Do You Really Have the Right to Use that Photo?

January 27, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

If you’re a writer, blogger or site owner, you should always use images with your content. However, you have to be careful when doing so. With the popularity of sites like Pinterest and Tumblr, many people believe that it’s ok to use a photo you find on the internet – especially if you give them credit for it. That’s simply not the case, though. Not only could you receive a DMCA complaint and your content be removed from search engines like Google, but it could also cost you pretty penny. Even if you made the mistake unknowingly. Especially if you’re using a photo on a site that generates any type of revenue.

You might, like many people, mistakenly believe it’s fine to do if:

  • You give a link to the image owner
  • You make no money off the article
  • You have a disclaimer on your site

But it doesn’t matter. Even if you use an image, believing that it’s OK and you take it down the moment the owner contacts you or you receive a DMCA complaint – you can still be held liable for monetary damages.

Why Using Images is So Important

Using images doesn’t just make your content look better. It can actually increase its performance and keep visitors engaged longer. In fact, a Skyword study revealed that articles that contain images or an infographic gets over 90 percent more total views compared to similar articles that don’t use an image. But before you use an image, make sure it’s in the public domain, it has a creative common license that allows you to do so (and you follow the rules) or you have permission directly from the copyright holder (and can prove it).

Finding Images to Safely Use

Personally, my favorite place to find photos lately has been Pixabay (The image for this post came from here). I can almost always find a good photo that fits well and their images are very high quality. But there are many others out there. Before discovering Pixabay, I used to use Morgue Files a lot. Here are a few other options, too.


I’m sure you’ve heard of Flickr, Yahoo’s photo sharing platform. But did you know there’s an advanced search feature that lets you find images that are OK to use? Just go to Flickr and perform a search. When the results come up, you’ll see an advanced search option on the top right. Click that and look all the way toward the bottom. Select the licensing category that you need and search again. The results will be filtered to include only images that have that license. Most of the time, all you have to do now is credit the author with a mention and a link and you’re good to go.

Here are a few others that you might find helpful, depending on what you write about (Please, check the individual photo you’re interested in to make sure it’s safe to use):

For cat pictures, visit here

To find weather photos, click here

Find car photos at this site

Look food photos here

There are probably hundreds of thousands of photos out there that are perfectly fine (and legal) to use. It just takes a little more effort. If you can’t find exactly what you want, then you might want to consider paid stock photo sites. Some are pretty expensive, but there are others that are actually budget-friendly. Shuttershock, Dollar Photo Club, Big Stock Photo and Photos Pin are a few just off the top of my head – but there are a lot. You just have to find the one that fits your needs and what you’re willing to spend.