Image Is Everything

Carma Levene // 13th July 2015

One of the topics we have been most wanting to write about for some time is a pretty contentious issue  – especially among graphic designers, photographers and artists to name a few, yet some social media publishers are completely unaware! That’s right – we want to talk about image selection.

Everyone knows great posts need great content – and great content needs great images. It’s a simple fact that people are more inclined to notice your blog post, article or any other type of message if it has a killer, eye-catching image associated. But where do these images come from?

Well – that can be the tricky part. Great images are not generally free to use! If you’re just starting out on your social media journey you may not know that there are rules associated with using images, and just Googling isn’t really going to cut it.


First, let’s go back to the beginning, why would using someone’s image not be ok? There’s more at stake here than just “that photo is mine – not yours” like in primary school. Photographers, designers and artists make their living from creating beautiful imagery. If everyone took it for free how would they get paid? If they weren’t being paid how long would they continue making beautiful imagery?


Images are subject to copyright – which protect the creator of the image from having it used without their permission. Seems pretty fair, right? But it’s a bit more complicated than that unfortunately.

Obviously you can go about contacting the original creator of the image to ask if you can use it, although this can be difficult to ascertain and often too time consuming for the constructs of social media.

Fair Use

We think had an excellent definition:

Fair use is a legal concept that allows the reproduction of copyrighted material for certain purposes without obtaining permission and without paying a fee or royalty. Purposes permitting the application of fair use generally include review, news reporting, teaching, or scholarly research. The idea of fair use originally arose for written works. But with the advent of digital technology and the Internet, fair use has sometimes been applied to the redistribution of musical works, photographs, videos, and computer programs.

So you CAN use images under Fair Use – but be careful, you will want to be sure the image is being used to demonstrate something for the public purpose – not necessarily your agenda.


Creative commons

Creative Commons is a way the creator of the image can allow its use under certain conditions. These conditions are generally to do with attribution (declaring the creator of the image), modification (whether you use the image in its original form or alter it), and whether the use is commercial or non-commercial. Just a quick note – your business Facebook page should generally be considered commercial use.

There are loads of great ways to find Creative Commons images:


Images found under Creative Commons will not always be of good quality and attribution may not always be the most desirable.

Public Domain

Some images fall into the Public Domain, meaning they have been released to be used by the creator, the copyright holder has died or copyright is unable to be established. This is often the case with historical photos. Photos and images that have been released into the Public Domain is where we spend most of our image searching time and recommend you do too!

All content curators have their favourite Public Domain sites to find these images and our current favourite is simply for the searchability and range of images available. We are going to give you a nice long list at the bottom of this post that we have been curating for some time with a lot of excellent options, because basically we really like you and we want to help!

Create Your Own

Of course, sometimes no matter how hard you search you will need to create your own images, or at the very least – enhance the ones you have been provided. We feel you shudder, don’t worry! You do NOT have to be a designer to do this. There are a few really great image creation tools if, like us, you are not fluent in Photoshop.


Our absolute favourite right now is Canva and we’ll tell you why – it’s super easy to use, has loads of free icons, backgrounds, fonts etc and can really enhance your content and so quickly! Simply watermarking an image takes a mere second – and creating an infographic won’t take valuable days – PLUS they have templates so you don’t have to remember all the specific sizes for each social media platform – very handy.

There are others we would like to mention too: Fotor, Pickmonkey, and Photofunia are great for desktop and we use a whole bunch of apps for Instagram on mobile too!


Obviously if your budget allows it you can buy stock images. There are a few places but the most popular are Shutterstock and Getty Images.


If you have your heart set on an image and you know you aren’t going to be able to use it in your works – consider sharing it from the original source. Many websites have images sharing functionality for you to share images to your social platforms, allowing you to add your own comment. If this is not the case try the creators’ social media accounts. If they have posted the image to say, Facebook, you can share that to your own page with your own comment. Bear in mind that their original text will also appear under the image too.

Sharing is a great way to be social with your community and we recommend sharing content from other accounts anyway – plus you get to use the image without fear!

To recap – check out where your images come from and be mindful of the need to attribute the original creator. Here’s an awesome flow chart from the legends at Lifehacker to help you!

We hope we have given some clarity to the use of images for social media. We never want you to have to take down your content because you were ordered to do so by the original creator, or upset any artists by accidentally using their work without their permission.

We’d love your feedback! Leave us a comment or drop by our social media channels – and sharing is caring, feel free to share this with someone you think might enjoy it!

Our List of Public Domain or Image Creation/Alteration Sites

We recommend finding your favourites and bookmarking them in a folder for easy use 🙂

Free Digital Photos
Free Images
Free Range Stock
Free Photos Bank
Image Free
Im Free
Morgue FIle
Public Domain Pictures
Stock Vault
RGB Stock
Ancestry Images
Big Photo
Free Media Goo
iStock (associated with Getty Images)
New Old Stock
Pic Jumbo
Pickup Image
Super Famous
Every Stock Photo
Image Finder
Photo Pin
TinEye (a reverse image search)
Recite This
Get Refe

Also you can sign up to Death to Stock Photo and receive a new set of great photos to your inbox every month!

Related Articles:
Social Media Examiner
The Visual Communication Guy

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Carma Levene

Freelance Social Media Specialist at Carma The Social Chameleon
Carma is a Freelance Social Media Specialist, helping Perth businesses negotiate social media to achieve their goals. She is always reading, always learning and loves SMPerth events as a source of valuable information - with the added bonus of meeting cool people with common interests.

1 Comment

  1. Darrel Griffin · July 14, 2015 Reply

    Great article, Carma! Thank you for all this valuable information that will be a huge help to us all I’m sure.
    You mentioned ‘a nice long list’ of Public Domain image sites in the article… did I miss that along the way?
    Thanks again, Carma!


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