This subject comes up time and time again. And it still shocks me to see people using images illegally while promoting something. They have to have heard by now that what they’re doing is not right, right? It’s not just bloggers that are repeat offenders of this, but A LOT of authors and PR companies as well. The rule of thumb is… if you didn’t pay for it, chances are you shouldn’t be using it! It’s really that simple!
No, putting a disclaimer that you don’t own the images on your site doesn’t release you from responsibility if the owner of said image were to find out you were using his photos. Now, you can find some nice people that will just email you and ask you politely to take down their images. All good, right? But what about the tons of others that are just out looking to get people and decide to sue you? They have a right to do it! I don’t think you want to deal with a lawsuit and lawyer fees just because you wanted to use a picture of a couple kissing on your blog header, do you? There’s been countless of instances where this has happened (even with something as simple and innocent as a picture of a vegetable off of Google Images). So why take the risk?
We all know how much we love our man candy pictures! But just because we like to look at pictures of hot guys doesn’t mean we have a right to search the web for them and post compilations of them for the viewing pleasure of others. No, it’s not that simple or innocent! The most recent offender of this (and got me so riled up lately) is The Inked Boys on Facebook. They don’t own any of the images they post nor are they the photographers of them. They just post other people’s stuff as if it was theirs. In fact they even sell other photographers work as their own to unsuspecting customers. And even after being contacted by the rightful image owners, they have not stopped doing it. This is a new low, and as soon as I found out about it I unfollowed the page because image copyright is just as important as book copyright. It’s not right to steal, period. But it just goes to show that no type of image is excluded from this. If you didn’t pay for it, or ask permission to use it, then you shouldn’t be using it!
Here’s where a lot of authors are the usual offenders. I can’t even tell you how many teasers for books I see all the time using the picture of a celebrity. Yes, I get that it helps paint the right picture of what the character looks like especially if the author used a specific someone as their inspiration. And we have done this a few times where we do a character guide or fantasy casting and we like to use celebrities for that. But celebrities shouldn’t be used to blatantly promote your book. Authors! Any kind of teaser you make is considered marketing. You will profit from it because it’ll help sell books. And you simply cannot use a celebrity photo to do that! Google Images is not your friend for this. And it’s really sad after an author gets a cease and desist notice from a celebrity rep to take down all the images they used with said celebrity, and then they go on to do it again with a different celebrity for their next book. Learn from your mistakes! I know some PR companies are also guilty of this and it’s often scary as a blogger to post something we are given by an author or PR that we don’t know where it came from. Once it’s up on our site, then we become liable as well. So just be safe and smart. You can still make beautiful images without resorting to this. And as bloggers, if something doesn’t look right don’t post it on your site.
This seems like a no brainer, right? You cannot use an image you didn’t pay for on your book cover. But… it happens! And sometimes it happens more than once. There’s an extremely talented artist that I always follow for his beautiful historical romance pictures and edits. That is Jon Paul Ferrara. I LOVE HIS WORK! But it saddens me every time I see him posting about an author he found using his image illegally (and sometimes the same author does it more than once even after being caught!). Or when he finds another “artist” selling his work as his. Authors! How can you not realize that what you are doing is illegal? Again, if you didn’t pay for it, you shouldn’t use it.
So when you are looking for book covers and you don’t want to use a generic image from a stock site, then look for a photographer or a model. You can often find they have a portfolio of images you can choose from to buy that are unique and you may be able to purchase the rights for it to be exclusive to you. If you don’t want to spend too much and don’t care for exclusivity, then just browse their catalogs. It doesn’t have to break the bank to do things right.
You can often talk to your designer of choice and let them guide you on the best choice for you and your needs and budget.
And for bloggers, if you have any talent for graphic design and do it yourself, then stock photos are your friend. If you can’t do it yourself, then find a good and reasonably priced designer. They are out there!
This is where most of us fall into. It’s not that expensive to pay for the right to use an image on your site, blogs, teasers and even covers, if you go the route of stock images. The downfall of this is that somebody else can use the same image as you for the same low fee. But this is the way to protect yourself and do things right. Over the years here at UTC we have used MANY different stock sites. One of my favorites is still iStock (now part of Getty Images) but their images (or at least the really nice ones that I tend to go for) are a bit pricier. So we only use this when something really needs to make an impact or when we can’t pass up using a certain image because it’s just too perfect. After that, we go the cheaper route and usually pay around $1 per image we use (or sometimes less depending on when we buy credits and what promotions we find). That is to say we don’t take any monthly memberships anywhere and we just buy “pay as you go” packages. Sometimes we switch between sites because of promotions.
Here’s some sites we have used with good results:
Fotolia: this is now part of Adobe Stock and they have a great range of images to choose from. I admit I haven’t used the site since they merged with Adobe earlier this year, but it does look slicker than it did before and I’m looking forward to taking a peak soon.
Big Stock Photo: another site I’ve used in the past but they have now merged with Shutterstock. I need to go check out whats’ new after the merge.
Shutterstock: this is a pricier option but you may find pictures that other people are not using because of the price difference and can be more unique.
123RF: this is one we use often! We love this site!
Deposit Photos: another one that we use often when we find good deals on credit packages.
Dreamstime: here’s another choice that may come out to be a bit pricier but may have unique things.
Stock Photo Secrets: If you are looking for a membership based service, we used to recommend Dollar Photo Club. But sadly in Jan 2016 they closed after their site (as well as Fotolia) was bought by Adobe Stock. As an alternative, we have found (but not used yet) a $99 club from Stock Photo Secrets. You can basically get 200 large image downloads for $99. That’s $0.50 per image! It doesn’t get better than that!
You can also find free images you can use at sites like:
Another thing to keep in mind, especially for bloggers that like to take pictures and post on social media. A lesson we learned since it’s happened to us. When you post a picture or graphic and you tag an author or publisher, you are basically giving them the right to use your image in any way they want. They don’t have to credit you for the image, although most are nice and grateful and they do. But this is why watermarks have become increasingly popular on social media, to ensure that no matter where your image is used once it’s out in the wild, you are still recognized as the creator. 😉 Just something else to keep in mind in this ever growing image copyright world.
So hopefully there was some information here that clarified some of the issues we face in relation to image copyright and I really hope that you can start taking it as seriously as any other. We have to support the artists! A graphic designer, photographer, or just about anyone that creates something has the same rights to their compensation and recognition for their work as authors and musicians do. So lets all work together to respect that.
What are some of your favorite stock sites?
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I get easily distracted by pictures of sexy guys and have tons of book boyfriends.I keep all my alpha males chained to my basement and guard them fiercely.*Back off bitches*I like to see Jason Momoa as a lot of those boyfriends, because ….. mmmmmmm JASON.MOMOA!
I’m a part time graphic designer (yes, everything you see on UTC has been done by me), run my husband's business from home and on a good day I’m a self appointed superwoman (she who can do it all).I love blogging with my girls and I couldn’t do it any other way!My first love is everything paranormal, but in the past few years I’ve re-learned to love contemporary romance.Every once in a while I like to mix things up with a historical romance, a steampunk or an LGBT book.Because I need variety to avoid book slumps.I don’t always need an HEA although I prefer one, and I love authors that can rip my heart out and make me ugly cry.