Since a lot of my readers are other travel bloggers, I like to post every now and then about things that I’ve found helpful in my own adventures with blogging. You’re reading this post right now, and I appreciate your support! In return, I would like to support you by offering up some tips I’ve picked up along the way.
You all know me as that person who is always writing about her amazing trips and adventures, but in addition to being a travel writer, I’m also a graphic designer. After all, I have to pay the bills somehow! In my professional career, I’ve learned a lot about visual communication and I’ve noticed that I often get questions about these things from people who aren’t in the profession. Today I’m going to talk about photography usage, because it’s something I think a lot of bloggers out there could benefit from learning about.
On this blog, I use a mixture of my own photographs, occasional photos I’ve been given permission to use, as well as photography that falls under the creative commons license.
I’m not rich as I’m assuming many of you aren’t, so free photography is a great benefit to me, but it’s important to understand photography usage rules. I have a lot of friends who are professional photographers and artists and it’s important to make sure you aren’t stepping on anybody’s toes and stealing their hard work when setting up your blog. I think a lot of the time people do this without even realizing they are undermining somebody’s hard work, so I wanted to write this post to help anybody out there who might be wondering what the rules are and how to do the right thing when it comes to photography usage.
Using your own photography…
The nice thing about using your own photos is that they are yours and you can use them however you please. On my blog, I do use a lot of my own photos of places I’ve been. I especially like doing this because I can take my own photos when I’m out and about and I discover something I would like to share with all of you. If I’m at a restaurant and my meal comes out looking like a work of art, you bet I’m going to be that annoying person who is taking pictures of her food in the restaurant and posting it on Instagram and on this blog. It’s all in the name of sharing great tips with you, of course! 🙂
The thing with using my own photography, however, is that it’s somewhat limited. I do have an eye for photography due to a very expensive five years spent at a private art college where I learned about lighting, composition, colors, etc. However, all that education only helps me to a certain extent because I don’t currently have a nice camera. All photos are shot on an iPhone 5S, baby! While a nice camera is something I’m planning on adding to my list of equipment in the near future, in the meantime that leaves me with the ability to take photos that are only so good. That’s why I supplement with other people’s photography. Let’s talk about that for a moment, though…
Using other people’s photography…
From a legal and ethical perspective, it’s perfectly fine to use other people’s photography in your blog, but there are some rules you need to follow if you’re going to go this route.
Rule 1: Creative Commons Zero photos are your friend.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term Creative Commons Zero, listen up because you’re about to learn something important. There are photographs on the internet that are available for free use without restriction. This means you are free to use them and even modify them without restriction. You don’t need to credit the photographer and you can use them for any purpose, be it personal, commercial, or whatever other use you had in mind. This is called Creative Commons Zero and it is used quite often all over the internet. There’s a reason you’ve probably seen the same stock photos popping up all over the internet and that’s because these photos fall under this license. I use a lot of these photos myself because, frankly, I’m looking for a nice photo to go with a post I’ve written and I don’t have the money to be buying paid stock photography when I’m writing a post every other day. I would go broke! These photos are a great option to add some visual interest to your posts or even to use to spruce up your blog in general. Feel free to use them however you want without fear of any legal issues down the road. Why would photographers submit their work to be used freely like this? There are plenty of reasons. The sites usually link back to the photographer where people can purchase work or donate to the photographer if they like the work. There are a lot of reasons a photographer might give their work to a site like this, and I’m not an expert on all those reasons, but you’ve got to imagine they are getting something out of the deal.
Rule 2: Check the restrictions.
Many of the sites I use to find Creative Commons photos fall under Creative Commons Zero license, which means I can just use them without restriction or crediting the photographer. However, there are photos that fall under Creative Commons that are free for your use, but with restrictions. Many people put their photos online with permission to be used, but they want proper credit for the photo. Fair enough, it’s their photo! There are also many photos with restrictions on modifications, meaning you can use the photo, but you can’t modify it by cropping it, Photoshopping it, etc. If you find a photo you like with these kinds of restrictions on it, you can feel free to use the photo, but make sure to give credit back to the photographer and don’t modify the photo. You will find this on sites like Flickr and even Google Images. More on how to tell what restrictions are on a photo later.
Rule 3: Ask for permission.
If the photo you want to use doesn’t fall under Creative Commons license, this means you have to ask the photographer for permission before you use it. Depending on how you want to use the photo, the photographer may say yes or no. Some photographers would be happy to have you post their photo with nothing but a link back to their site. Others might want you to pay them for the use of the photo. Others still might just say a flat out no because they don’t want their photos used. Since the photo is their intellectual property, they have the right to do this. Still, if you find a photo that’s absolutely perfect for something you’re doing, it never hurts to ask the photographer. They just might say yes!
Some resources for you…
Ok, so we’ve talked about licensing restrictions and using your own photos in your blog. There’s something else I would like to talk about, however, and that is resources to actually do all this stuff. You might be thinking it’s great and all that now you know more about photo licensing restrictions, but you still don’t know where to start.
Here is a list of sites you can go to for Creative Commons Zero photos.
I love these sites because all of their photos fall under Creative Commons Zero license, which takes all the guess work out of what the licensing restrictions might be. I tell you this with the full realization that we’re probably going to be sporting some of the same photos on our sites pretty soon. It’s ok, I’m willing to share the love…
Places to find photos that are free to use, but that do have restrictions…
Ok, so this is where it gets a little trickier. Say you’ve scoured the sites above (and possibly a few others like it as well) and you still haven’t found the perfect photo. The next places you can look are sites that allow use of photography, but with restrictions such as that you must credit the photographer, you can’t modify the photo, or you can only use it for non-commercial reasons (meaning you’re not making money off the photo). Let’s examine that for a moment…
Flickr: This is a great place to find photos. People from all over the world upload to Flickr and set their own usage restrictions on their photos. Here is a breakdown of how to use Flickr for finding photos for your blog.
Giving Credit to the photographer.
So, I just used somebody’s photo as an example in this post so I’m going to give him credit as per the terms of the agreement on Flickr. Different photographers might prefer credit in different ways (i.e. a link back to their website, their name with a link, etc.) but you’re usually pretty safe if you do something like this:
For his name, I linked to his main photo page. For ‘Flickr’ I linked to the photo itself. You can link to their website as well if they have it listed. It’s as simple as that!
Google Image: Similar to Flickr, you can set search parameters when you run a Google search to find photos you are allowed to use. The only difference is you then need to check the site of the photo you like for specific attribution rules. When in doubt, if you know the photo can be used but you aren’t sure about whether or not credit is needed, give credit to the photographer. Always give credit when in doubt.
Creative Commons Search: You can use this site to find images that fall under Creative Commons license, but do take note that not ALL the photos you will find have the same usage rights. Some will be totally free use while others will have some restrictions on them. Make sure to check the photo restrictions before you use it when using this site.
I hope you found this information and these resources to be useful. This is something that those of us in graphic design just know as it’s a part of our daily lives to find photos with specific usage rights, but if you’re not in the biz but you want to get into blogging and using photos other than your own, these are important things to know.
Have anything to add? Questions, comments, concerns? Let me know!
Categories: Travel Blogging