Bloggers Beware: What You Need to Know Before Posting Photos



Today’s workout: Another rest day, because I was a good wife and put my husband first for once. At least, that’s the only way I can spin it to make myself feel better. 🙂

A lot of people who follow this blog are fellow bloggers, which got me to thinking that I’d like to try and post once a week (try being the key word) some advice to those of you who do have blogs.

After announcing the other day that I would be posting something on the do’s and don’ts of using professional images, this lady has been pestering me to get the advice on up here. So, without further ado, here goes…

First, I’m going to start off by breaking down all the different “copyright terms” to all you bloggers out there. You’re probably not going to like this. In fact, you might even hate this, because chances are you have at least one photo on your blog that shouldn’t be up there. And if this is the case, the photographer has grounds to take you to small claims court, because you’re basically stealing. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself – first the different terms:

Print Purchase or Print Rights: if you buy a print photo from a professional photographer that says this on the back of it, this basically means that you have paid to have permission for it to be published in a magazine or a newspaper (the magazine or newspaper would not have to pay to use it). Or if you purchase a high resolution, digital file via email, the photographer may have laid out the terms for you, saying that you have “print rights.” Just because you have the digital file of the photo with no watermark on it does NOT mean you have permission for the photo to be used on your blog. If you’ve purchased this type of photo and used it on your blog, deduct 10 points from your starting score of zero…and keep reading. You have a lot to learn.

Web rights: this is a term that you’re hopefully familiar with. If you purchased a photo (likely via email) and it says that you have web rights to it, then it’s OK to use on your blog. This type of photo is usually a lower resolution image, generally costs less money than the high res images used for print, and doesn’t look like it’s good quality (looks kind of pixelated) if it’s printed out in photo stock paper. If you’ve purchased web rights and used this type of image on your blog, give yourself 10 points. However, you’re going to have to keep reading a couple paragraphs below to find out about how to properly source things…

All rights: generally when someone purchases a photo with “all rights” they get a nice, print photo in the package, along with a high resolution digital file of the photo. Sometimes they’ll be given a low res version of the image, too, but not always, because of you’re tech savvy, you’ll know how to take a high red photo and make it low res. Either way, as long as you have it in writing that you own all rights to the photo (it will either say this on the photo somewhere, will be in the email that it was sent to you through, or even in writing, if you received it in the mail), you can use this type of image wherever, and whenever you want. Placing an ad about your blog on a billboard? It’s OK to use the photo. Want it published in Runner’s World or Women’s Running? That’s fine, too. How about on your blog, Facebook, or Instagram? That should also be fine. Give yourself 10 points if you’ve purchased this type of photo and used it on your blog. But you still need to source…

This is another area that seems gray to many a blogger, and sometimes it kind of is. The rule of thumb that you should be going by is that if you’re using a photo on your blog that does not belong to you, it should be sourced. Now, if the hubby or your proud mom took a picture of you at a race, you shouldn’t feel compelled to source your photo (unless they ask). This goes for if a friend took a picture of you. Of course, if it’s a friend with a blog of their own, I’m sure they’d really appreciate it if you sourced them with a link to their blog. If you don’t, they might not want to be your friend anymore. 😦

But the real thing you should be worried about are the professional photographers. If you purchased an image from them, you NEED to source them. If you didn’t purchase an image from them and you posted it on your blog, that’s pretty bad (you need to go back and re-read the above), then you REALLY NEED to source them. The rule of thumb is, if it was taken by a professional, it needs to be sourced.

So what do I mean when I say “sourced”? I don’t mean writing “source” underneath the photo with a link to the photographer’s website. This might be OK to do for your blogger friend, but it’s not OK to do for a professional photographer. In this case, you should be putting credit: followed by the name of the photographer. And since you’re posting on the web, you really should be linking to their website, too. Now that we have that cleared up, let’s love a little further into defining what a professional photographer truly is…

Amateur Photographers vs The Real Thing (aka Professionals)
In most businesses, whether it’s sports or photography, a professional is defined by whether someone has accepted money for their service. Kara Goucher? She’s a professional runner. That guy at your 5k or marathon who is actually standing in the street with a huge camera, taking photos of all the runners? He’s a professional photographer. The other guy at the end of the race, outside the sidelines, that’s acting like the paparazzi and taking pictures of you with his iPhone (oh yeah, he’s also your husband)? Not so much. He’d be considered an amateur. The random stranger taking a photo of you from across the street with the nice looking camera with the zoom lens? Chances are she’s an amateur, too, but there’s a possibility that she’s a professional.
The lines really get blurred here, because there are amateurs that want to make a buck and will call themselves professionals. When in doubt, if you have a photo that wasn’t taken by your mom, dad, sister or cousin (unless your cousin is a wedding photographer or shoots for Vogue), you should ask the person for permission to use the image, and offer to source them.

