Can You Use That Image You Found for Your Blog Post? Probably Not.

You’re slaying the digital world with post after blog post post of your power packed content.

People are starting to notice you, so you’re naturally ready to set up your game. You’ve done your research and have probably read 90% of the articles on visual content marketing strategy out there. You know a picture is worth a thousand words and that your audience will respond better to visual information, plus you’ll also retain their attention longer.

Bottom line: beautiful imagery is sure to get more eyeballs on your social media and website content, but every penny you have is already going into your blog or business, so paying $10 for a stock photo or investing in a membership/subscription service is just too much of a financial commitment.

It’s oh so tempting. You tell yourself things like, “no one will notice if you pull that image from Google,” and “you’ve connected with X blogger/photographer here and there on social media, so she’ll totally appreciate if you use her image and link it back to her – it’s providing her ‘exposure’.” Well, you’re wrong.

RELATED: How and Why to Create Graphics for Social Media (without Spending Money)

I get it. Owning a business is a lot and it’s hard to keep up with all the legalities, but this is not one you can afford to neglect. We’re not talking a $75 fine here, think more like an $8,000 lesson you’ll learn if you get caught.

“I was really new to the blogging world and wanted to find a simple picture of Honolulu because I lost all of my photos in a hard drive crash. I simply wanted to write a short post about my time living there. I pulled an image from google with no photographer name attached, posted it on my blog and forgot about it. Two years later, I was sued by Getty Images for $1,500. I negotiated a lower settlement, but it was a hard lesson learned. Take your own photos or get specific permission from the photographer. I hope my mistake will be a lesson learned for others… By the way, taking the photo down was not enough (although I did delete the post), they wanted compensation” – Tanza Perry Cooper, Creative Director at LeeHenry Events

If you ask your fellow bloggers/creatives or consult with others in the Facebook Groups you turn to with all your business woes, the consensus will likely be that it’s okay to use images under Fair Use standards if you give a link/attribution back to the original source. NOT TRUE.

STOP: Back away from Google search and stop using the images you find (and no, it doesn't matter if you "link back" or "give them credit").

Jessica Freeman of Jess Creatives explains that fair use does not equal free use, “The purpose of the Fair Use Doctrine is to allow for limited and reasonable uses as long as the use does not interfere with owners’ rights or impede their right to do with the work as they wish. Basically, this means you can use an image from the owner’s site if you’re writing a review of a book, a new gadget, food, etc. but not actually altering the photo or claiming it as yours.”

Here’s the brutal reality. It doesn’t matter:

  • if you did it accidentally
  • if you link back to the photo source with attribution to the photographer
  • if you found the image on social media
  • if don’t make any money from your blogs
  • if your site isn’t for business/commercial use
  • if you resize the image (even a thumbnail will get you in trouble)
  • if you remove the photo immediately after receiving a DMCA takedown notice
  • if your web developer holds the license to the photo
  • if you have a site-wide disclaimer that you aren’t the owner of the photos you use
  • if the picture is embedded rather than saved on your server
  • if you found it from searching through the “Images” tab on Google or anywhere else on the internet
  • if everyone else is using that photo

You are financially liable, under Current Fair Use image copyright laws, for posting copyrighted images regardless of anything mention above – NONE of the reasons listed release or exempt you from liability.

In order to legally use a photo, you MUST get express written permission from the person who holds the copyright OR have legitimately purchased usage rights. So, if you’ve used copyrighted photos for your website, blog posts, or social media, take them down NOW (even if it’s on a blog post from 7 years ago) or swap them out for royalty free stock images (note – even some of the free stocks photo sources out there have a surprising amount of restrictions and you can still end up owing a lot money for improper use).

You think “You’re small, so you can get away with it”

Not so much… Is doesn’t matter is 10 people or 10,000 people read your blog posts, everyone is at rick. When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to justify that you’re small so you can fly under the radar. Maybe you’re thinking, “well, if I don’t give a link they’ll probably never find me.” Wrong. There are plenty of image scanning softwares along with Google’s reverse image search tool that can lead the creator back to you. This is one way Getty finds copyright infringers. The tools they use are so sophisticated that the crawlers can identify images even if they’ve been altered, regardless of what you rename the file.

If you have to ask the question, “is this photo safe for me to use?” don’t use it. Out of respect for the creator and for your own protection, assume everything is copyrighted until proven otherwise.

Now where are you supposed to get your images from?

There are 100+ free stock photo sites out there where you can safely use images from. The problem is, literally EVERYONE else is using these photos too. Your content is unique and your imagery needs to be too. Nothing is worse than putting the final touches on your latest and greatest blog post only to go share it on Pinterest and find no less than a thousand other people with that SAME stock photo. You just want to cringe because your post is SO unique and the photo, is well, just not.

I’ve got your back. I’m so excited to introduce you to the Stock Shop filled with rocking stock photos that capture real life moments (like coffee cups, iPhone texting, flowers, workspaces, nature scenes and more) perfect to visually display your blog, brand, or business. Our images cost next to nothing and the best part? Each one can only be download 20 times before it’s removed from the shop to ensure everyone else isn’t using that same one.

Head over to the Stock Shop and take a look! Right now, buy 3 stock photos and get the 4th free (add 4 photos to your cart and then apply the coupon code “june4” at checkout).

What kind of photos do you want to see next in the Stock Shop??

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This article is to be used as a resource for educational and informational purposes only and should not take the place of consulting a legal professional. Information is not legal advice and is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-day.

Photo By: Kate Stutz Photography
  • Great post Allyn, I love Canva, and use Pixabay almost daily to search for great art to use in creating related content. I love to give my readers lots of visuals to keep them going and for sharing out on social media, many times I will create several other banners to use in future social media blasts. How do you feel about infographics?

  • What about using sites like Polyvore, that let you make collages and pull from thousands of stores and merchandise items? Where does that fall on the spectrum?

    • That is a great question, Jacquelyn. Let me check in with a few of my contacts to get their expert opinions and I will be back with an answer!

  • I hope this post goes viral! Great job with this post. Thanks for sharing.


  • Great post and very important information for EVERY blogger! Thanks for sharing!

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