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6 minute read

The internet is a vast pool of memes, photos, and information—available at our fingertips at any given moment.

While accessible to all, it’s easy to forget that we can’t just use any photo, video, or infographic that we want in our marketing. And even if you credit the creator on your website or social media post, you can still be breaking the law.

In fact, numerous real estate business owners contact us each year for help, in a panic, because someone has demanded they pay compensation for the use of unauthorised images on their website or social media. By that point, it’s too late. The damage has been done.

Copyright infringement is rampant on the web these days and lawyers for content creators are more active than ever in an attempt to secure compensation – and they’re succeeding.

One business owner we met recently was caught using 12 unauthorised images from a local photographer in blog articles on their website and was forced to pay more than $3,000 compensation for unauthorised use of the images which were live on their website for a period of two years.

Yes, you can be legally forced to pay compensation to the creator of an image if you have used their content on your website or social channels etc without the appropriate consent and the amount of compensation may depend on how long the image has been used unlawfully.

In the real estate business, you know just how important the right images can be. They attract potential buyers and keep your audience engaged. But, building a comprehensive stock library on your own is nothing short of a grand undertaking.

On top of confusing laws that span international borders, it’s difficult for most of us—trained marketers and laypeople alike—to grasp what, exactly, the law really is. So, how can a marketer continuously pump out engaging content while avoiding a run-in with the law?

Below, we’ll take a look at copyright basics regarding royalty free images for commercial use and share some sources for images that are perfect for any real estate blog or social media post.

How is copyright determined with digital imagery?

We won’t get too deep into the nuances of copyright law, so let’s make things simple.

If someone takes a photo or creates a design, the copyright is automatically applied. In even more simple terms, if you take a picture with your smartphone; you own the rights to that image.

A creator doesn’t need to file any paperwork to have copyright over their work. So, any picture you find on the internet belongs to the creator. Simple, right?

Things get murky when you’re posting other people’s images on your blog or social media profile, especially if that channel is being used to turn a profit. Beginner bloggers often don’t realise that they can’t just save a photo from the Google image results and use it on their website.

For a deeper dive into the world of fair use laws, start by looking at’s FAQ section—it’s a good basic overview of fair-use law with regards to royalty free images for commercial use.

What’s the Deal with Image Attribution?

Finally, no matter what stock photo website you use to find royalty free images for commercial use, you need to be sure to attribute any work that isn’t yours. Most royalty-free photo libraries include a shortcode you can plug into your blog, to give credit where credit is due. Even if they don’t, you can always add a link below the image to direct site visitors to check out the photographer’s work.

Some websites require attribution for using images, but others don’t. In any case, giving thanks to the image’s original creator is the right thing to do.

In some cases, it might be difficult to find the image you need on a catalogue of royalty free images for commercial use. If you find something you love that doesn’t come with attribution guidelines, try reaching out to the photographer.

Many creators provide contact details on their site, making it easy to ask for permission.

Why Images Are So Vital to Your Digital Marketing Efforts

There are countless surveys and infographics out there covering people’s universal attraction to images. Facebook posts, blogs, and tweets all tend to work better when using the perfect image to reinforce the message.

But while the ease of taking photos with your smartphone or a digital camera has increased dramatically over the past decade or so, we don’t always have the access or the time to seek out that perfect shot.

So, even the most Instagram-savvy among us sometimes need a little boost from the digital gods. Here are a few reasons why you’ll need to use royalty free images for commercial use to keep up with the demands of digital marketing:

1. You Don’t Have Access to a Certain Location

Blog posts need relevant images. Maybe you’re blogging about a place you’d like to travel to or a season that’s a few months down the road.

Whatever it is, you need a picture of something you can’t just go outside and find for yourself.

In any case, the perfect beach shot, winter wonderland, or exotic animal is just a few clicks away—and yours, if you include proper attribution.

2. You Need An Infographic

People love infographics. They’re a fun way to break down complex ideas or statistics and tend to get a lot of shares on social media. They’re also tricky to create if you don’t have a background in graphic design.

They work without requiring any additional written content to support them and often get shared on major media channels, becoming magnets for inbound links.

3. Where to Look for Royalty Free Images for Commercial Use

Now that we’ve covered some of the basic rules of the shared content road, let’s dive into practical resources to find royalty-free images for commercial use. Below are some websites that specialise in free or paid photos that anyone can access:

  • Unsplash—A comprehensive catalogue of photos, Unsplash is an excellent resource for bloggers looking for free, high-quality images.
  • Compfight—Compfight offers users both free and paid stock photo options.
  • Pixabay—Pixabay features over 400,000 free photos shared by photographers and designers.
  • Wikimedia Commons—A database with free-use images, sounds, and videos.
  • Shutterstock (our pick)—Search millions of royalty-free stock photos, illustrations, and vectors. Get inspired by ten thousand new, high-resolution images added daily.

Final Thoughts

Attribution is vital when it comes to using others’ images for your gain. If you find an image outside of stock photo sites like Unsplash or Pixabay that is perfect for your blog, you can always ask the creator for permission to use it.

If you can’t get permission, you’re better off finding a different image that you can use legally. In the end, no picture’s worth risking your financial security or your reputation.

While photos are one aspect of your branding, there’s a lot more to consider. Stepps works with individual agents and large real estate brands looking to improve their online presence—from website design, social media strategy, training and copywriting.

Contact us today and let’s see if we can work together!

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