5 Ways to Get Images for Social Media Content & More…Legally

From social media to blog and website content, finding images for social media and website content are a huge part of your digital strategy. But, how do you find images you can use (legally) online?

March 15, 2021

We’ve asked the question many times – where did you find those images for social media content or your recent blog post? And, the dreaded words come out of their mouth, “Google!” The voice inside my head screams in terror as I begin to explain why that’s not OK.

Google image search is convenient, visual, and can help you find an image of practically anything. So, it’s no surprise that this is often the first place someone turns when they’re looking for an image for social or website content. The problem – all that is on Google isn’t free to use. Many of the images you’ll see are copyrighted. Using those images in your social media, on your website, or even on printed materials that promote your business could equal big legal trouble. That’s definitely not something you want to deal with as a business owner.

Before you post, make sure your content is your original content, you have written permission from the content creator, or you’ve downloaded a stock photo and have a license to use it.

So, when it comes to finding images where do you start? First, know that finding photos for your website and social content doesn’t have to cost money. In fact, most of the approved photo sources on our list are 100% free. There’s no excuse for stealing others’ work and using copyrighted content when there’s no cost to do it the legal way.

1. Take your own photos for social media and website content.

Even if you’re not a trained photographer, with today’s smart photos (let’s face it, they’re more camera than phone anyways) in our pockets, there’s no reason you can take high-quality photos. If you need photos of specific concepts or your products, this might be the best option, especially if you can’t afford a professional photographer right now. The two keys to great cell phone photos are light and composition. Opt for natural light or purchase some basic lighting if outdoors is not an option. If photo composition doesn’t come naturally to you, find photos that are attractive to you and mimic the layout with your product. More tips on taking your own photos next month.

2. Ask for permission to share another person’s work in your social media content.

If you know a photographer or other type of content creator and their images support your business’ messaging, consider asking for permission to use their images in exchange for credit and a link to their social media and/or website. This is also a great way to support others who are trying to get exposure online. Look for content creators that have a similar size following as you so that it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. For example, if you’re a travel agent, find a travel influencer and share their images from a destination. You are both exposed to a different group of followers, but your followers’ interests are similar!


3. Use free stock photos.

images for social media - 5 Ways to Get Images for Social Media Content & More…Legally

There are many great free stock photo sites out there. Our favorites are Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay. These sites are great for images supporting your messaging. If you need a picture of a family for your content promoting family-law, this is a great place to search. Looking for a photo of a puppy to promote your pet-grooming business? Good luck choosing from the wealth of free cuteness. If you’re asking, “What’s the catch?” that’s a fair question. There really is no catch, but we do have a couple of pointers. These sites make money off advertisements for paid stock photo sites. You’ll often notice some photos on the page that are a different size and in small print, you’ll see that these are sponsored images. Avoid the frustration and take note of this so you don’t get your heart set on a paid stock photo. These sites are also not great for super-specific searches. If you really need a little girl in a red dress with blond hair to promote your children’s hair salon, you’ll probably be out of luck on the free stock photo sites, which leads us to…

4. Find the perfect website photo with paid stock photo sites.

images for social media - 5 Ways to Get Images for Social Media Content & More…Legally

Paid stock photo sites are the easiest way to get high-quality images, but there is a cost associated with that. Some sites are more expensive than others so search a few to find the one that’s right for you. Adobe’s stock photo library has an extensive library and high-quality photos and videos, but you’ll need to subscribe or buy credits. A standard asset will run you around $10. Bigstock has a great selection of images, but not quite as many high-quality images as Adobe. They have lots of plans based on how often you’ll need images. If you’re not going to be searching for images every day, your may be better off getting a credit pack. For more editorial and artistic photos, we love Stocksy. This site is an artist-owned cooperative and prides itself on unique and authentic imagery.

5. Create your own custom graphics for social media and websites.

images for social media - 5 Ways to Get Images for Social Media Content & More…Legally

If your content calls for more than a photo and you don’t have the resources to work with a graphic designer, consider using a tool like Canva to make your graphics. With thousands of templates and an easy-(& free)-to-use online design tool, you’ll get inspiration and ideas to make your content stand out. Canva is great for adding text to images, adding your brand colors, or creating stunning text-based graphics.

There you have it! There’s no excuse for hitting the Google image search next time you need a photo for your digital content. Now that you know, let us know what’s your preferred source for image content is.

Still need help with your digital content, contact us to see how we can help.