Do You Have the Right to Use that Photo?

Spend any time on the internet and it won’t take long to be overstimulated with various imagery all vying for your attention. Images pop up everywhere, persuading you to stop, look or take some sort of action in ways that are hard to ignore. Even though many pictures are taken professionally, the majority are taken by the general public. Instagram claims to receive over 95 million photo and video uploads per day. Facebook brags that users are uploading 350 million images per day.

But who owns all these images? Professional photographers have the right to restrict use of their images, and often put a water mark across each one making difficult for someone to use without permission. There can be a false sense of security into thinking that no one notices or cares if anyone downloads copyrighted images on Google or Bing for personal use. In case you think no one is watching, there is image tracking software that can and is used by businesses to track their images on the internet. Large companies like Getty Images have been known to send out emails threatening a lawsuit if their images are found on websites or blogs without permission.

But what about the average internet user? Most of the time it’s a matter of ethics – doing the right thing. No one wants their ideas stolen. A legit business should use legit images and artwork, preferably their own original creation or a paid license. Who wants a reputation as someone who steals other people’s work?

Coming from the creative side of the tracks, it’s frustrating to see some users not take a photographer’s copyright seriously. Some people may not truly understand how perfectly composed photography comes to be. A professional photograph that looks so simple, yet clever, can be easily dismissed as something that wasn’t a big deal to create. Not to say that there aren’t happy accidents, by being in the right place at the right time with a camera, but based on my past experiences, the more simplistic a photo looks, the more difficult it is to create. Not to mention the post production that images may go through in Photoshop. Touching up photography and making it look great can be a full-time job in itself.

If you use images on your blog, website or social media, get into the habit of looking for ones that are “public domain.” A customized Google search can help, but there’s no guarantee. It’s best to go to the website where the image originates and contact the owner for permission. Sometimes all they ask is for is a credit to the photographer somewhere on or around the image. Or if you feel adventurous enough or have a creative edge, there are plenty of tutorials that show users how to take eye-catching photos using natural light without a ton of equipment, even with a cell phone. This way you can avoid all that copyright nonsense and be a true original.


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