Enda McLarnon offers advice on sourcing illustrations and other media
- Sources for images
- What to use, what to avoid
- About using video
By adding pictures to your site you can help break up written text and make your article look a lot more attractive. Likewise, by adding video, you can create three types of useful content to work together: text, images and videos.
The simplest method of all is to use your own work. Taking pictures used to require specialist knowledge and equipment, but these days, with digital cameras and smartphones, taking pictures is both fast and simple. In most cases, it’’ll be relatively straightforward to take a few pictures relevant to whatever topic it is you’re writing about, then download them to a computer, or upload them from a smartphone.
If you own and publish your own images, there’s little risk of infringing any copyright laws. You own them and you can do what you like with them. In my case study, for example, I’ve used my phone to take some images of coffee beans, ground coffee, instant coffee, the two coffee machines I own, the two grinders that I own to quickly gather a number of good images.
Likewise, most smartphones can also take video – so, again, it’s relatively easy to make a video and talk about any coffee-related product. Even with your own images, you still need to be careful. As an example, if I took a photo of a coffee shop, and there was a person in that photograph who could be identified in that shot, then certain restrictions will apply.
You cannot misrepresent that person in any way. This is a complex area and, if in doubt, always seek legal advice.
Using ‘Free’ Images From The Internet
Please note: you cannot simply find an image on the internet and use it. In fact, you could find yourself in serious trouble if you do. Some website owners have found themselves involved in legal action, for using other people’s photographs without permission. A copyright is a form of legal protection that is automatically assigned to content creators at the moment of creation.
So the second you take a photograph, you own the copyright to it. It is the same for anyone who takes an image – they automatically own all the rights to it, unless doing it on behalf of a third party. You don’t have to fill in a form or add a legal notice to own the image, and you can also choose to amend or sell that image. This is how professional photographers make money, by selling the rights to their work. this also means that no one else is allowed to use your work without your permission.
However, many people assume that if content is online, it is in the ‘public domain’ and is therefore not protected by copyright. That is just a myth. It is also why it is always best to use your own images – as there is no question as to who owns the rights to it.
Websites With Free Images
There are a few websites with what are called ‘free images’, but always read their terms and conditions. Morguefile is one such website, but please read the instructions about each image before using. The licenses vary, but in most cases, all you have to do is provide a link back to the site to use any of the images.
Pixabay is a very popular choice, too. This is a place where contributors share their images. Again, licenses do vary, but here, many of the images are listed as ‘Public Domain’, which means you can use them without attribution.
Creative Commons provides another platform for the use of imagery, but also has case-by-case attribution guidleines, which you need to adhere to. The bottom line is that using these still holds a certain risk, which is why I prefer to use my own images.
Buy Stock Photographs
If you don’t wish to use your own images, then another option is to buy high-quality stock photographs online and use those for commercial purposes. Of course, there is a charge for doing this – but then you remove the risk of falling foul of using copyright images.
If you search online for stock images, you will find many websites where you can buy these and then use them for commercial purposes. As before, you still need to read carefully any licensing for a particular image.
Hire A Photographer
You’ll find many amateur photographers online. You could contact them and arrange a photoshoot. You do, however, have to be very clear with them as to what the images will be used for.
Using Video On your Website
As with images, using video is once again subject to the legal world of copyright issues. You should always seek legal advice if in any doubt.
Making Your Own Videos
If you make a video, then you own it and can do what you like with it, as there are no restrictions. Many people will post their videos on YouTube, which is of course, owned by Google and not a source of free-to-use video.
Can You Use YouTube Videos On Your Website?
This remains a grey area and various lawsuits have been issued. One thing is pretty clear: the areas of music and film appear to cause the most concern. When someone publishes a video on YouTube, they have the option to decide if that video is allowed to be shared. So if you see a share button that allows you to create an embed code and place it on another website, in theory, that is deemed as permission having been given.
However, some people who post videos appear to be unclear that this share option is about giving permission, so confusion does remain. The simplest way to get around this is to make your own videos. With a smartphone or even a video camera you can create product fly-bys, how-to tutorials or video reviews with relative ease.
This is a complex area and certainly a very legally contested area. As I am not a lawyer, I cannot offer any advice. In my own experience, I find it simpler and easier to use my own photos and create my own videos. Neither of these is complicated to do and you avoid any risk of copyright issues. The important thing is that images and videos do a fantastic job of making your articles look great and more interesting to your readers.
Where possible, I always include them on my websites. If I want to embed a YouTube video, I send the owner an email and almost all of the owners have agreed. For the really important pages on my website where I want to have an image with people in it, I just spend a few pounds and buy some high-quality stock images.