When it comes to creating your compelling content, a picture can truly mean a thousand words (plus a few likes!). However, sometimes it can be confusing to know where you can and can not get your online marketing images.
US copyright law has had a hard time keeping up with the fast pace of the world of online marketing, but it can be a costly mistake to take someone else’s work without crediting them properly. For this reason, businesses will often use stock photos, which are photos taken with the intention of selling (or allowing) rights to that image. Because of this, we often recommend using stock photos for all our clients’ online marketing images.
Does the idea of finding out the rights for all of your online marketing images sound a little daunting? Fear not! Here is your guide to the types of photos you might encounter online and how to use them. Let’s start out with the difference between two types of photo rights, what they might mean, and how you can use them.
Rights-managed vs. Royalty-Free images
There are two types of stock photos you can find online. Rights-managed stock photos include a license that is tailored for a specific use and only that specific use. Rights-managed images are best used for larger campaigns with mass media, as the image can be bought out for a particular period of time or limited to one company or campaign, making your image completely unique.
Royalty-free images are the best for small business owners and/or smaller campaigns, as the rights involved are less strict and more affordable per image. There is also an opportunity to purchase an extended royalty-free license, which tends to be a good halfway point for someone who wants a unique image, but doesn’t want the cost of a rights managed license.
Here are a couple of helpful tips when choosing your online marketing images:
Use Free stock image sites
There is a whole world of resources out there for stock photography that makes great online marketing images. Stock photography is a great resource for anyone looking for crisp, high-resolution photos for their business put up by the creative community for use. The rights and royalties for each image are spelled out for you to see, so there is no question of what you can and cannot use, and what is expected. For many of the stock photography sites, you pay for a subscription or a multi-pack of images, but there are also free stock options that are worth looking at for your industry-specific images. We recommend the free stock photo sites Reshot, Pexels, Unsplash, and Freeimages for high-quality stock photos.
Create your own graphics!
When in doubt, create your own online marketing images! There is great software out there where you can create your own graphics with free (or inexpensive) stock photos. Some even provide post templates where you can simply input your own images and craft taglines without relying on the image to tell your story. For our graphics creation, we use Canva. Want to know how it works?
When in doubt, assume it is copyrighted
Just because it doesn’t have the little “c” watermarked at the bottom of the image does not mean it is not copyrighted. Whenever an image is lifted from one platform and used on another, you chance being caught with a copyright violation. Better safe than sorry in this regard! That being said, different uses of photos come with different sets of responsibilities. You may be able to use an image on a post for social media and in email campaigns, but the permissions for the image may not extend to using the image in printed form or on your website. For this reason, sticking with stock photography sites that spell out their permissions clearly for you are a safe bet.
If you’re really unsure of how a photo can be used, you can also reach out to a qualified lawyer to get a second opinion. There is no such thing as being “too safe” when it comes to copyright liability, but online marketing images can be a surefire way to catch your audiences’ eye!