How to Find Legal Pictures and Images

By on Jul 5, 2012

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

It is believed that the modern use of this phrase comes from an article by Fred R. Barnard in the December 8, 1921, issue of the advertising trade journal Printers’ Ink, promoting the use of images in advertisements that appeared on the sides of streetcars.

While content — the information you provide — is still the most important part of your content marketing plan, these days it’s almost expected that you will include at least one image or two to help grab the reader’s attention. There are several places you should consider using high-quality images to attract readers attention:

Your Website

Relevant pictures and images should be used on every page of your website. My recommendation is that you add at least two new pieces of information to your website every week. This is a key to effective content marketing strategy and raising your visibility to search engines. Each of these new articles should include images that will catch the readers’ eye.

Facebook Advertising

In my Agency Internet Boot Camp classes I described how to effectively use Facebook advertising to attract attention to your agency. The key to a successful Facebook ad is often the image that you use to catch the reader’s attention.


Email marketing continues to be an effective way to remain in touch with prospects and build a long-term relationship. Again, high-quality pictures and images can help grab someone’s attention to your message within their overloaded email inbox.

Direct Mail

I continue to be an advocate of using direct mail marketing pieces as part of your overall marketing strategy. This allows you to create a balanced approach to your marketing campaigns. Postcards especially lend themselves to using high-quality images.

There are many places on the Internet where you can find pictures and images. The key is finding high-quality pictures and images you can use legally. It is not okay to do a simple Google image search and copy and paste whatever you find. Here are some options, both paid and free.

iStockphoto: This site is a very popular paid site — and one we use for many of our images — that many businesses use to make sure they don’t run into copyright infringement problems by licensing an image appropriately. iStockphoto offers two types of licenses: the complimentary Standard and a set of Extended Licenses. The five types of Extended Licenses provide greater usage freedom for the image files licensed from iStockphoto.

There are also a large number of sites that provide images at very low or no cost. Just make sure you read and understand the license agreement for each site so you understand what you can do with the images that you download.

Google Image Search: The key to using Google image search successfully is to take advantage of the advanced search options. Specifically “usage rights.” This option allows you to filter images by type of license that is attached to the image.

Free Stock Photo Sites: Here are a few sites that provide free, open-source images and photography but again, be sure to read the FAQs to see what the restrictions, if any, are when you use them.

Keep in mind that there may not be a “perfect picture.” Be careful that you don’t spend too much time searching for that perfect photo, or spend too much time just looking at great photographs. While it’s beneficial to include images in your various marketing pieces, don’t let it consume too much of your time.

You might want to consider restricting yourself to a specific time limit for finding the right image for an article or marketing piece, and when time is up use what’s “good enough” rather than continuing to search for perfection.

Where do you find images to use on your website or in marketing material? Leave me a message.


  1. Thanks for writing that – I’ve heard a lot of agents using the “I found it on Google” defense. Scary.

    Here’s another resource: Government sites will often allow usage of photos. Here’s one that’s great for boating season:

    This U.S. Coast Guard site has many resources you can point to, as well as a host of public domain images you can freely use on your site or printed publications. Their only ask is that you provide a photo credit, which is explained here:

    I also suggest to agents that they consider embedding video too. The Coast Guard’s YouTube channel:

  2. I’ve heard is sometimes used by graphics/photo owners to see if their products are being used illegally. I’m sure there is more sophisticated software for this, but it shows how anyone can use a free service like this to look for copyright violators.

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