I’m often asked where to get images for a blog, website or newsletter. This is something that comes up quite often and it’s one of those issues that,if not handled correctly, can cause legal complications that you simply do not need!
First off – why should you use photos in your digital publications? Simply put, people like to look at pictures. Just witness the volume of photo sharing that occurs on social media platforms for evidence of that. Utilizing photos can enhance your marketing and help you sell – words can only paint so much!
Where To Find Images
There is one thing we need to get clear right off the bat: DO NOT USE GOOGLE IMAGES to find your images! At least, don’t use Google Images without utilizing the Advanced Search feature. Google Images scours the web for images based on your search terms, but gives no indication of rights or availability. Using the Advanced Search allows you the opportunity to search for images available for commercial use. If you use any images found through Google Images, and you do not specify commercial use, you risk legal liability by poaching other people’s work. I have heard of travel agents getting caught and having to pay hefty fines to avoid deeper legal issues.
My absolute favorite place for images is Flickr Creative Commons, a database of images from Flickr users that they have marked available for use commercially and otherwise. I typically use CC to find images of hotels, resorts, cruise ships or other non-professional photos.
Another good resource is Stock.XCHNG. This site is free to use and, while the selection of images is small, typically it is easy to find something that would work pretty well. Stock.XCHNG also searches the database for iStockPhoto, so be aware of what images you are clicking on.
Speaking of iStockPhoto, that is my first stop if I can’t find an image I like at Stock.XCHNG. These aren’t free, but the cost for images starts at $1.00. The site has a much larger selection, and more professional photos, than Stock.XCHNG.
If I can’t find something I like there, I stop by Shutterstock.com. ShutterStock is similar to iStockPhoto with some different options and much different pricing. ShutterStock also offers the ability to download one, five or 25 images for a set price, or a monthly subscription is available – perfect for power users!
If you have a more specialized niche, you may want to keep an eye out for specialized image databases. For instance, if you specialize in Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender travel, an excellent GLBT themed stock photo site is Queerstock.
Regardless of where you obtain your photos, it is important to understand the rights and attributions for that image. For instance, at Flickr Creative Commons, your rights and licensing depends on which database you search – one of them allows commercial use as long as you attribute the image to the photographer. Some images at Stock.XCHNG allow commercial use, as long as you get the photographer’s permission in advance. If you do not abide by the rights and licensing for the images you use, you are taking the risk of legal action against you by the photographer or another firm.
Placing the Images
You’ve obtained your images (legally!) and you are ready to place them on your website or newsletter. It is very important that you host the image on your own website server, or if you do not have one, on your own sharing account like Photobucket or Flickr. DO NOT link to the image from the original source. The image is not under your control, and the filename could be changed or the image deleted from that server, and your image is gone! This includes using images from Flickr Creative Commons – download a copy of the image and place it on your web server and link to it from there.
Using images in your website, blog or newsletter will make it more attractive to your audience and increase your chances of your words being read. They can also be the most frustrating aspect of designing a website or newsletter. Hopefully these tips will help ease the pain!
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a six-year industry veteran and owner of Exclusive Events At Sea and Journeys By Steve, based in Springfield, MO. In addition to producing special events on board cruise ships, he specializes in escorted tours of Europe and the Holy Land and culinary-themed travel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his websites at http://www.JourneysBySteve.com and http://www.ExclusiveEventsAtSea.com.