Can I use photographs from the internet? Tips to ensure your blog isn’t breaking the law

I’m still relatively new to blogging, but unfortunately I’m not new to photograph theft. I was a professional photographer for about 4 years and often experienced people stealing my photographs. This would range from (some very large, very popular) websites and newspapers to bloggers. Now I’m part of this blogging world, I’m seeing it happening to others, with people crediting photographs from the internet to ‘Pinterest’ on the daily.


We should be supporting each other, not stealing each other’s content.


Some people are just un-informed but some are thinking ‘they’ll never find out.’ So I’m going to try and cross off the first group of people and give a few little tips on how to make sure your blog isn’t breaking the law, because yes. It’s still theft and it is illegal to steal photographs.



You can’t use everything you find.

This includes photos on Google, Pinterest and Twitter. The most argued one? photographs of yourself. Unless you have permission from the photographer or took the photo yourself none of these are yours to use.

The copyright automatically gets attached to the person who pushed the button even if it’s uploaded to the internet. The only exception is when the photographer’s signed a contract with a third party agreeing to transfer the rights. (This is 99% of the time a really stupid thing to do. If you get asked about this please do your research!)

If you do use photographs without permission, the copyright owner has the right to sue you. 

They might just ask you to kindly remove the photograph, but they are in their rights to send you a bill for usage. Ignore it if you wish, but you may find yourself in small claims court.


Have I scared you a little? Using photographs from the internet doesn’t have to be a scary process. Let’s go through the different types of license so you know which photographs you CAN use.


Public Domain

This is an image who’s copyright has either expired or has been forfeited. Some people will place their images online free for use. This will always be stated so do not just jump to conclusions.

Be careful as you can still be caught out if you display a person or company in a bad light using a public domain image.



Royalty Free

You usually find these images where you’ve paid a fee to access photographs such as a stock website.

A few examples

Shutterstock –  10 Images a month for £19/month

CanStockPhoto 6 blog sized Jpegs for £9

ColourBox  – 10 downloads per month for £27/month

 shutterstock - photographs from the internet

Creative Commons

You often need to attribute credit to photographer.

You may be lucky and find a few that don’t require attribution although it is always nice to credit the photographer!

Examples include –




What’s the best option?

Honestly? It’s always best if you take your own. I know I’d rather look at your own personal photographs, even if they’re taken with your phone vs.  professional photographs from the internet that you’ve found. I’m reading your blog to learn about you, and your photography is an extension of yourself.



If you do use other’s photographs, it’s always nice to credit even if they haven’t asked. Just think about how long it’s taken them to create that photograph so you’re able to use it on your blog. 


I hope you’ve learnt something from this post! I know many bloggers do follow copyright law, with most taking their own photographs but I can’t miss up a chance to inform those who don’t.


Did you already know about copyright law or did you learn something new from this post?


13 thoughts on “Can I use photographs from the internet? Tips to ensure your blog isn’t breaking the law

  1. This is really useful information, thank you. When I wrote my first couple of blog posts I thought you could use the odd image if you were promoting a site and its products, so long as you gave picture credits. Now I only use my own images.

    1. Hey Ali, It’s always best to use your own photos. I’m sure everyone would rather see your photographs anyway!


  2. Wow I didn’t know about this! What about quotes of edited images online? I have a few on my blog, but none are photos of other people or places

    1. Hey Nora, I’m not exactly sure what you mean by quotes of edited images? Send me a link if you want and I’ll have a look!

  3. I never realised this until I did my own research on this subject and got a little paranoid. Now I just use my own photos or free photo websites. I love making photo collages of inspiration or recommend other artist work but I don’t think that’s allowed even if you reference it.

    1. Isn’t it strange that most people haven’t heard of it even though we all come across it. If I hadn’t of done photography I probably wouldn’t know either, that’s why I thought it was just worth a little post!
      If you’re informing people about an artist it often falls under fair use and I think my artists would be completely okay with that, but it’s still best to just message them and check.


  4. This was really interesting! I only ever use my own photos (which aren’t always brilliant) but I totally see why this is annoying for a photographer. My biggest photography pet peeve is when brands steal photos of their products from your blog to use on the company instagram. At least link to where you found the photo…x


  5. Pingback: One Lovely Blog Award – Dear Blog, … Love, Liz
  6. I have been trying to get more info on this and found your post helpful. Now we are trying to request for permission from retailers to use their pictures and it’s not so simple. 🙂

    1. There’s so much information out there, some of which can definitely be very difficult to understand. I think it’s the best option to take your own plus your photos are always great!

  7. This is something I am guilty of! Thanks for sharing this post, although I take my own photos most of the times, I do occasionally use some from the internet. I will be sure to credit the person who’s photo I am using and keep these in mind! xx

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: