Other People’s Photos


Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mark J P

Last month, we talked about reblogging and you all had a spirited debate in the comments section about the etiquette of sharing other people’s content. I thought the discussion was very interesting–my main takeaway was that some bloggers are quite particular about where and how their content is shared, and we should all be respectful of that.

This made me think of another issue that comes up a lot on the blogosphere – using other people’s photos. It’s difficult to know when it’s okay to use someone else’s photo on your blog, since every blogger feels differently about it.

Personally, I’m perfectly happy for anybody to post any of my photos anywhere, but I appreciate a credit. Some bloggers don’t want their photos shared at all by anybody, regardless of attribution. Most bloggers are probably somewhere in between.

So how do you know how the owner of the picture you have your eye on feels about you using it?

Well, the simplest and most certain way is to ask! You can contact the blogger through their contact form, or by leaving a comment on their post, and ask if it’s okay if you share their photo on your site with proper attribution (a photo credit naming them that links back to the post or page on their site where their photo originally appeared). Make sure to include a link to your site, so that the blogger can check it out and see if they’re okay with their photo appearing there.

Many bloggers include information in their sidebar or footer about how they would or would not like their content and images to be shared. Doing this is very helpful, and you might consider putting such a notice on your own blog, too.

What if you just need a stock photo and you don’t really want to bother approaching anyone about it, or you don’t have time to wait for someone to get back to you? In that case, Flickr is your friend. If you choose the ‘advanced search’ option in Flickr, you’ll see an option to search only within Creative Commons-licensed content:

Flickr Advanced Search

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization established to help people control how their content is shared on the internet. For example, say you don’t mind if individuals share your work on their blogs, but you don’t want any companies to use it in their advertising. Creative Commons gives you a way to assert this.

Flickr lets you add a Creative Commons license to your photostream. You can also search only within the images of Flickr users who have done this, which lets you know that these users don’t mind their images being shared with proper attribution.

There are of course other places on the web to find free open license photographs, but Flickr is the easiest to use with the most interesting variety, in my opinion (in fact, that’s how I found the camera image above). For more information about this, check out Krista’s previous Daily Post column on how to find and use images with the Creative Commons license. If you have another site you like to use for images, let us know in the comments!

If you definitely don’t want anyone to share your photos, here are some measures you can take on

  • Obtain a Creative Commons license, as discussed above.
  • Put a clear copyright notice in the sidebar of your blog. You can use the Text widget to do this. We have some sample text you can use here.
  • Add watermarks to your images, using your image editing software.

Remember, though, that the more other people share your images and link back to your site, the more new readers are able to find you! If you guard your content too closely, you’ll have a tougher time building your traffic.

How do you feel about other bloggers reposting your photos? Are you flattered or would you rather they not?

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  1. Very nice blog post, Elizabeth!
    I would definitely feel flattered if other bloggers would repost my photos, buuuuut I would also want to receive some appreciation for my work and know how my photos are being used.


    1. I agree. Attributing the content of a blog or the photographer of a picture to the originator is not only a courtesy, but I believe a credit that should be given. It would be like plagiarism wouldn’t it, if we all just copied everyone else without credit? Quoting someone in part, is giving a nice compliment, and if you have permission to use a photo and give credit, again, the compliment is given. What appeals to me is originality, whether in written form or pictorially.


  2. Great post! I have a copyright text on my blog that explains that it’s OK to share the whole post (I have share buttons), quote me but it’s not OK to take text content or photos separately without asking. My photos is my income and I sell them. I encourage sharing the photos on my fb page. That’s photos I give away for free as a part of promoting my business. They all have a link to my web page.


  3. Thank you so much, Elizabeth for this article – In my humble opinion you can’t use others photographs WITHOUT any kind of permissions – per letter – per email – or by phone – There is a copyright law you know which is International and concerns both photographs and paintings which I have seen too often been misused :( – This is good you take this topic forward for all to air their opinion :)


  4. I would definitely acknowledge (give credit) the owner or owners of the photos if I have to publish. I would also appreciate if anyone else wants to use mine to at least have the courtesy to do likewise.


  5. Sigh…I’ve got a notice on my blog that all of my photos are copyrighted and someone who wants to use them must get my permission in advance. But it seems to me that copyright is virtually unenforceable in the digital age, unless you are willing and able to spend money on lawyers (which I’m not). I’ve posted photos on my Facebook page, clearly marked with my name and copyright, and still see people blatantly reposting them and using them for their profile pictures, etc. And just a couple weeks ago someone took one of my best photos and used it on his blog without asking. He did include a pingback, but I would have appreciated being asked (or at least notified) in advance…it’s just common courtesy, isn’t it? But then again, “common” courtesy isn’t so common anymore. Ok, off my old biddy soapbox now….

    However, all that being said, I had never even thought of the possibility that letting others use my photos could drive traffic to my blog. Duh. I’m considering changing my policy now. Thanks for this discussion.


    1. hi kim. i’m lisa from the usa but living in ecuador. i sigh with you. it’s so frustrating – but that’s the wrong word,isn’t it. it’s more like mankind lets us down, and the cyber world has created an attitude that it’s ok to lower your standards in cyberspace.

      i’m heading to your blog now, soul sister!


    2. Copyright is essentially a private right so decisions about how to enforce your rights, that is what to do when the whole or a substantial part of your copyright work is used without your permission, are generally for you to take. Where your work has been used without your permission and none of the exceptions to copyright apply, your copyright is said to be infringed. Although you are not obliged to do so, it will usually be sensible, and save you time and money, to try to resolve the matter with the party you think has infringed your copyright. Indeed, in some cases it may be necessary to demonstrate to a court that you have tried to solve the matter by mediation or arbitration if you wish the court to consider awarding you the best available remedy including an award covering your costs.

      If you cannot resolve the issue with the other party, then going to court may be the right solution, but it would be a good idea to seek legal advice at an early stage, and certainly you should consider this very seriously before going to court. One of the many organisations representing copyright owners may also be able to give you advice, or sometimes act on your behalf if you are a member.

      Where a copyright owner brings a case of copyright infringement before the courts, a full range of civil remedies are available, such as:

      injunctions served against the infringer or alleged infringer (to stop that person making further infringing use of the material);
      damages for infringement awarded to the copyright owner;
      orders to deliver up infringing goods to the copyright owner.

      Deliberate, intentional or willful infringement of copyright on a commercial scale may give rise to additional remedies.


    3. I definitely think that if you use someone’s content (photo or otherwise) you should give credit AND I think making the item a link to the other person’s page should be standard practice. Yes, it’s a win win and it does drive traffic! To me, a new view is flattering. I like to ask permission, or at least send a message saying that I’ve linked to the page. Sometimes folks will post something on their page like, “Hey, adverbCreative just used my photo on their blog!” and link back to my page. Sharing and sharing viewers makes blogging fun!


  6. I watermark nearly all of my photos, and have a clear, concise copyright statement on my blog. I even make it easy to email me if someone wants to use one of my photos. I photograph mainly nature and wildlife, so I work hard for what I do. I’d like at the very least attribution, and even better, a link to back to the original post.

    As for reposting… I’m still unsure about that, especially if it’s being done from a site that is entirely or mostly other bloggers’ content.


    1. Good point about making it easy for people to email you – if you make it easy for people to contact you (contact form, email address), it’s more likely they will! Also, we then have to remember to actually check that email account and respond to legitimate inquirires. ;)


  7. If you aren’t sure, ask. If you can’t ask because you don’t know how to contact the photographer, at least give credit. When it’s obvious the photographer is trying to protect the photo from reuse, don’t use it. Find something else.

    I let people use my photos if they ask — and even if they don’t ask if they give me a photo credit. If someone needs a particular image as an illustration, I’ll send them what they need. Again, all ll I ask for is a photo credit.

    It’s never okay to crop out a photographer’s signature and using ANY IMAGE from a website SELLING photographs is theft.


