After the introduction to building a visual content strategy yesterday, I know you have been waiting for this. It’s the rousing finale to our series on finding legal images to use with your online visual content strategy. We’ve established that it’s important to find images for your business’ online visual content strategy, period. Whether you snap photos of work on your cellphone, purchase stock photography, or find free images, you must have a steady flow of visuals.

Free images are better, duh. But finding them takes a little skill, and using a free royalty-free image resource comes with a few caveats. Here’s an important definition to get us started.

A royalty-free image is just what you might buy from iStockphoto. You pay one time to use the image in the ways allowed by the website’s license. Read about iStockphoto’s license’s here.

You want free, royalty-free images to use on your blog. But please do your homework. When you find a free, royalty-free image, you must carefully abide by the resource website’s Terms of Service. Just like at iStockphoto, a free resource may have very specific terms of use regarding its image collection. Many websites now have a human-friendly TOS that summarizes the legal jargon and makes it easier for you to obey the law in your use of the images.

It’s important to note that you do not become the copyright owner when you download a free image resource. Your relationship to the image is more like this: The copyright owners who put up photos on a website like are allowing you to use their property for free, governed by the website’s terms of use. So, you have to play by a few rules.

The most common requirement is that an image’s author must be notified or given credit. This could mean a one sentence comment on their profile page or a person-to-person conversation with the author. Most often, you just need to give them a photo credit in your blog post.

It’s a hard road, this respecting-other-people’s-rights thing. But a little homework could save you big bucks in the long run to keep your visual content strategy charged up. There’s no need to spend cash on stacks of stock photos when you can be your own content author with a cellphone. And there’s a world of photographers out there eager for you to use their beautiful pictures. Check out the resources below to get started.

With these resources, I can find a satisfactory picture for almost every need.

Be careful with these. Some have tricky restrictions or odd ways to browse their collection.

Camera lens image from ilco on
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