Google Images – Are They Free? NO!
(And What To Do About It)

Are Google Images free

Or, I can use an image on my blog if I find it on Google Images/Pinterest/Flickr?

It’s a question I am asked often.

The answer is a big fat red-hot NO.

Let me tell you why.


First, I’ll start with a few typical scenarios:

Photo stealing scenario #1:

Melbourne Cup red rose into the rain

You went to the Melbourne Cup earlier this month. While walking from A to B, you took a sparkling photo of rain gushing down on a single Flemington rose. It was such a good photo, you uploaded it to your Facebook page. Your friends loved it, commented on it, wrote that it was the very best #melbournecup photo they’d ever seen. A few days later, someone sends you a link to a blog post featuring your photo. The next thing you know, it’s all over the internet.

Is anyone crediting you as the photographer? No.

Are you slightly p#$ssed off as everyone takes credit for your photographic masterpiece?

I’d take a guess your answer’s a big fat yes.


Photo stealing scenario #2:

Now imagine you’re a professional photographer. You’ve spent thousands of dollars on your equipment, and you have decades of experience. Photography is how you pay your mortgage. You do a reverse image search using Tineye and you find loads of your image appearing. No-one credits you as the creator.

More than just being pi%$ed off, you’re out of pocket. People are using your photo, and you’re getting zero $ for it. Yes, you can write to the websites and ask them for money, but I’ll bet the best result you’ll get is for the site to remove the image. Hiring a lawyer will cost you money, time and energy, with variable chances of recouping your costs – especially internationally.


Photo stealing scenario #3

Three ducks crossing a road

You’re giving a presentation at work. You need a photo of a duck crossing the road, to illustrate your point about the business moving forward, even in the face of challenging times. You do a search on It comes up trumps, you download the image and use it in your presentation. It’s only for your local office after all, it’s not like you’re making money out of it, right? Your boss insists on uploading it to Slideshare for the other offices, as she thought it was a brilliant presentation.

Fast forward a few months and you’ve moved on to a new company. You get a call from your old boss. Getty Images (a large photo library, founded in 1944 by the millionaire Hulton Getty) has sent in a ‘demand letter’ saying the image has been used without permission …. She asks, where did you get the image from and did you pay for it? Eek!

All of these Google image scenarios are becoming more common.


Google images are NOT free.

Google is a search engine, NOT an image library.

If you remember one thing from this post, remember this: Google is a search engine, NOT an image library.

Photographers deserve to be paid and/or credited for an image they take (including you, if you took the photo).


Here are some places to get free images:

Always check the usage rights on each image (occasionally, there may be restrictions on an image, such as ‘Editorial use only’ or ‘non-commercial use’).


When you use a free image, take a look (do a reverse google image or Tineye search) to see who else has used it previously… you might find a competitor or different brand has already used it ahead of you which could be a tad embarrassing.


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