Photographer looking at camera display

A quick guide to sharing and using photos online

Photo above by Jamie Street on Unsplash.

The web is a visual place but finding the right photos to use on your website or social media can be a time-consuming and even confusing process. From deciding what photo to use, to finding out if you have the rights to use it for free or for a fee, to crediting the photographer; we hope this post can help alleviate some of the stress of using photos online. Here is our quick guide for using photos on the web, featuring our five top tips.

1. Take your own photos

Collaborative marketing agency Vancouver
A sneak peek into the Cucumber Marketing (Creative) Greenhouse. Photo by Vairdy Photography.

Okay, we know not everyone has a camera on hand to take great-looking photos or the budget for a professional photographer, but when it comes down to it, custom photography can really set you apart (and a lot can be done with a phone these days).  A few custom photos can differentiate your brand from the competition, add personality and build trust. They can later be used on your social media as well. For our own website, we used mainly custom photos from a photoshoot we had at the office, and balanced them out with some tasteful stock photos. The end result is a bright, fresh, on-brand look that shares our personality and lets our customers know what to expect. Better still, when they stop by our (Creative) Greenhouse, they’ll see the same view, familiar faces and of course, chocolate!

2. Check your sources

Unsplash offers beautiful, royalty-free stock photos for free.

Unfortunately, just doing a google search for ‘awesome photo for my website’ and grabbing what comes up under images isn’t enough. It’s likely that the image you choose is actually a stock photo that was licensed by someone else for their use—but not yours—and you risk getting into legal trouble if you use the photo anyways. There are some great resources for free, high-quality stock photos these days and more and more great photos are being added all the time.

Here are our favourite resources for free stock photos:

And, our favourite resources for paid stock photos:

  • Death to the Stock Photo (On both lists—sign up for a premium membership for access to all previous photo packs and member bonuses!)
  • iStockPhoto.com (Okay, we admit there’s a lot of cheese here, but you can find some good stuff too.)
  • Twenty20

3. Credit your photographer

Photographer standing behind camera
Photo by Stacey Rozells on Unsplash

Whether you choose to purchase stock or find free resources, you may be required to credit your photographer. There are many different licenses available and different requirements depending on where you will be using the photo. For example, a standard iStock license requires you to provide a credit to iStock and the photographer if using the photo in print, but not if you’re using it on a website. However, whatever license you have, it’s always nice to give credit where it’s due! If you’re sharing a free stock photo on Instagram, why not include a credit to the photographer if they’ve provided their username, you might even gain a new follower. 🙂

On your website, alt tags or captions are a great place to include a credit, after describing the content of the photo of course. (Alt tags provide a description of the photo for anyone using a screenreader and also provide additional information on the content of your website to search engines—in other words, they’re very important!)

4. Ask for permission, before sharing

Regramming image on social media
Photo by Jaelynn Castillo on Unsplash

With re-grams and ‘ by:’ captions populating social media, it’s easy to think it’s okay to simply borrow a photo and use it on your own channels, but the polite thing to do is ask first! While it’s true many people will appreciate the shout-out and potential boost in followers, there are also some people who won’t want their content attributed to your brand, or any brand at all. It’s best to get a started on the right foot and develop a relationship with the photographer (who may just become one of your biggest fans) by asking for their permission before sharing their photo.

5. If you don’t know you have the rights to a photo, don’t use it

As we mentioned above, using a photo you don’t have the rights to use can get you into legal trouble with the copyright holder, from a cease and desist asking you to remove the photo to legal action, but it’s also unfair to the content creator who worked hard to create the image in the first place. It’s best to just follow the number one rule, if you don’t have permission to use an image or graphic, just don’t use it. Follow the points above to find another photo you know you have the rights to use.

Those are our top tips and guidelines for using photos online. Do you have any more you’d like to share? We’re always on the look out for new resources for great stock photography! If you’re looking for some assistance making your website shine or keeping your social media channels on brand, we’d love to chat! Send us a message anytime. 🙂

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