5 Online Photo Use Questions, Answered

Including a photo in your blog post or website article adds important visual appeal. But if the image you want to use isn’t your own, there are some important considerations involved.

We conducted an interview with photographer and blogger, Kristi Bonney, about the Dos and Don’ts of online image use.

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1. There seems to be a lot confusion among website owners and bloggers about using images found on the internet, on their own sites. Is it OK to use any image you find online as long as you provide a link back to the source?

In short, no. It is never okay to use just any photograph you find online without first obtaining permission from the owner of the image, even if you do link back to the source. Photographs, whether published or not, are protected under copyright laws as original works of authorship. You must obtain the owner’s permission to reproduce, display, distribute copies, etc. and in most cases, attribution (crediting) of the work must be provided as well.

2. How do you know if an image is safe to use? Are there websites you’d recommend for free photos?

Unless an image is posted on a stock photo website or belongs to a group like Flickr’s Creative Commons, it’s always a good rule of thumb to assume that it’s off limits and not safe to use. Websites like Dreamstime, Stock.XCHNG and FreeDigitalPhotos.net offer free photos for download. Flickr’s Creative Commons is also another wonderful resource for free photos. Practice caution when using photos from free websites, though, as many of them still require that you credit the owner of the image.

3. Do you recommend any websites that require you to pay for a download of a photo?

Though I don’t use stock photos, I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about Shutterstock, Getty Images and iStockphoto. Their sites are stocked full of amazing high resolution, royalty-free images that are available to download for a fee.

4. What is the proper way to show credit for a photo?

After you’ve obtained permission to use a photo, whether you’ve contacted the owner directly or downloaded the image from a free site, you must provide credit. When crediting the owner of a particular image, it’s important to display their name in a prominent area. Simply providing credit via hover text (the caption that magically appears when one hovers their mouse over an image) is not acceptable. You must provide the owner’s name and link back to the original URL, or source, of the image if at all possible. Equally as important, the photo credit font size must match that of your content. Providing photo credit in a smaller font size is unacceptable.

5. Are there restrictions to editing or altering an image you found online and would like to use on your site?

The general rule of thumb, as far as editing or altering an image you find online goes, is that it’s illegal to do so unless the owner has given you permission to create a derivative or adaption of his work. Under the Creative Common licenses, authors have the liberty to designate whether or not derivatives or adaptations are permissible. If so, you’re still required to credit the author for his original work.

Where do you find your images?


  1. Dana K

    Great post!

    I have a question: I always credit the source directly under the picture & have the picture link directly to the source if you click on it. Blogger automatically puts the caption in a slightly smaller font. Is it just unacceptable or actually illegal? I’ll make a point to change the font size going forward but do I need to go back & change all of the captions/credits in previous posts for legal reasons?

  2. HopefulLeigh

    wylio.com is another great source for pictures. You copy the code and it contains all the source information right there, saving you a few steps. I don’t often use images other than my own but when I do, it’s Wylio all the way.

  3. Lisha

    Great info, Kristi. I’m going to share with my blog admin group. 🙂

  4. Mary

    Your posts are fabulous! It seems that when I have a social media question, your post answers it the next day. Are you reading my mind? 😉 Thanks for the great info for early-stage bloggers like me!

  5. Optimistic Mom

    Great information!
    I guess I really need to invest in a good camera and get some photography skills. That seems to be the safest way to go.

  6. Brianna

    Thanks for sharing this. It should be common sense, but I see so many uncredited photos being used on blogs.

  7. dumb mom

    Such great info, Kristi! Funny thing is that I always contact people about using their photos and I’ve had numerous people thank me for doing it because most people don’t. I always wonder about those massive crafting sites, with all of the photos of other people’s projects. If they are asking people for permission, think of how much time that would take?! Not that any craft blogger is gonna be mad to get 5000 new readers because of a feature, but still! I’m curious what photographers think about Pinterest. To me it’s awesome, but I imagine some people are a little upset by it!

  8. Malika Bourne

    I use my ownphotos for my blog. They are candid and not perfect. Ocassionally I will use my daughters photos and I will be using some very old phots by a later fater , a professional photgrapher.
    I loved Pinterest. I have recently deleted all of my baoards becasue I was disturbed by two things. the first was that the origional author may or may not have given permission to duplicate it. the 2nd was that Pinterest made money on other people wroks. I doubt if the origional author gets anything back. Pinners are supposed to click on the links and copy from the original. I was wrong and did it backwards-thus I deleted my boards.I don’t think that crafters are necessarily get 500 new viewers from a pin. I certainly have not gotten more than 2 o3 new followers from my contributions even though those wele well recieved.
    I apparecaite your well thought out contribution to this subject.
    Malika Bourne

  9. Steve

    I’m designing a web site for a painting contractor and he wants photos, that I’m assuming he took himself, of the business’s he has painted put on this site to show his work. He’s worried that he needs permission from that company to show an image of their building on the web. Does he need permission even though he took the pictures?

    • Admin

      Oftentimes if a business is going to use photos of their clients, they ask permission before either taking the photos or before use. It’s a good practice to make into a habit.



  1. Using Photos on Your Blog | Live and Love...Out Loud - [...] owners Kristin and Liz about the legal use of photos found online. I’m answering a few common online photo…

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