Lisa Graham is a professional photographer and the owner of Seadance Photography. She can be reached at, 250.941.7774 or online at

Lisa Graham, Seadance Photography

Did I just see all the designers out there perk up? Read to the bottom to get to the free stuff!

Searching for images is easy; all that is needed is a quick Google search and bam! Your screen is populated with millions of photos, in all different sizes and resolutions, all available for free … Hold on! Did you know that you might be violating copyright laws? Not everything online is free to use!

Here’s a pro tip: When searching online, make sure you filter by “tools” and “usage rights”. You can also search by image size (… but that’s a topic for another day).

While checking for usage rights is one step, you still need to do a little more research to see if the image is truly available for use in the way you want to use it. Watch for these phrases:

Creative Commons 

Be cautious here! Let’s say that you’re a savvy small business who is posting images along with text because the social media experts and research studies show that posts with images perform better than posts without images.  Your budget is tight so you’ve searched through the Flickr site and found some great CC images.

While the image you found might be marked with a creative commons license, you may still end up in the doghouse because the real owner of the image, who wasn’t the one that uploaded it and licensed it, found out and now wants compensation.

Pro tip: Most photographers don’t pay much attention to the use of their photo until it is misused or goes viral on another site and then they’ll want to control how it’s used.

Editorial use

Generally, editorial content can be used in newsworthy or non-fiction content. Editorial content cannot be used in any for-profit manner, such as advertisements, merchandise, packaging and other commercial/promotional use. This applies even if your organisation is a non-profit.

Available for many uses

This may or may not include commercial use. Be extra careful if a free image includes a brand logo, you may find an awesome image of a Harley Davidson that the stock site says is free – but Harley Davidson may not appreciate you doing that. Recognisable brands may be used editorially but it’s up to you to understand the limitations or be ready for the consequences.

If you enjoyed this article and want the links 40 free sites (and millions of free images) go here and they’re yours! If you’re still frustrated and can’t find what you need, be sure to give me a call to learn more about how your business can grow by using custom images that maximize your unique visual presence. Don’t be shy, consultations are complimentary!

Lisa Graham is a professional photographer and the owner of Seadance Photography. She can be reached at, 250.941.7774 or online at


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