When it comes to digital marketing, written content is only one piece of the equation. In fact, according to Social Media Examiner, 37 percent of marketers state that visual marketing was the most important form of content for their business, second to only blogging (38%). There’s just one problem, finding appropriate images to use in marketing can be a pain.
For newly minted digital marketers, a Google Image search might seem like the most appropriate option to add visual aspects to their website and content, but that’s a dangerous path to take. Many, if not most, images on Google fall under various photo licensing agreements and copyrights, which can make them unusable for businesses.
There are six main types of licenses when it comes to images that you need to be aware of before you post. We’ve listed them starting with the most accommodating license type to the most restricted.
- Public Domain: Photos that are not restricted by copyright and can be used as desired.
- No Attribution: Some images are free for commercial use and require no attribution to use. These images can be shared and reproduced without any issues.
- Attribution: These creative commons images can be used as desired but credit must be given to the owner in the way they request.
- Share Alike: These images can be copied, distributed, displayed, performed and modified as long as the image is distributed on the terms laid out by the owner.
- Noncommercial: These images can be copied, distributed, displayed, performed, and modified for any work other than commercial work.
- No Derivatives: These images can be copied, distributed, displayed, and performed but not edited or modified.
Other licenses include:
- Right Managed: These images are highly restricted. Typically, you and your intentions will need to be approved before you’re permitted to use and distribute the image. The benefit of this image type is that it’s exclusive.
- Royalty Free: A true royalty-free image allows you to use the image as many times as you want once it’s purchased. For the most part, this licensing refers to stock images or clip art.
So, with all this in mind, how do you find images that are available for your digital marketing needs? There are many excellent stock photo resources that contain a library of images available for your use. Some require a small fee while others provide all images for free. We’ve compiled a list of both options.
Unsplash offers a huge range of free photos from photographers around the world. The images are high-resolution and are either in the public domain or have a Creative Commons license. This means that any and all of the images can be downloaded and used as desired, though a few may require attribution as requested by the image owner.
Images can be searched for via keyword, or you can explore the image community by clicking on the various collections such as Editor’s Choice: 2017 Photos of the Year or Top 100 Most Viewed Photos of 2017. This makes it easy to find unique and interesting photos that could fit your digital marketing tone and voice.
Unsplash is free to join and grants you access to over 400,509 free, high-resolution images. New photos are added every day from their community of over 50,000 photographers. All photos can be used for free for both commercial and non-commercial purposes, and credit does not need to be provided to the photographer.
Pixabay is a great go-to website for quality public domain images. Unlike Unsplash, photographers don’t solely provide the images on Pixabay. Instead, you’ll also find clipart, illustrations, vector graphics, and more. This means you get a little bit of everything on this site with over 1.3 million images and videos.
Pixabay also makes it easy to search for the images you want by using keywords. Then, once you find your image, you can download the size that fits your need. It’s free to join Pixabay but not required. However, if you choose not to join the community, you’ll be required to enter a captcha code to download the image you want.
All images can be used copyright free, without permission or giving credit to the creator. One thing to note is that not all images on Pixabay are high quality or appropriate for every setting. There are some images that contain adult content and could be considered explicit or inappropriate. To block these images, you’ll want to enable “SafeSearch.”
Shutterstock contains over 180-million royalty-free images, videos, and music tracks. This is a vast library of content available for your use. On Shutterstock, you can find everything from professional photos to vectors, illustrations, icons, HD & 4K clips, and more.
You’ll find Shutterstock used by larger companies who need access to the top images on the web. For smaller digital marketing departments, Shutterstock may be out of reach price wise.
Unlike Unsplash and Pixabay, Shutterstock charges a fee to download images either on-demand or by subscription.
- On Demand: To download a few select images, you can pay per image starting at two images for $29 and up to 25 images for $229.
- Subscription: You can also pay per month to download a select number of images. Plans start as low as $29 a month for ten images and go up to $199/month for 750 images.
There are also subscriptions for teams with multiple users requiring access, or you can pay for an enterprise plan if you’re a creative agency, productive company, or Fortune 500 enterprise that requires unlimited images.
Millions of new stock images are added to the website each week, and all images are professional, high quality, and varied.
Getty Images is similar to Shutterstock in that you have access to millions of royalty-free image options. You can easily search for images via keyword under creative or editorial (images that fall under sports, entertainment, news, fashion, etc.). You also have access to 4K videos and HD footage, plus high-quality music and audio clips with easy-to-understand usage rights.
As for the pricing, Getty Images is expensive. Pricing starts at $175 for a single download of a small video or image and quickly increases to $575 for a single download of a large image or 4K/HD video. Online, their pricing stops at purchasing a ten-pack of videos and images. The cost is divided by the size of the image or video, starting at $1,500 for ten small videos and images and going up to $4,500 for ten large videos and images. However, for large enterprise businesses, there are also solutions available that include no daily or monthly download limits. Though, you’ll need to talk with their sales team for a price.
What’s unique about Getty Images is that their gallery includes editorial photos and award-winning still imagery and video that you can’t find anywhere else.
Other Image Tools
There are many other image sites around the web that could be perfect for you. A few more include:
- Flickr’s The Commons: This site hosts images from libraries and museums around the world, if you need anything with a historical bent.
- Pexels: This site contains thousands of free stock photos available for commercial and personal use with no attribution required.
- ThinkStock: Developed by Getty Images, ThickStock contains millions of royalty-free images with image packs starting at five downloads for $49 or 25 downloads a day for $208/month.
So, next time you need an image for your digital marketing strategy, don’t just go to Google. Instead, use one of the websites we list above and find an image that you know is free for your use.
Editor’s note: This post was written by nDash community member, Kelly Vo. Kelly writes a variety of business articles and website copy on topics such as Cloud computing, business safety, B2B & B2C marketing, entrepreneurship, e-commerce, and more. To learn more about Kelly, or to have her write for your brand, check out her nDash profile page.