7 Must-Follow Rules for Using Stock Images

Using stock images as part of your blog or promotional materials may initially seem straightforward–but there are certain rules that apply. To make sure you won’t encounter any issues with stock images that you’ve downloaded for use, keep these rules in mind:

1) Stick to professional, reputable stock image sites
With hundreds of stock sites out there, it can be extremely difficult to know which ones are legit and which ones will have the high quality, relevant images that you need. Adobe Stock offers flexible and business subscription plans to access over 60 million images, but you can also purchase single images. Adobe Stock also integrates with Creative Cloud apps so you can search for images directly within the app.

2) Follow the license guidelines for image use
Heather Purdy Mobley, owner and main photographer at Heather K. Purdy, says to pay close attention to which license the image falls under since the license will zero in on how and where you can use the photo. “There are many different types of licenses, and each one describes how a photo can be used and not used. This basically means you need to know how you want to use the image. Will you only be using it for your website? Are you wanting to use it in print? Do you want to modify the image? How you want to use it will also often determine how much you will be paying for when it comes to the license usage,” Purdy explains.

3) Make proper attributions
Above all, Purdy recommends being reasonable and respectful when it comes to how you are attributing stock photos. “Most stock photos sites make it abundantly clear how the image needs to be attributed. Usually, all you need to do is link the image back to the site, depending on which type of license you have purchased,” Purdy says. In case you are ever unclear about how to attribute an image, or if you are using a photo that is not purchased directly from a stock site, Creative Commons offers a handy approach known as “TASL”–an acronym that stands for Title, Author, Source, License. At the very least, the attribution should include a link back to the source of the image and be listed on the same page as the image.

4) Immediately correct any usage violations
If you are ever contacted by the image owner about incorrect attribution or copyright infringement, make the change immediately instead of starting an argument. If you do not agree for whatever reason and do not want to make the change, then you must remove the image from wherever you’ve placed it online. As Purdy points out, “attribution is very important in the shared image world, and people can be fined a lot of money if they do not attribute an image improperly.” You don’t want to end up with a DMCA Takedown Notice.

5) Download the correct size for your needs
Although downloading the image in the highest resolution possible makes sense, you should also consider how you are going to use the image. Will it be on your blog, a social media platform, an email newsletter? Adjust the size accordingly so your image won’t look stretched or pixelated.

6) Don’t use outdated images
Stock photos aren’t what they used to be. Search for stock sites, like Adobe Stock,  that have images with a “modern edge and don’t look like something from a 1990s software install!” Purdy says. Otherwise, you risk boring your audience or losing potential customers. However, this brings us to the next rule:

7) Search for images that suit your brand
Just because you’ve seen a bunch of other designers using a certain look in their images, that doesn’t mean you need to go out and grab the same trendy images for use on your social media. Do what works for you, for your logo, for the color scheme you have on your website, for the unique way of expressing yourself that your audience has come to know and love.

Suchi Rudra

Suchi Rudra is a nomadic writer of articles, stories and songs, taking inspiration from her travels. Follow her wanderings at Tread Lightly, Travel Naturally.