Why Writers Shouldn’t Source Images for Blog Clients

Blogging for corporate clients can be a well-paying gig. The work is ongoing, and these clients tend leave you alone to do your job. But having a client rely on you to manage their blog can also pose some challenges. One common problem is finding appropriate images to accompany each blog post. Microsoft clipart and Wikimedia Commons only take you so far when you’re looking for free pictures that you can use without licensing worries. Here are some of the issues an unsuspecting blogger can encounter in the search for the perfect picture.


The advanced search function on this site makes it very easy for you to find Creative Commons licensed images that can be used for commercial purposes. However, many supposedly ‘cc’ images on the site actually have copyright watermarks still on them. In fact, a lot of the best quality photos are probably not uploaded by the person who owns sole rights to them. The amateur shots are a safer choice, but they look cheap and unprofessional.

Pictures that show people’s faces are problematic for another reason. You don’t know whether the person who uploaded the photo is the person who is depicted in the photo. If it isn’t, you have no way of knowing whether an appropriate model release was obtained.

Free Stock Images

These sites may be your best bet for high quality photos with very relaxed licensing. However, you still aren’t protected in any way from copyright violations. These sites readily admit in their terms of service that they cannot guarantee the legality of the images and advise you to contact each photographer individually about licensing. Are you going to take the time to do that prior to using a stock image on a client’s blog? Are you inspecting each photo to see if a brand name or trademark appears anywhere on any item in the image?

Some sites like FreeFoto.com require a link back and attribution for use of their free images. Most of your blog clients probably won’t mind a small cc license attribution at the bottom of each post. But they may not be pleased about having a link back to a free photo sharing site on every page on their corporate blog. It doesn’t look very professional. It looks like the client’s company is too cheap to buy images for its marketing efforts.

Manufacturer PR Images

If you are blogging about a new product that just hit the market, you might assume that grabbing a photo from the manufacturer’s press release is safe. It’s not. One of my clients got a copyright violation notice earlier this year about a photo of a “woman in a beet field” that appeared on their office furniture blog.

The claim sounded bizarre, but it turned out to be true. The offending image was actually a picture of a new type of ergonomic computer monitor. The picture was from the manufacturer’s own press release. Unfortunately, the image that was photo-shopped onto the screen of the monitor was a picture (of a woman in a beet field) that the manufacturer had licensed for use from a third party. The terms of that license didn’t permit reuse on other sites. The scary violation notice with its attempt to fine the client for $1,000 was bogus. They didn’t end up paying anything after I removed the image. But it certainly put me on notice about a previously unsuspected issue—each component of an image may be licensed by a different entity.

Paid Stock Images

These are probably your best bet if you want to be protected. However, you can’t buy the images yourself. That’s right; the royalty free licenses aren’t usually transferable. You can’t buy the pics and then reuse them for a client’s website unless you are an authorized representative of their company (which is a whole different can of worms from a legal standpoint). If you decide to use royalty free stock images, you need to put the images in a lightbox and let the client purchase them. Unless you have a long lead time on each blog post and a very responsive client, this approach could cause substantial delays in your blogging schedule.

How Do I Handle the Image Issue These Days?

In my blogging contracts, I stipulate that I will upload images provided by the client. This clause is simple and effective. I don’t waste time scouring cc image sites for suitable photos, and the client takes full legal responsibility for image usage.

How do you source images for your blog clients? What worries you most about finding good photos? Tell your blogging stories in the comments.

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