You can find just about anything there. Google pulls images from every website it can index and displays them in the order it thinks you want to see. It’s kind of like a menu. A poisonous menu.
Don’t use them in your work.
I spent a few years in marketing searching for just the right images and I can spot a popular stock image model a mile away, but I still insist on one thing: do not use another person’s unique images as your own.
The desire is understandable. People want something different, something just right. However, these images do not belong to anyone but the person or entity who has purchased them or made them. Using those images can be a copyright infringement.
People have lame excuses for using “found” images. Heck, I’ve even used a few of these, but we have to accept the consequences of getting caught. Here are a few popular excuses, and sadly I have used all of them at one point. Many of us have, but we need to stop.
Lame excuse #1: Just use a citation ‘Google images’
The image does not belong to Google. This is not adequate.
Lame excuse #2 Cite the owner
Ask the owner. If they let you use the image, write “Image used with permission by…”
Lame excuse #3 Link the image to the original source
They might not want to be associated with you. Please don’t do that. Speaking of which, I have to go fix something…
Lame excuse #4: All you gotta do is change it 10%
Do you really want an image that is only 10% different than something else out there? Unless it is unrecognizable, it’s not worth it.
So how do you know if an image needs to be purchased?
Try a reverse image search like tineye.com. A list of locations that image exists in will populate. If it’s listed for sale, there’s a good chance any free copies you find have been purchased from that sale site. Don’t fret, most of the time these costs are minimal. Not for sale? Consider checking with whoever you think is the original owner.
If there is no money to be made on an image, use your best judgment, but be warned. In the case you are going to make money off the images, cover your butt right now and find something else. It’s not worth getting sued over an image found on the internet.
What are your options?
Purchase stock photos
I know, they are so…stocky. You just gotta find the right ones. If you’ll be making money or a name for yourself, make sure they are unique and that you get the correct license to use with the images. My favorite stock photo sites are BigStock, 123rf, CanStock, iStockPhoto, Shutterstock, Getty Images, Creative Market, and quite a few more.
Get free stock photos
Public Domain and Expired Copyright images
They exist, and they are usually not very good or are very old. If old is what you want (it’s what I want!), good. Use at your discretion.
Take your own photos and make your own art
Doodle to your heart’s content. Draw. Enjoy it! As for photos, you can stage an entire photo shoot and have a blast doing it, or you can take images whenever the mood strikes. Just be careful not to get images of people’s faces without getting a photo release. Standing in the park and see a dandelion? Take a picture! Reading a book? Picture. Anything in candlelight? Picture. On the toilet? NO!
Hire a professional artist or photographer
Guarantee good, one-of-a-kind images. Professionals know what they are doing and yes they cost money, but it is worth every penny or trade. Have an idea of what you need, let them know everything you can about it, and allow them to work their magic. When working with somebody on Fiverr, keep in mind many logos/badges/etc. are made from a template you can find on Creative Market.
So, there’s my designerly lecture for the month, haha! It may seem silly, but if somebody ever uses your writing or images for their own purposes and makes money from it, you’ll understand. I hope so, anyway.
You’ll have to excuse me, I’m going to clean up some of my image mistakes…