Anyone who has tried their hand at website design knows that choosing the right photos is essential to creating a successful site. But with so many images available online, it can be tricky to know where to start – and, more importantly, how to avoid copyright pitfalls. So in this blog post, we’ll run through the ground rules for website photos. We’ll also look at what stock photos are – and whether you should use them on your site. 

What are the Rules for Photos on Websites?

The first rule of thumb is that if you didn’t take the photo, assume that it’s copyrighted, and you’ll need permission from the copyright holder before using it. There are a few limited exceptions to this rule, such as when the photo is in the public domain or falls under fair use, but in general, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Searching images on Google and then using it for your website is highly unethical and likely illegal.

If you’re unsure whether a photo is in the public domain or subject to copyright protection, there are a few ways to find out. First, check to see if there’s a watermark or other indication that the photo belongs to someone else. If there is, assume it’s protected by copyright and don’t use it without permission. You can also do a reverse image search on Google; if the image shows up elsewhere on the internet, it may belong to that person or be a stock photo they paid for and still copyrighted.

The basics: Photographer vs. Copyright Holder

Copyright law is complex, but there are some basic things you need to know before using someone else’s image on your website. Firstly, it’s important to understand the difference between a photographer and a copyright holder. In most cases, these will be two different people. 

The photographer is the person who took the photo. They will own the copyright to that image – which means they have the exclusive right to publish it, or allow others to publish it. However, in some cases (for example, if an employee takes a photo as part of their job), the copyright holder may be the photographer’s employer. 

This is important to remember because – as discussed below – you need to get permission from the copyright holder before using an image on your website. So even if you found the photo on a free stock image website (more on those later), if the photographer is listed as the copyright holder, you’ll still need their permission before using it. 

Licenses and Releases

So how do you get permission to use someone else’s image? The quickest and easiest way is to buy a license from a stock image website – more on those in a moment. However, if you’re working with a specific photographer or have found an image elsewhere online, you’ll need to get what’s known as a ‘release.’ 

This document states that the copyright holder has permitted you to use their image on your site. It will also outline any restrictions on how you can use that image – for example, whether or not you can make changes to it or if there are any limitations on where or how often you can use it. Again, releases can be complex documents – so if in doubt, always seek legal advice before using someone else’s image.

Where Can I Find Free Stock Photos? 

Now that you know how to choose legal photos for your website, you might wonder where you can find free stock photos. Luckily, several websites offer high-quality stock photos at no cost. Some of our favorites include Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay. 

Are Stock Photos Expensive?

They certainly can be expensive depending on the type of image you are looking for and the quality. Some sites have subscription plans, while others charge per photo. A few of our favorites are Canva, Envato Elements, and Freepik. They all offer monthly yearly plans with unlimited photos. If you use a lot of stock images, this will often be the most effective way to use them for worry-free email marketing, websites, and social media.

Attribution Requirements: Always give credit!

Another key thing to remember when using images on your website is always given credit where it’s due. This means listing the copyright holder’s name next to any images you’ve used if required. Many free stock photo sites still require this attribution.

Failure to attribute an image could result in legal action – even if you had permission or license to use it! So play it safe and give proper credit whenever you use someone else’s photo on your site.  

In Summary

Choosing legal photos for your website doesn’t have to be difficult; just play by the rules and be sure you are either paying for the work or attributing the photos correctly. Put simply, just don’t be a jerk and steal other people’s work. You’ll be just fine if you stick to that principle.

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