  8. I wouldn’t mind as long as the photo was credited, but I’m not a professional photographer. I think if I risked life and limb to get a shot, I might feel more possessive about it. It’s a problem for all artists today.


  9. I have a clear copyright statement regarding images on my blog. In addition all images are hosted on my Google+ drive and embedded into my blog posts. This way the EXIF data is preserved and that includes clear copyright information as well.

    I have only had one instance of a blogger using an image without permission and we came to an amicable arrangement.


  10. This discussion is one reason I find the Weekly Photo Challenge so helpful. If offers great ideas for taking my own pictures to use on my blog,, no permission needed. However, to use others’ photos it’s important to ask first.


  11. Funny timing! I recently wrote a post about people stealing my stuff. Not just photos, but content too. Like many, all I ask for is credit. In my experience, most of the bloggers I have encountered seem to know (or eventually learn) this etiquette. It is the non-bloggers out there who have blasted my content over facebook generating traffic to their own sites. Grr….


  12. this sharing of photo is simple……ask permissionnand if a person says no then respect their wishes and respect the law, taking someones images or text is theft, its like copying a dvd, taking a persons framed photos off their wall, you just would not do it without permission so don’t do it


  13. oh yes, you will surely have some interesting feedback on this one! because i make my living as an artist, i am very guarded about others using my images without permission, but it happens. i have been shocked to find many of my images on pinterest, and i assume that most truly don’t realize that uploading without permission – to me – is stealing, even if they give credit. when they uploaded that image, i think they alluded to having ownership/rights to the image. ditto for facebook.

    later i see other people inserting images on their blogs and saying, ‘image from pinterest’ with zero credit to the photogrpaher or artist. i have also seen where my own subscribers have used an image without my permission. when i wrote them, they quickly took it down, but i was still shocked that they’d use it without giving credit!

    years ago i had a copyright shock when i spotted one of my photos in the feature section of an international magazine’s most recent issue. a ‘friend’ gave them the photo, and i wrote to say i was shocked to see my photo and wondered if they asked if they had the rights to that image.

    we learn to be more guarded. if one hasn’t formally registered the image and someone uses it for commercial reasons – and the time has expired —- it’s just not fair, all because someone shared and someone else shared and the image ended up as public domain.

    most all of us are delighted to have our images featured elsewhere, but it’s nice to have credit.

    thanks for the information about creative commons and Flickr.



    1. You know, I think much of the problem with stealing/ “sharing” on Facebook and Pinterest and the like is a result of the fact that nowadays everyone can be a photographer and publisher at the click of a mouse. Before the internet, the people who were aware of copyright laws were primarily those directly involved in the creation, publishing, and distribution of art and ideas through traditional channels: professional writers, artists, and photographers. When suddenly “everyone” became a creator of art and ideas, copyright was left out of the equation.

      I’ve never tried to make a living from my writing or photography, but I feel for those of you who do it in this day and age. The whole idea of copyright was to protect the creator’s right to profit from their own work, thus giving an incentive for the continued creation of that work (which benefits society as a whole, by the way). Now that this protection seems to be seriously diminished for all but those with deep pockets, what will happen to the incentive to create? I don’t like it one bit!


    2. Pinterest is a really cool service, but it does cause a lot of frustration over lack of photo attribution. It’s frustrating for people who just browse it, too – many times, I’ll see a cool photo and I just want to know (as a reader) where it came from and what the story behind it is, and I can’t find the original source.


      1. i think the remedy is in education; people have veered away from protocol, and most are not aware that it”s not right to share others’ images without their permission. addressing that has surely helped; thank you! z


      2. Of course people know, there is enough websites with enough copyright marks and warninings, people have know for years about copying pages out of book. Hey also know that ‘everyone’ does it, same as downloading music, games and films don’t be so nieve.


  14. On my photography blog, I had a copyright notice, asking for photos not to be used, but, it didn’t help. People don’t read that kind of stuff, or, if they do, they don’t care. As someone mentioned above, copyright law is enforceable, if one has the money to hire a lawyer.

