How to Use Stock Photos or Videos & Understand Copyright

Curious about incorporating styled images or videos into your nutrition business or food blog? Learn how to use stock photos easily and legally here!


Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, which may provide me a small commission for each sale. This allows me to keep providing helpful resources (such as this post). All opinions expressed are my own.



Are you afraid to use images or videos because copyright law is confusing? Just know you aren’t alone. It’s #NationalPhotographyMonth, so I’m answering one of my most asked questions: How do I use a stock photo for my website without violating copyrights?


Even though I do food photography as part of my business, I don’t always capture the perfect photo. However, I’m skilled at navigating copyrights and finding stock photos that deliver exactly the feel my client is looking for. For nutrition and food professionals, finding the right photos the right ways can do wonders for your growing business -- attractive photos are like magnets that cause your ideal audience to gravitate towards you.


Read on for an easy guide to navigating copyrights, stock photos, and more!

What is Copyright?

Copyright (different from copywriting) is the rights a photographer or videographer has to their work. Copyright applies to original works like photos or videos, wherever they end up, according to copyright law.




As a photographer or as someone who uses photography regularly in their business, it’s important to know how to navigate copyright. Alternatively, you can hire a communications or media expert who is comfortable and knowledgeable on these topics.


No matter where it is located (i.e. hard drive, online, social media) the photographer has the rights to the image and can take legal action. This includes any of the following based on the original photo:

  • Reproduction

  • Works

  • Distribution

  • Public display

Why is Copyright Important?


Unless you’re a photographer, these rules might sound silly. But imagine this -- your image is plastered up somewhere for all to see. And then you see another person or business or brand claiming it as theirs. Wouldn’t that make you angry?


This happens everyday. Images and videos get used, either knowingly or unknowingly, without permission and the talented photographers don’t see a cent. If a photo is worth a thousand words, it’s unfortunate that some photographers don’t see a penny when their work is improperly publicized.


Luckily, there’s several easy steps you can take to make sure that the content you use in your brand or business complies with copyright. In other words, let’s give credit where credit is due!




How to Find the Perfect Stock Photo or Video

This article includes five easy ways to find the photo or video you are looking for!


Stock videos are relatively new, but they function similarly to stock photos. They are videos available within copyright law courtesy of a website, subscription service, or stock membership.


Option 1: Use Google Images

You can find free images using Google Images. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to google.com

  2. Select “Images” in the upper right corner

  3. Type the desired search term (for example “peanut butter”) and hit “enter” button on keyboard or search icon on the screen/searchbar. This will bring up images according to your search term (for example, pictures of peanut butter)

  4. Select “Tools”, then “Usage Rights”, then “Creative Commons licenses” from the drop-down menu.

  5. After selecting, the search will limit the images appearing to the Creative Commons copyright licenses.

View the image gallery below for a visual guide through these steps.



According to the Creative Commons, these licenses make a “pool of content” available that can be “copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.”


Creators (called licensors by the Creative Commons) submit their work to this network. While you must be sure to read the licensable agreement on these photos (i.e. can be used with credit to the original photographer), these photos can generally be used without legal implications.


Like many other legal licenses, Creative Commons functions in layers. These photos are great to use for very basic, supporting images. They often aren’t the highest quality but can be used very liberally in most cases. Sometimes the work is available for free but must be shared, liked, used for educational purposes, etc. in order to have access to the photo.


Option 2: Free Stock Websites


I hesitate to share these, but because they are so great and I love my clients and readers, I’m spilling all my best kept secrets when it comes to stock photos!


Sites like Unsplash, Pixabay, and Pexels offer freely-usable images. That’s it. No strings attached! The only things not allowed under their license are selling photos you find on the sites or creating a photo service site using pictures you find at these sites. Pretty straightforward stuff.


These are great for business and brand owners alike. The only downside is that you might see the same photo you’re using being used somewhere else.


I usually use these photos for my clients that are less-picky or if I need a last minute picture for my own posts. Generally, I try to take my own photos just because I think it’s special to have your own style. It also forces me to make time to get behind the camera so I don’t get too rusty 📸😉.


Option 3: Explore Your Existing Memberships


Many sites, like Wordpress or Wix, have contracts stock photo companies to offer their users the best experience. This functions as a win-win for everyone involved -- the platform and photographers get exposure and credit and the website designers and users get access to high-quality photos.


Websites like Canva also offer access to photo libraries through subscription programs. This is a great way to get millions of images at a discount. It may be worth it to consider upgrading to save yourself the stress of taking photos last minute.


Option 4: Basic Stock Sites

You've likely heard of these sites before, just never knew exactly what they were. Basic stock sites include services such as the following:

They are great for a wide range of uses, and for dietitians or companies that act as experts or authorities over more than one topic.


Option 5: Styled Stock Subscriptions

Styled stock memberships or subscriptions offer beautiful, styled photos or videos in a subscription package. For example, you’d pay $100 a month to be able to access gorgeous, updated photo databases from photographers. That may sound like a lot, but a single photo from the same photographer could cost that much.


When you break the numbers down, it’s a steal of a deal. This option is great for business owners wanting an exclusive look to their photos. Not everyone will have access to a constantly updating library or a star-studded line of professional designers and photographers.


Here are some of my favorite stock subscription sites and some of the collections I recommend:


If you aren’t convinced on these options, sign up or subscribe to their email list! Often, doing so gets you downloads of free stock photos to get a taste of what they offer. Use those free photos to your advantage without paying a cent!




The Bottom Line

The essential part of understanding copyright is simply to give credit where credit is due. Whether it be paid subscription through a website or membership, citing the other by name, or taking your own photos, make sure the creator is getting credit for their work. Amazing photos draw your audience like a magnet to your business or brand and -- as cliché as it sounds -- can really be worth a thousand words.


Resources I Recommend


If you'd like a personal touch for your photos, contact me about working together! You can also view my food photography portfolio to see the work I've done for brands, dietitians, recipes, and more.


So, you want to create a blog, brand, or business that stands out?

Here are the top resources I recommend for up-leveling your food photos, nutrition business, or blog:

View all my affiliates and recommended brands by clicking here.



References


Sage K. Guide to Copyright and Licensing for Food Photographers. Barleyandsage.com. Published February 15, 2021.