How to get photos for your blog or website is a problem that every blogger faces at some point. Often, it’s an issue that only occurs to you once you’ve gone ahead and set up the site, and are ready to publish your first post. You suddenly realise that you need to illustrate it, but don’t know how to do so without breaching copyright.
“Without breaching copyright” is the key point here. It’s really easy to find photos on the internet. A quick Google Image search will return thousands of relevant results. However, you can’t just go stealing photos from other websites. That kind of thing can get you into a lot of trouble!
So, how do you get photos for your website? Fortunately, there are lots of legal options.
How we get photos for our website
We thought it would be useful to start by sharing our experience and explaining how we get photos for this website.
We did a lot of research into the best stock photo website. Our conclusion was that there isn’t really one that is “best”. It all depends on your needs.
Factors that you’ll want to take into consideration include the types of images you need, whether you want stock video footage or just photos, and price. Stock photos can be very expensive!
For this website, we needed:
- Hundreds of images per year, but no more than that. We won’t be posting enough to need thousands of images each year.
- Professional-looking images. We want to maintain a high standard, so using photos taken by professional photographers is important to us.
- Photos along a similar theme. For obvious reasons, we’re mostly going to want pictures of home office workers, IT equipment and home furnishings.
- A few images on other themes. For example, a photo of a dog to illustrate an article about working from home with pets. It’s important that we have access to those pictures, but it’s not the top priority.
- A low cost solution. We don’t have a huge budget and we don’t want to spend what little budget we do have on a massive library of photos that we’ll probably never use.
The 99Club offers 200 photos per year for only $99. Plus, we used the code HELPME10 at the checkout to get 10 extra photos for free.
(NB: While the code was accepted at the checkout, the free photos didn’t initially appear in our account. We therefore sent a message using their online chat facility and they were added straight away. While it would have been nice for it to just work – or not, if the code had expired – this was at least a great example of customer service. Getting an instant reply and a no-quibble solution, on a Sunday, was really impressive.)
So far, we’ve found Stock Photo Secrets to have a good range of photos of the kind we need. Before signing up to a stock photo service, we always recommend searching their library to check they have a large supply of the type of images you want.
A lot of our articles relate to products. For example, home office chairs, desks, and IT equipment.
Within these articles, we link to retailers, such as Amazon, often using an affiliate link. And, as an affiliate, retailers such as Amazon allow you to embed photos of their products on your blog.
This has the added advantage of doubling up as a clickable affiliate link.
Even if you are not embedding a photo as an affiliate link, you are unlikely to get into trouble for using an image of a product in a review. Manufacturers want images of their products out there and they want them to be reviewed. Showing a product in a review is generally considered to be “fair use”.
Whichever approach you take, it makes sense to include a photo of the actual product you are recommending, rather than a stock image. After all, why illustrate an article about best office chairs with a stock image of a random chair? It makes sense to show the exact model you’re talking about.
This one is a potential minefield, so be careful and keep up-to-date with the latest developments.
In some of our posts, such as how to set up a home office, we’ve included embedded Instagram posts.
Our understanding is that this is ok, as long as you embed the post. Don’t just take the photo on its own and post as an image.
At the time of writing (April 2020), when you publicly post an image on Instagram, you give Instagram a “fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable” right to your photo. And Instragram offers an embed option on public photos.
If you go to any public image on Instagram and click the three little dots in the top right corner, you’ll find an option to embed that post. This generates code, which you can use to embed the post on your website.
Alternatively, WordPress offers an Instagram embed block. You simply add an Instagram embed block to your page, then paste in the photo URL. The result looks like this.
If you’d like to know more about the legal issues involved in embedding Instagram content, you can read about an April 2020 court ruling in this article from The Verge.
Creative ways to get photos for your website
While the obvious solution is to use stock photography, there are more creative ways to add images to your website too.
Best of all, these creative ways of adding images to your blog are completely free and, at the same time, will give your website a unique personality.
Take your own photos
Rather than purchasing other people’s photos, why not take your own? You don’t need a fancy camera. Depending on what you want to capture, you could probably get some decent shots using your phone.
Of course, whether this is practical very much depends on your blog topic. If your blog is about gardening or cooking, you might be able to produce a lot of shots yourself, taken in your own garden and kitchen. If your blog is about wild animals, getting your own shots will be much more difficult!
To illustrate this point, I just took this shot in my garden using an iPhone X in portrait mode. Ok, so it’s not fine art. But for a post about this type of flower on a gardening blog, it would work just fine.
Even if you can’t take the photographs yourself, perhaps you can partner with someone who can. Or who can provide access to the subjects you need.
For example, maybe the local garden centre would allow you to take some photographs of their flowers, or even use some of their own images, in exchange for a link on your blog?
Draw your own pictures
This is an unusual one, and it doesn’t work for every website, but have you considered illustrating your topic, rather than using photographs?
If you’re reasonably good at drawing (or perhaps even if you’re not!), including sketches on your blog could give it a unique, quirky style.
You may need to invest in a scanner or a drawing tablet, but it could save you money in the long run, as you avoid paying to use other people’s images.