How to Source Images for your Blogs & Articles

Sarah McInerney

Head of Content

Sarah has almost three decades of experience in crafting compelling, engaging content specifically designed to boost sales and enhance brand loyalty. She’s also an expert in developing unique tone of voice that helps brands connect with their audiences. Her marketing and client service background has given Sarah a natural understanding of how to write content that makes readers take action. Whether it’s signing up to a mailing list, making an enquiry or donation or clicking the buy button, Sarah knows precisely how to convert with words. Pen down, Sarah is a proud member of the Essex Wildlife Trust and spends most of her free time enjoying inspiring walks through her local woodland and nature reserves, admiring everything that flaps, flutters and flowers.

Images are a brilliant way to boost visual appeal and add interest to your content. They draw attention and encourage visitors to read more. Finding relevant images to use though isn’t simply a case of copying anything you find published on or offline. You are not permitted to use anything unless you own the copyright: it’s the law.

To avoid getting into trouble you should only use images that are either your own, that you have purchased as royalty-free or that come with copyright licenses that allow legal republishing. You need to be sure to credit your image sources where necessary, and in the right way.

We thought it would be useful to share some guidance on sourcing images: how and where.

Royalty-free images

There are numerous websites you can use to purchase images with a royalty-free copyright licence. Basically you pay a one-off fee so you can use the images with your content. Licences do vary though, so you should always check the detail as some do restrict usage. This is possibly one of the easiest and safest methods of sourcing images, although you should bear in mind that lots of people are using these platforms, so it could be the case that your images will turn up in a raft of other places too.

Also, if you are looking for something very specific, say perhaps a particular geographical location or a specific entity, like a piece of furniture or something like that, it may be difficult to source precisely what you need. These websites tend to deal more with ‘concept’ type images, so you may need to apply a splash of imagination when looking for pictures apt to describe your content.

Try: Fotolia, iStock Photo, Shutterstock.

Image sharing websites

There are quite a few websites that invite image owners to share their creative work allowing bloggers and content creators to use them for free, providing they credit them. This is all managed by what’s called a Creative Commons licence.

Creative Commons is a not-for-profit outfit put together to help content creators use images without the hassle of stringent copyright restrictions. There are six different types of creative commons licences that present slight variations in usage. All these variations require that you credit the image owner in your content.

The generally accepted way of crediting image owners is via a citation at the close of each piece of writing. You should include the name of each image owner together with a link to the image source.

You could also opt to credit the image owners using captions directly alongside the images themselves.

Try: Flickr, Wikimedia Commons.

Sometimes image copyright expires, or doesn't exist at all so it's worth checking what you can and can't use.

Sometimes image copyright expires, or doesn’t exist at all so it’s worth checking what you can and can’t use.

Images in the public domain

Sometimes, quite simply, there is no copyright. If no one legally owns an image, then you are free to use it. If an image was created before copyright laws were introduced (which in the UK was 1911), or the copyright has expired, then you can go ahead and use them to your heart’s content.

In the UK, copyright endures for the lifetime of the artist, plus 70 years after their death. Other geographical regions may offer shorter time spans but they won’t usually be less than the life of the artist plus 50 years.

Use your own images!

If in doubt, you can always shoot and use your own images! At least that way you’ll know who owns the copyright. Always be sure though to protect your own images with copyright notices.

You could also approach any other bloggers or website owners who display images that you feel would work well with your own content, in return for a credit and link to their site. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how affable people can be if there’s a reciprocal benefit involved.

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