Sunday, December 09, 2012

Be careful using free photos on your blog; you may not have authorization

This week I received the following email:
Hi, I see you have one of my photographs on your site. Please could you either remove it, or link it back to the original page. Thanks in advance. Otherwise I will be obliged to report its use to Google - who will remove your page from their index. Regards
It was only recently I began including photos on my blog posts. As I became more active on social media sites like Pinterest and Google+ I realized my posts had to include a photo if I wanted them to receive recognition or with Pinterest even to be able to participate. Since my personal photo collection consists almost entirely of pictures of my dogs, a topic I don’t normally write about, I resorted to using photos I found on the web. Initially I used Microsoft's Images, but as my photo needs became more specific I ventured out looking for more original pictures and discovered Google Images.

I was in a hurry when I choose the photo in question - which was a good one - and is probably the reason my blog stats topped the charts in the days that followed. It hadn’t occurred to me that despite the photo being free and posted on Google Images, I wasn’t authorized to use it.

After receiving the email, I immediately removed the photo from my post (being at work I couldn’t easily figure out how to link the photo back to the original poster) and sent him an apology.

I still see this photo everywhere and none of them are linked back to the poster who emailed me.  More confused than ever  I reached out to professional blogger Kimberly Gauthier for guidelines on how to find authorized photos or images to use on my blog in the future. Kimberly has created blogs about both photography and blogging, so who better to ask. Her latest blog is Keep the Tail Wagging, an online magazine for dog lovers. Here is Kimberly’s response:

OMG – thank you so much for asking me! That has got to be a heart stopper Not everyone understands the rules. So, to avoid something similar happening to me, I do one of four things…

1. I take my own pictures – but, to be honest, with all that we have on our plate, how many people outside of photography bloggers have time to take their own pictures?

2. I use the Wordpress plugin Photodropper ( – it searches Flickr for images with the right Creative Commons licenses that are for commercial use (we should do it this way even if our blogs aren’t monetized just in case we decide to monetize down the line).

3. Sometimes I just go directly to Flickr( and search for images myself. Again, I’m looking for images that can be used on commercial sites.

4. I create my own images that are text based. These are great for Pinterest, because it shows people exactly what the pin is about and we have an opportunity to really draw them in, sort of like with our blog titles. Here’s a link to today’s post on my site that has a text based image that I created in Word:

If you would like to learn more about Kimberly Gauthier please visit her site Keep the Tail Wagging (

A couple of days later, I received another email from the original poster. He wrote:
Thanks for your prompt response. I don't usually mind, but lately Google have been displaying sites with my photos above my own, and therefore I'm losing visitors.
I still feel just awful. One of the premises of my blog is to promote honesty and integrity through my writing and I here I go steal an image from a fellow blogger. I’ve certainly learned a lesson and will be very careful when posting photos and images in the future.

The golden retriever photo in this post is from my personal collection.

Does anyone have any other guidelines or recommendations I should use when searching for photos and images in the future?

If you liked this post you may also like:
Journey of a Professional Blogger: Kimberly Gauthier BBC Feature Interview
SWG Coffee Social: The Weekly Roundup Post


  1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I'm glad I could help. In the future, if you'd like to link an image back to another site you can do two things:

    1) Write a sentence letting people know who the photographer is and linking back to the photographer's site.

    2) Make the image clickable back to the photographer's site. Here's an example of image coding that goes back to a site:

    I original put the code in, but Blogger doesn't allow coding - if you Google "link an image" or "image html code" you can find an example.

    That sucks that the photographer's site traffic was being affected. The things you just don't think about.


  2. This is good advice. I usually get most of my photos from Flickr by searching for photos licensed with Creative Commons. There is a website, Compfight, that will let you search for Creative Commons images as well. And I always try to include a photo credit and link at the bottom of my posts. I haven't had any problems yet, but I suppose it's always a possibility when using images that aren't originally mine. Still, usually a photo credit and link are enough to keep yourself safe.

  3. Savvy, no one is more honest than you and i think you should stop worrying about it. You removed the photo, apologized,AND have attemted to educate yourself and others. Icall that being responsible.

  4. I also got an email like that. Though I made sure to link it to the flickr page that I found the photo, he told me to link it to their site. I apologized and do what he said. Most of my photos are from flikr/creative commons and giving credit by linking it to where I found the photo but these past few days I used my own photos as much as possible. Its great to hear that you're honest about it. Good advice! This post would be very helpful for someone just starting out with their blogs. :)

  5. It's a good lesson for us all. I generally try to take my own photographs, but sometimes you need something extra. Only once did I come across a photo I wanted to use and I asked the owner. They said no, and that was that. Good post, Savvy.

  6. I am going to work on adding this today, I just used a free image and gave it credit, but this scares me. Thanks so much!

  7. Yep. Yep. I use my own photos or drawings/graphics 99% of the time. Today I used Facebook shares that were intended to be shared, one even says to spread it. :) I'm a digital scrapbook designer and copyright infringement is huge in our community. We all know the rules inside and out.

    Good post!

    Stopping by from SITS.

  8. Kimberly,
    Thanks again for answering my questions and for providing additional information. It is so useful. This is so much to learn about blogging even for people like me who've been blogging for awhile.

  9. Kim,
    Thanks for the added information and website. I do find the Flickr site a bit confusing, so an alternative site is appreciated.

  10. Webb,
    Thanks for your kind words. I think because I am so honest I found the email extra disturbing.

  11. Anna,
    I know I am not alone. I even read sites where the blogger used photos 'til they were told to take them down. I am glad I learned the hard way early enough to change my ways.

  12. Monica,
    Yes always best to ask first. Maybe I will try to use more of my own photos in the future.


  13. agapewoman,
    Glad my post made a difference.

  14. Heather,
    I agree, if we are going to use someone else's work we have to know the rules inside and out.