    What I’ve learned is to post my photos directly on my blog, using a small size (generally 800×800), and a 90 pixel per inch resolution. On the screen the image looks good, but, if one tries to print, or enlarge the photo in any way, the resolution is poor.

    For photos I don’t want shared at all, I only post them to my gallery site (I use Photoshelter), and people are unable to download or copy the photos from the site.

    I honestly don’t mind of someone were to use a photo for a blog post, or to reblog, as long as I got credit, but, again, people are going to do what they want …


  15. Sharing is caring, come on. I totally think that if you are giving good credit that it should be allowed [although the permission asking is a huge one for sure but then it should be made an easy thing to do – often finding out how to contact a blog owner can be so confusing] and if you are not happy with your blog being linked to then you should be able to have a say in that…


    1. I agree, and good point about making yourself easy to contact. actually sounds like an interesting concept…. :)


      1. I don’t know about making it easy, I and most photographers work bloody hard to get the photographs we use. I get paid on results and why if I spend 4 hours under hot studio lights or stood on a cold and rainy street because a certain shot is called for just allow some lazy git to copy and post without a single mention of where they stole it from. Most of us are not married to rich partners that we can ‘play’ at being a photographer and talking drivel or that we are so thick that we can work at McDonalds and take black and white pictures and express ourselves in syllables of less then one.

        Lets get this correct and hope those who wish to steal, taking a persons image without permission is illegal unless express wtitten permisdion is given, I don’t care who you are or what you want them for ask first. Images I want to share are on image sharing site or the page says ‘You can use images on this page’.

        If you don’t like what I say well tough, steal my photos, steal the money in my bank, steal the food out my mouth.

        It is THEFT. I have thoysand of images that will never make it to the net as even know they sre worth a good payment.


    1. The problem is Vickie, suing someone for taking an image is a long drawn out process and the cost of employing a copyright laywer is very expensive. Just slap a big circular mark on it with a smiley face and fade it out 50%, or low res image. it is really sad that honest hard working photographers cannot or writers cannot show their work without theft happening.
      You can use Digimarc but its expensive. So either live with it, hide you new photos ot a big smiley face. You can read above I am not happy but with more images and pages then people on this planet so its a hard and difficult slog up hill.


      1. Not to plug Digimarc (which use and like very much) there is an individual user version for around $49 per year. To me, that $49 buys a bit of peace of mind.


  16. Very helpful post! I’m fairly new to blogging and probably haven’t been careful enough about copyright on images. Will do better.


  17. “Personally, I’m perfectly happy for anybody to post any of my photos anywhere, but I appreciate a credit.”.. it is really common sense here.. nice post..


  18. I thought a credit/ link back was ok too and that reblogging and clearly sharing an article from a fellow WordPresser was flattering. Hence the option always comes up to do so. Message is loud and clear on image using in the comments, so grateful for the article!


  19. Really good article. As for myself, someone using the artwork or photos I have posted on my blog is fine as long as I can get some credit for it. I have found some of my work posted on other peoples blogs and have found most do give credit. If I was earning a living from my work, it may be different but as for now, I do this for enjoyment…..


    1. I’ve found the same – I feel like most legitimate bloggers are usually good about giving credit. And I’m not sure how much traffic junk sites get anyway.


  20. I don’t mind sharing, but I like to be asked. Most of my photos are watermarked, but I would be happy with attribution and a link. I do NOT want to share personal family photos, and have not posted many of them. But, because there are a few, my photos are protected from copying unless asked. (My content has a CC License, and can be shared – except my poetry, which I request people ask to use first.)

    Good point about having an open sharing policy, so it can draw attention to your blog.


    1. That’s a good point, too, about your family photos. People are probably more generally ok with their food and nature photography being shared than pictures of their children, so it’s considerate to think about things like that.


  21. I personally don’t mind that because the best pictures i could take usually come from my cellphone. but no matter how amateur you are in photography, taking/giving credits to the owner is necessary, if not compulsory. it shows that you’re a sincere blogger :)