When you were in the fifth grade and learned about plagiarizing, your teacher probably explained to you that if you took someone’s work and said it was your own, it was like stealing. Well, this is pretty much the same thing. If something doesn’t belong to you and you didn’t pay for it, don’t go posting it on your blog. And if you didn’t take the photo, but did pay for it, don’t go posting it on your blog without a photo credit, because that’s the same idea as plagiarizing, which is the same thing as stealing.

Use your common sense. If you’re in doubt about anything – whether it’s about what type of rights you’ve purchased, whether you need to source a photo, etc., don’t be afraid to ask the photographer. Chances are they’ll be grateful that you asked permission, and will just let you use the picture for free. And if they don’t let you use it for free, that’s OK, too, because it’s they’re property.

Photographers are out there trying to make a living just like you and me…only they have a much harder time because their product is a lot easier for people to steal. So please think before you post a photo on your blog without paying for it…you could be taking food off of their dinner table, or be taking gas out of their car. Or taking food out of their dog’s bowl. We all have to make a living and provide for our families somehow!

Please feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments section. There are still a ton of things I didn’t even get to cover, so if there’s anything you think I missed, just mention it below. I can always do a Part 2 next week!


8 thoughts on “Bloggers Beware: What You Need to Know Before Posting Photos

  1. Heather

    Thanks for posting this! Very interesting. I have posted photos that I’ve purchased. If they are from “Marathon Photos” or some company like that, how do we know the exact photographer and how do we source that?

  2. Jessica @ RunYourMuttOff

    Whoo hoo, I finished with a score of 10 (I’ve only use a professional photo that I purchased and came with unlimited use rights). It probably helps that I haven’t been blogging long though (not as much time to have committed any errors yet). Thanks for the info, these are good topics to be constantly aware of.

  3. Meg @ Megan Go Run

    Thank you for all the helpful tips!!! I just went through the TIME CONSUMING task of going back over 200 blog posts and making sure the pictures I used were either in the public domain or properly sourced. I had some GLARING mistakes. I do have 2 questions though. What about Someecards and memes people make? How do we know who owns these? I feel like they are passed around and changed so much… like folklore haha. Second, sometimes I do posts about things I love, or I mention a yummy flavor of ice cream and I want to get an image of it online. So I fine images from like Amazon, Target, Etc, because these places sell the ice cream. Am I allowed to use that image and then source the store? I have seen other bloggers type something like “affiliate link” but I don’t know what I mean… I am a little clueless about that.

    1. 262x2 Post author

      Ok for the first question: the rule of thumb that I have always been taught is that if you have a photo that is someone else’s but is changed enough so that it doesn’t even look like their work, you can use it without having to give credit. This is a very gray area, though. If you’re using someone’s photo and they can recognize it and potentially contact you because you’ve taken it, I would suggest just taking the photo down.
      Regarding the second question about taking images from companies like Target, etc. I would suggest going straight to the source. If you’re looking for a stock photo of an ice cream cone, you can try going to the Breyer’s or Friendly’s website, for example (both ice cream companies). A lot of companies like this have media galleries with high res images on them. You can download the photos, and in this case, don’t even have to source them (if their name or logo is on the label somewhere) because it’s promotional for them. If their name isn’t on the label, you can always say “courtesy of Breyers” or “courtesy of Friendly’s.” A great example is the other day I included a photo of Gu chomps. I went straight to Gu’s media gallery, downloaded a photo, but didn’t source it, because it was obviously promotional.

      1. Meg @ Megan Go Run

        Thank you! Now…. one more curve ball… what if I try a new ice cream flavor and it is DISGUSTING and I want to say it was gross and include a picture, but I threw out my carton. Can I take a picture from their media gallery? It’s not promotional, it’s me telling people I hated it. (I am seriously not making this question up, I took a picture down the other say from an old post where I was dissing Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream. Damn I post a lot about ice cream….)

      2. 262x2 Post author

        LOL, I would recommend not using the picture at ALL then. I’ve run into issues at work where we can’t find a photo to use at all if we’re saying something negative about a product, or just making a negative statement on something in general. If we need a photo with a person in it, we either end up paying a photographer for a released photo (meaning that the person in the picture has signed something stating that they understand the image is being used as a stock photo and they don’t care what purpose the photo is used for). Either that, or we usually end up having to take our own picture. And when we do take a picture, we make sure that the product label (Breyer’s, Friendly’s, etc) isn’t showing if it’s something negative that is being said. But that is more because we don’t want to tick off any potential advertisers. So, as long as you don’t plan on having Breyer’s sponsor your blog or one of your posts, you can use a pic of their product in a photo used in a negative way (and flaunt it), but it should be one of your own images.

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