit from the traffic bloggers drive to their site. I had half the mind to write an angry letter to them, then I realized that maybe it’s us bloggers who should band together and start charging them to use our photos, they certainly have more money than us. ❤

Before I digress… while you may not be able to use images from some of the big fashion sites on your own blog, that doesn’t mean that you’re at a loss. There are plenty of images out there that are free to use, you just familiarize yourself with the different kinds of licensing, and different sourcing procedures.

Take your own photos

When I was in design school, our teachers encouraged us to take our own photos. Why? Not because they just liked giving us additional work, but because they said that designers who use stock photography all looked the same. I think it’s also true with blogs. Most of the best fashion blogs out there take their own photos, because you’re really seeing things from the authors unique perspective. Learning about photography is also fun, and you’re site will benefit from having a distinct look and feel from it that will stand out from the rest. And no one can sue you unless you publish a picture of someone without a model release.

Ask for press photos

I’ve had pretty good luck with this, designers and boutiques want to get the word out about their products, and they will most likely have press photos for you to use. Though this usually works with smaller designers and businesses… I’m sure that will change in the next few years. Also, many times in a PR pitch, if something looks interesting, you can ask the PR rep for press images. A lot of times I’ll get better images from the press office than from the website, so it’s worth it contact them. And a lot of times they’ll put  you on their newsletter, so you’ll get an update with any new developments… which could be good for future posts.

Public domain

Public Domain images are so old, their copyright has expired, or they have no copyright, no restrictions on use and are owned by the public. Flickr is working on a great project called ‘The Commons‘ which is a collection of public domain images from some of the best sources, Library of Congress, NY Public Library, the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Scotland are just a few. You’d be surprised how many great images are under the public domain. Oh, and also one of my favorite sites, Karen’s Whimsy has great free clipart to use.

Creative Commons

Neither of my websites would be the same without Creative Commons. I have it bookmarked in my tool bar, and I use it almost every day, particularly for my more abstract posts (like this one!). You must take note, that not all photos on Flickr are free to use. Some of them are marked ‘All Rights Reserved’ and you need to get permission to use them. The ones marked ‘Some Rights Reserved’ are more than likely under the Creative Commons license. Under the Creative Commons license there are a few things you have to familiarize  yourself with…

Attribution 2.0 Generic – Means you can share (use) remix, alter, crop the images, and you MUST credit the photographer. I tend to use photos with this license, becuase I like cropping, and writing on images.

Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic – Means you can share (use) remix, alter, crop the images, and you MUST credit the photographer, but you may not use these for commercial purposes.

Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic  -means you can share (use) the photos but you can not alter, crop or write on them. You MUST credit the photographer.

Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic – you can share (use) the photos but you can not alter, crop or write on them. You MUST credit the photographer. You may not use these for commercial purposes.

I know it looks like a lot to learn, however Flickr makes it easy, just look on the side navigation with all the tag and group information, it’s listed in that area with a link to what kind of license it is.

Stock Images

These sites also offer free stock photography, here you’ll be able to get some relatively good quality photos, and many of them offer them in press quality, shall you decide you need to make printed matter. The Stock Exchange and Every Stock Photo are worth checking out. iStockphoto has relatively cheap photos and vector graphic to use in case… but they aren’t free, however, if you’ve been taking  your own photos.. it might be a good place to sell some and maybe make an extra buck or two.

Disclaimer: I may be related to some lawyers, and I even  have some lawyer friends… but I’m not a lawyer.  This post it suggestive only and not to be taken for legal advice.

  1. This is very helpful post! Sometimes I rather not cover events that I can’t attend because I can’t take my own pictures such as The Grammy’s, Oscars, and Fashion Week. I though that it’s okay to use photos as long as you have a link to the original photo and acknowledge the author. But, I guess i have been doing that wrong.

  2. This was recently very much on my mind when I wanted to blog about full-skirted coats, using the Sartorialist’s picture of two women walking arm in arm. My original post included a screen capped version of the photo but then I looked on his site to see if he allowed people to use them so long as he was credited. He didn’t so I quickly removed it and opted for a link instead. It certainly took away from the visual appeal of the blog entry, though.

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