Getty Images Thinks Giving Away Free Photos Will Make Them Tons of Money

Getty Images Scratch

If you’re a blogger, you know the value of putting an eye-catching image at the top of every post. Wait, let me rephrase that: Are you a blogger who doesn’t put an image at the top of every post? Stop it. Stop being so boring. The internet hates you. Now that Getty is giving millions of images away for free, you have no excuse to do that. Particularly not when they’re being this liberal with their terms of use, according to GeekWire (emphasis mine):

“[...]f the use promotes a company, product or service, the users will need to purchase a license. If not, they can use the embedded content so long as they are happy to use it in the embed frame and functionality.

The presence of ads on a site doesn’t automatically make use of an embedded image on that site a commercial use. Think about sites like or any online newspapers or magazines which support editorial content with site ads. The key attribute in classifying use as commercial is whether the image is used to promote a business, goods or services, or to advertise something. If not, it is a non-commercial use. Likewise, corporate blogs would be treated as editorial/non-commercial unless the image is directly being used to sell or promote their products or services.” And if you were already using images, no matter how you were getting them before, this development is huge. But, since Getty has some pretty rigid rules for this new policy, I will also talk about some other methods below that will also let you score free photos legally.

The average blog reader really won’t notice or care that you’re getting your images via an embedded iframe that includes a link, and large Getty Images logo. They’ll just see whatever awesome picture you embedded on your page.

Does all this talk of “embedding” and “iframes” scare you? I’ll help you, grandpa!

You can’t use every single Getty image, but trust me, there are enough to go around. Go to Getty’s “Creative Frontdoor” and search for embed images. If there’s any ambiguity about whether you can use that one, just look for the wingding that looks like .html code, click that to bring up a popup that will feature the embed script. Change the size if you care about that sort of thing.

Now open up your CMS (the backend of wordpress, for instance). Paste the resulting code not in the WYSIWYG editor that looks like a word processor, but the .html editor that looks like you’re hacking into the mainframe. Once pasted, you’ll be able to see the iframe in your WYSIWYG editor, and you can futz with the positioning.

You’re done.

Why is this better than the old way?

Wow. Has it really been 15 years since the last time I painstakingly edited the “Corbis” logo out of a stock photo I didn’t want to pay for? Time flies.

Someone very cool and smart showed me some good tricks for finding free photos quickly, and I don’t want to give away his method. I will tell you that it involves searching only for creative commons photos, and among those, only the ones licensed for commercial use.

For our example, let’s go back to a few months ago when Prism was hacking German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone. News coverage needed to include photos of Angela Merkel using her phone, which was just specific enough to be really hard, but just broad enough that news photographers with hard drives full of photos of Angela Merkel could dig up the ones tagged with “phone,” and name their prices. Now they’re rich, and are relaxing in the French Riviera (I assume that’s how the photography business works).

Meanwhile, hard-up freelancers like me had to turn to the old methods, settling for stock photos provided for free with open commercial licenses that made Merkel look like a zombie, and didn’t include a phone:

Via Flickr user eppofficial

Or, we could grab screen captures from news videos, credit the source, and figure that if anyone asks, we’ll argue fair use and get away with it. Still, those included logos, and looked pretty janky:

via euronews (in English)

Getty’s new policy opens the internet up to their library of appropriate, useful photos that feature the exact thing you need to illustrate. Tada!

Bonus: They don’t make your eyes hate you. Double Bonus: They don’t require bloggers to spend time coming up with those little bits of annoying text below photos that we in the internet business call “attribution.”

What will this do to the “look” of the internet?

If you were writing a blog, and you could choose between buying this bargain basement Getty image to illustrate “meeting”:

Strictly a thumbnail belonging to iStock (Owned by Getty)

And this one for free:

Which would you choose?

With any luck, the internet will start looking less horrible thanks to Getty’s forward-thinking decision. And maybe soon we’ll start seeing a lot less of “The Shutterstock Lady.”

Strictly a thumbnail belonging to Shutterstock.

Mike Pearl is a news contributor for VICEGristDeathandtaxesmag and others. He takes public transportation and the vegetarian option when possible.


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