A picture tells a thousand words. But using one without appropriate permission could land you in hot water if you’re not careful.
Whether you’re writing about food, TV, films or games, no article will feel complete without a professional-looking picture or a screenshot of the media in question.
When writing a personal blog, if you think about copyright at all, you might generally assume that the image creator won’t see the article – and if they do, the only consequence of using the image without explicit permission is it will just get taken down.
Write a blog for a business, however, and the stakes are considerably higher.
Using an image or other piece of media you don’t have the rights to can lead to legal disputes and the imposition of heavy fines by content creators. It’s a good job, therefore, that there are plenty of ways to source images for your blog posts that don’t break the bank or the rules – and will help your article to stand out from the crowd.
Let’s start with the best option.
One of the most reliable options for sourcing free images for your blog is using royalty-free stock image websites. Sites such as Pexels and Pixabay host large libraries of royalty-free images, to which many are contributed by other users.
Pexels is ideal for elaborate and artsy photos, while Pixabay includes more images from a variety of fields, but varies significantly in quality.
The great thing about these websites is that any image you find is guaranteed to be 100% royalty-free, meaning that you can use it in a commercial context without requiring attribution. This makes them particularly good for use on social media, where it can sometimes be hard to fit attribution into a tweet or other post.
That being said, we still recommend that you provide a credit on blog posts to help out the creators!
Creative Commons licence
Another option is to search for images that are uploaded to sites like Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.
Doing so gives you a much wider pool of images to choose from, including the majority of photos used in Wikipedia articles, which may be helpful if you’re struggling to find relevant imagery on royalty-free sites.
Despite including it in our list of options, we would recommend avoiding Creative Commons images – if you can possibly help it – for a couple of reasons.
One is that these images are often of lower quality than stock photos, vary greatly in size and resolution, and often require you to sift through a large number of images to find what you need.
The second reason is that Creative Commons licences can vary dramatically, with strict rules on how you can use a particular image, and how the author should be credited.
Fail to credit even a free image – including on social media – and you could be hit with a hefty financial penalty by the original photographer.
While we’re tentatively warning you off Creative Commons images, there are still plenty more options to enhance your blogpost.
Paid-for stock photos
The next most popular option for finding striking blog images is to buy them from a stock photo website. Sites such as Shutterstock and iStock host huge libraries of high-quality images, covering a dazzling array of professions, products and scenarios. When you find the photo that’s right for you, you’ll pay a certain amount based on how you intend to use it, and how many you intend to download.
Paid stock photos are attractive because of their quality and specificity.
It’s often very difficult to find relevant imagery for a niche industry, and even harder to find multiple images to use over time. Buying stock photos is an ideal way to fulfil these needs, and get professional-looking photos that maintain variety and uphold your company’s standards.
The downsides of paid stock photos are twofold.
Firstly, there’s the price, although this can be very reasonable depending on your intended usage.
The second issue is exclusivity; unless you negotiate directly with the image authors, you cannot buy exclusive rights to a stock image – meaning that it could turn up on your competitors’ sites as well.
Therefore, the best kind of content is the kind you own.
Creating your own photos or artwork for your blog posts is perhaps the safest and easiest way to add a bit of colour to your article, without the need to navigate copyright rules.
That original content can come in several different forms.
The simplest and most obvious is a library of photos taken by members of staff. These could be from a phone camera – many of which are now extremely high quality – but could also be from a dedicated DSLR camera. These photos should be shot in as professional a manner as possible, although the need for things like lighting and good composition will vary depending on the location, as well as the message you want to convey.
The other option would be to produce assets internally, for example creating an image in Photoshop or Illustrator. Doing so tends to require much more time and effort as well as a very specialised skill set, but it has the advantage of creating a recognisable aesthetic for your posts. By drawing or constructing images in the same style, you can reuse some assets, and ensure every image is precisely on brand.
Keen to get creative? Our final option could be for you.
Have you ever spotted a graphic on an article, website or social media post and marvelled at its quality and design flair?
If so, there’s a high probability that it came from Canva, a visual asset creation platform that produces excellent results while also being easy to use. What’s best is that the platform can be used for free, providing you with over 250,000 design templates, rising to more than 600,000 with the premium version.
Setting Canva apart from our previously mentioned options is the fact that it can create visual assets that go beyond a simple image. Yes it has an extensive photo library, but text, shapes, graphs, logos and plenty more besides can also be added to enhance the viewer’s experience and illustrate key points within your blogpost.
Posting a blogpost without at least one image is like a wall without any paint or pictures. A little bit dull.
According to a study undertaken by PR News, online content with good images gets 94% more views than an imageless equivalent. With so many good options for sourcing visual assets, there has never been a better time to capture the 94% extra.
If you need further advice on how to enhance your content, you know where to find us.