Using Free Images on Your Blog is a Bad Idea
If you've a blogger, you've probably been tempted to use free images in your posts. Hey, we've all been tempted! This article will present the pros and cons of the free approach to using images and will hopefully persuade you that using free photos and images may not be the way to go.
It's true, nothing beats a freebie.
Lots of Choices
You can find free images covering just about any topic imaginable-- from purse-toting bears to abstract textures to sporting events, and everything in between.
Few Licensing Hassles
Free images are often provided free of licensing requirements and few restrictions. The trend is towards offering photos using Creative Commons licensing which determines whether an image can be used for personal or commercial purposes, and whether or not the photographer requires attribution (credit).
As the saying goes, "You get what you pay for."
Quality of Images
Many of the images offered at free sites are created by amateurs and hobbyists, and therefore the quality of these pictures may not be up to par with the image you want to project in your blog. In design and marketing (and journalism), professionalism equates to legitimacy.
Overuse of Images
Because of the low quality of most free photos, the decent-quality photos available often get overused. The power and effectiveness of an image gets diluted the more often you see it. As a blogger, it is important to be unique.
Possible Copyright Infringement
It is a common misconception that if an image appears on the web it is public domain. This is not true. Like music and artwork, all images and photographs are covered by copyright law, even if they are posted online. And we all know by now that it is illegal to use copyrighted materials without proper permission and you can be held accountable. When you use images from free sites you may be using copyrighted materials unknowingly.
Lack of Model Releases
A model release is a signed form that gives a photographer (and the end user) permission to use a person's likeness in marketing, advertising, artwork, etc. A model release is required anytime you use a photograph that contains an identifiable person. A person's right to privacy is protected by law-- even when the person is in public. The only time a model release is not required is when a photograph is directly related to a newsworthy event (this is called Editorial Use). A quick browse through the major free stock photo sites reveals that model released photos are hard to come by.
While you may never run into problems using free images on your blog, you will sleep better at night knowing exactly where your images come from and that you have legal permission to use them. Ultimately, it is you who are legally responsible for the assets used on your blog. Besides, quality, licensed stock photos are inexpensive. There are dozens of places that offer royalty free stock photos at web resolution for $1-5. If you absolutely must use free images, make sure you know their source and abide by the usage terms placed on them.