05 Jul Google Images Is Not A Free-For-All
When I work with clients to build their websites, the issue of stock images inevitably comes up. Most do not realize just how critical images actually are in communicating their brand to website visitors. Have you ever visited a website that contained only text? (FYI: it’s horrifying.) Chances are that if you did, you likely didn’t stick around very long.
Web designers need at least a logo; likely other strategically placed graphics or photographs in order to create the proper mood or atmosphere of your website to help exercise your brand. But these images are not necessarily “free”.
Unless you take the photograph yourself and can prove that it is yours, or you have purchased a license to use the image and can prove that you have done so, by placing an image on your site that you have downloaded from a website you are committing theft. I can’t tell you how many times I have had clients send me images for use on their website that I later found out were simply right-click and downloaded from Google Images. I don’t blame them for attempting to be resourceful, but this is something you need to know when you are building or representing a brand. In some cases, you can find stock images that are free and simply require credit to the photographer or owner for its use. It is important to abide by these rules as well, as to avoid any legal disputes.
As a web designer who is also a photographer, I believe it is important to address this issue so that everyone who hires me (or anyone else for that matter) for either service, understands that stealing another person’s work and using it for representation of something they may not support or agree with, especially without compensation, is a serious issue and one that most artists care about. Music producers have to pay cash money in order to sample another artist’s work; publications have to compensate photographers and artists (and at times also are required to give credit beneath the photograph in addition to monetary compensation,) because ART IS NOT FREE. It is a person’s time, dedication, the cost of their equipment, knowledge, practice, and education; it is his or her passion, livelihood, and is no different than you being paid for your time as a doctor, or lawyer, or personal trainer, or contractor, or bartender, or chef, or realtor, or crane operator.
It is very easy to gather inspiration from Google Images – it is a great resource and I, in particular, encourage that. However, if you are using images on your website, brochure, in your logo or other promotional materials, that have not been properly licensed: beware. You may one day soon get a letter in the mail from a fancy, high-priced attorney asking for a gob of money and a request to cease and desist.
The good news is that there are websites who offer low-priced packages on royalty-free images. Here are just 5:
Keep in mind that, though most of these are inexpensive, you do get what you pay for. If you can afford to, it is good idea to hire a photographer to take photos for you, especially if you have something specific in mind. It will also keep things very unique, as there will then be no one else in the world with those photographs. With stock photos, this is an impossibility; unless you want to pay exclusive rights, which are generally in the thousands of dollars. It’s up to you! Either way, just remember that it’s NOT COOL to steal other people’s hard work, and, in most cases, there are financial consequences that could have been avoided by simply purchasing royalty-free images.