Blog - image copyright and photo film

I stumbled across some old scrapbooks from my ‘youf’ the other day. They were chockful of pictures from Jackie and Look-In magazines. Every mention of Dempsey And Makepeace, Robin Of Sherwood and Press Gang was carefully cut out and glued. There’s even one dedicated to Blackadder. How the internet has changed things.

However tempting though it is to do a quick Google and illustrate this blog with Stephen Fry and his General Melchett moustache, I have resisted. Why? Because it would be theft. Theft from a photographer who, like me, is trying to make a living.

“Oh, no one cares if you use an image”

Not to get too pantomime, but oh yes they do! Photographers now use sophisticated software which can track down where their image is used online. More and more are pursuing companies for image copyright compensation. At a networking event near York, I heard first-hand of someone’s tussle with a legal firm over a photo. They were being sued for £3,000 by a law firm from Switzerland for copyright infringement.

Q. So who owns the image copyright?

Is it:

a) The photographer?

b) You, if you buy the licence to use it?

Answer: a). It’s always the photographer. Forever.

What you pay the photographer for is the permission to use their image. When I worked at the Lake District National Park, we would commission photoshoots. For these photos we would have to pay extra for the right to use these photos in perpetuity. However we would still check with the photographer as a courtesy. A quick phone call or email helps keep them on side and you out of the dock.

For a full run-down on legalities, check out the rather scary Stockphoto Rights article. Getty Images also has a friendlier explanation called Copyright and You.

“But I don’t use images”

Really? Not in:

  • tweets?
  • Facebook postings?
  • blog post illustrations?

If not, you’re missing out on a great way to grab your audience’s attention. Images are great, just make sure they’re legal.

Free image sources

Friends and family

Think creatively. Use images where you own the copyright, or have been granted permission. This can include your own photos or those sourced from friends. I adapted this blog image for my article on How to use Twitter hashtags from a holiday image:

Hashtags among the hieroglyphics

Apps to change images and add text

There are some amazing free apps out there. I often take photos on my phone to use in tweets. To add text, I use Phonto as I have an Android phone. There are lots of alternatives for the Mac too.

Public domain

Images in the public domain refers to content not owned or controlled by anyone. Or it may have been released for public use. Try:

Free image libraries

There’s a whole host out there. Two of my favourite sources are:

This blog’s montage image is made up from photos from Pixabay and flower elements bought from the inspirational Creative Market. Getty Images also offers a free Embed option of some seriously brilliant photos.

Stock images

Ultimately, you may have to pay to get what you want. This means buying stock images from photography websites such as Getty Images or Shutterstock. There are two types of photos:


You can use these for nearly unlimited use when you purchase a licence. Usually it stops short of your replicating the image on a mug. But for brochures or websites, they’re fine.


These are best used for one-off publications as limitations are so restrictive. For example, using it as a brochure cover for distribution in the UK only for the next six months. It can get even more specific. Unless you’re really good at keeping track of timings, I’d recommend royalty-free.


A commercial photoshoot might actually work out cheaper. Plus you have more control over the look and feel of the photos. I would highly recommend my fellow York Hiscox Business Club member Olivia Brabbs. I’ve worked with her on a variety of projects and her attention to detail and talent for lighting is legendary.

Images sorted? Tick. Now what about those words?

Do you need some Google-friendly web content? Maybe you need some coaching in blogs, Facebook or Twitter? Or just want someone else to do them? As a copywriter with 20 years’ experience, I can help! Please get in touch. I’m based in Yorkshire but work worldwide.