Can I Use that Picture?

Puppy with a rose hip
Puppy “Zenith” Can Help with Your Marketing

Good looking pictures make all the difference in your website, social media posts, and printed marketing materials.  Previous blog posts have talked about how sex sells and told you to load up on photographs of pretty women, babies, and pets.

But, you can’t just grab a photo of a Golden Globe winning actor from another web site and stick it on one of your pages as if the star was a raving fan of your business.

I am not a lawyer, so if you want specific legal advice, contact an attorney.  However, let me tell you the rules I follow when I create web pages and social media for my clients.

  • You must have the right to use the photograph — maybe you took the picture (you own it) or you bought a license to use the image from a photo service.
  • If the subject in the photograph is identifiable and if you’re using the photograph for commercial purposes (this includes beauty shots designed make your web site attractive), you must have a model release.  Either ask the subject to sign a release yourself, or make sure that the photo service you’re using gets releases from their models.
  • If you are using a picture to illustrate a news story, you do not need a release as long as the picture was taken in a public place where the subject doesn’t have an reasonable expectation of privacy.  This means you can use pictures you take of church members BBQing  in an article about the picnic without getting a release from each person in the crowd.  The photograph can include children, too.
  • Although you can use photos of recognizable people for editorial purposes, it’s my policy to remove pictures from the website/Facebook/wherever if the subject says they don’t want their picture published.

The rules as I understand them — see non-lawyer caveat above! — are pretty simple.  Use pictures you’ve taken or ones you have permission to use.  If you’re using the photo for a non-editorial purpose and a person is identifiable in a picture, get a model release from that person.

You cannot use any picture or graphic you find in a Google search, on Flickr, or anywhere else on the Internet, unless the photo is marked in some way that gives you explicit permission to use it. Flickr and possibly other photo sites encourage people to give permission to others to copy their works using Creative Commons licenses. But, most images are not tagged with permission, and by default a photograph is protected by copyright law and copying is not allowed.

Pictures that grab the attention of your potential clients are powerful components of your Internet marketing effort. If you have the pictures you want for your Internet campaign, great!  Use them! If you’re looking for more photographs, I take some darn good photographs (see examples — especially the puppy pictures).  I am happy to come over with my camera and take the pictures you want. Or, browse stock photos available for licensing on the service I like best, Dreamstime.

Just make sure you get pictures of puppy Zenith or something equally appealing on your Internet marketing materials now!

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