One of the main features of a blog is the photos featured with each post. While it may seem easy enough to search the web for relevant images, copy those images into your post, and cite your source, unfortunately that practice can get you and your blog into trouble. The dangers of using unlicensed website photos include legal action and financial loss. The following information will make it easier to not only navigate which photos are safe to use, but also help you avoid unsafe practices and unlicensed photos.

1: Avoid incorrect practices

In order to maintain safe photo practices it’s important to understand what not to do. First, never use a search engine to provide images. Simply typing your desired keywords into Google or Bing and conducting an image search is the number one way to obtain dangerous images. If you are doing this to add photos to your blog, stop and either find images from a credible source or stop using images until you find a solution that works for you.

It’s dangerous to use random photos from the internet because you don’t know where those images are truly sourced. Including a website link with your image doesn’t do enough to credit the photographer and could result in being sued. Yes, you could be sued for as little as one unlicensed website photo because the photographer did not give you permission to use their image. It seems crazy but it happens and you’re better off to avoid it now, even if it means taking all the images off of your blog or website, instead of getting sued down the line when your site is running successfully.

2: Creative Commons and Royalty free images

If you’ve done a little research into safe website photos to use on blogs, you’re probably familiar with the terms Creative Commons and Royalty free. These titles are used to describe photos in which the photographer has given permission to use the photos on third party sites, like your blog or website. While this may be true, it’s important to read the fine print before including images in this category on your website.

Creative Commons and Royalty free images may be safe choices, but source photographers have the ability to remove their creative commons label from their images at any time. This means that if you used a photo that was “safe” when the creative commons was active and still have the photo on your page after the permission is revoked, you could find yourself in the same legal battles as you would if you used unlicensed photos. If you do use photos with creative commons it’s important to keep tabs on the images, or use images from subscription services which are more likely to maintain their licenses over time.

3: Sources of acceptable images

There are a few websites that are good sources for website photos, most of which require a subscription to access their photo stock. It can be expensive to subscribe to a photo service, but this payment can help provide safe images you can use for the duration of your blog posts or website pages. Two popular photo services include Shutterstock and iStock which are subscription services that provide accessible website photos. Some of the images on iStock may be royalty free, just make sure you understand the rules of the photo before including it on your blog.

4: Ask permission

If you do find an image online you just can’t be without, it’s a good idea to email the source photographer and ask permission to use their photo. This could be a useful practice for obtaining images from blogs that contain original content and photography. If you aren’t sure of the photo’s source, move on and use another image. In the situation that you do email and receive permission, make sure you save those emails in case of legal issues down the line. A contract may be a good idea too, but the emails establishing your conversation and permission is a good first step.

5: Use your own photos

Finally, and probably the best answer to avoiding dangerous unlicensed website photos is to only use your own original photos as content. Not everyone is a professional photographer, but between the technology in most smartphones and photo editing and enhancement apps, most people can create useful and visually appealing images from their home office or business. There’s also many online resources and blogs discussing how to take professional photos from a beginner’s standpoint.

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