The Correct Way to Use Pictures On Your Facebook Page

using photos on facebook the right wayAre you guilty of using those “previews” of pictures from the stock photo sites on your Facebook Page? You can see an example to the right. After all, it’s easy to “save image as” and then post it. You didn’t even have to pay for it!

Stop! Before you add that picture to your Facebook photos, you need to know a few things.

You Are Stealing Artist’s Work

Yes, that’s right. Artists depend on these stock photo sites to help them distribute their work to a wider audience. Every time you use a picture that you didn’t pay for (even if it’s the preview) you are taking money away from those artists. In other words, you’re stealing.
Let’s look at it in another light. What would you do if someone came into your store and shoplifted? You’d probably call the cops, right?
Don’t be swayed by the fact that a digital download of a photo is not a “physical item”. That doesn’t matter in the least. Stealing applies to digital as well as physical products.

You’re In Violation Of The Sites Terms of Service

You might not know it, but using a preview of a picture for marketing purposes is against those stock photo sites terms of service. This time the problem is with digital rights. Artists “sell” the digital right to their work to stock photo sites in exchange for royalties and increased promotion. By using the photos without paying for them you are committing copyright infringement.


What Can Happen?

Well, other than the obvious jail time and fines, you could also lose access to your Facebook Page. If someone reports you to Facebook, they have every right to take your Page down (check out #5-Protecting Other People’s Rights). Also, if some blogger or news organization finds out, you can kiss your reputation goodbye.


I Don’t Give A Damn About My Bad Reputation

I’ve seen what happens when businesses’ failures are subject to the internet’s share buttons. Not only is it bad news for any future marketing efforts, but you could lose a lot of money and business over something that is easily fixed.


How to Fix It

Use stock photos on Facebook the right way by following these three steps.
Step 1: Delete all offending photos from your Facebook Page. Yes, you’ll lose the impact, but that could be a good thing in this case.
Step 2: Purchase or find alternate free pictures to use. I wrote a blog post recently with links to some great free photo sites.
Step 3: Thank your lucky stars that you found out about this before someone else did.
P.S. Yes, I did take a screenshot of a Facebook Page that was doing just this and I have contacted them about it. We’ll see if it makes a difference…

Great Resources for Using Online Photos the Right Way

Copyright license choice

Picture Via opensoursceway and flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4371001458/

So you’ve finished that blog post and now you want to find a great photo that will compel people to click on your link when they see it on Facebook. You pull up Google images and type in a word from your blog post, and lo-and-behold the internet dumps a treasure-trove of options onto your lap. You eagerly wade through the pictures, trying to find that one perfect photo that will make even the most click-weary want to read your blog post. Before you decide to “save as image” stop and ask yourself whether that picture can actually be used.

Say What?

Anyone who lived through the Napster era knows that copyright infringement happens. Sometimes we lament the loss of free services such as Napster, because it allowed us to get free content. But for the most part, we understand that copyright infringement is wrong.

The Problem

Do you remember when Google images first came into being? It was awesome. Suddenly, you could not only search for websites, you could search photos within those websites. Oh, how I loved this feature. It led to many hours of finding cool background images for my desktop. But it created a problem. Google’s indexing of pictures around the web made them seem incredibly accessible, where before they were not. Couple this with the fact that most photos published after March 1, 1989 do not require a copyright notice, and you have a recipe for easy copyright infringement. When was the last time you saw a photo from the internet with a copyright mark on it?  I believe that this has led to the belief that these pictures are “free to use”.

Now, I understand wanting to use these photos, especially since iStockphoto is so expensive. I mean, what’s the harm in putting it on a blog post?

The harm is that despite all rationalizations it is still wrong. You are still “stealing” someone’s work and using it without their persmission. It’s not just a moral issue, it’s a money issue. If you had paid for that picture, you could be contributing to the livelihood of an artist (something I feel very strong about). Instead, the picture is ripped off from a website and plastered all over the internet, making it hard for that artist to get paid for their work.

Is there a solution? Can you still find a way to use the photo you desire?


The Solutions

First of all there is a site that you can use to trace all instances of a photo on the internet. It’s called TinEye and we use it when we want to know where an image originated from. For artists, it can also be used to track down instances of your work across the internet. Below is a screenshot of what the front-page of the website looks like. As you can see, you can upload an image, copy and paste url, or even drag and drop a photo from another open page directly onto the TinEye website.

Because I was curious, I took the screenshot I made of their website and dropped it into the search engine. I got 39 results back. That means that 39 other people took or used a previous screenshot of TinEye’s home page.

TinEye Reverse Image Search

How To Be Really Safe

There are other ways to be really safe, though. You can use free services that allow you to use their photos under a creative commons license. These are sites such as flickr and Creative Commons search that give you access to photos that can be readily used. Most of these photos only need an “attribution link” (a link back to the place where you found the photo). Though you should check the license just to be sure, as there is more than one version of the creative commons license.

There are actually many sites out there that index or host creative commons photos. Doing a Google search for creative commons images brings up a couple of sites and blog posts about the issue. One of our favorites is Photo Pin (which has a very unique interface). If you do decide to use Photo Pin and are only looking for free images, don’t click on the top row of images as they are sponsored results from iStockphoto.

Another great site is the free image search from 123rf (a stock photo site that is quickly becoming a favorite of mine). This site allows artists to upload and tag their photos as free to use. You can use their free image search to find these photos and add them to your website as long as you include the attribution link back to them.


I got into a conversation on the Small Business Forum at Social Media Examiner about this topic. Here’s a couple more resources for free (or cheap photos). First up is Comp Fight, which is actually a flickr search tool that searches only their creative commons commercial license photos . This is not that different than using flickr search itself, except that it makes searching those commercially available pictures much easier. Another great resource is this blog post by Rich Brooks where he covers 13 free or cheap stock photo sites. I love the last one (your smart phone). Which is a great free resource for photos that is probably with you 24/7! 🙂

So remember, before you use a photo that you found on the internet, make sure to check and see if you can actually use it. To be safe, always assume it is copyrighted unless it says otherwise.