Many small businesses overlook the importance of promotional imagery. Compared with text, images are far harder to come up with. Graphic designers too often hear the phrase “I’ll leave that up to you” when they request images to use in an advertisement for a business. The result can be a hastily-chosen, inappropriate image that does more harm than good to your brand.
It doesn’t make sense, after all the work you did to develop your business, to leave this crucial part of the plan to someone who is not connected to your business. The fact is that many people are confused over images, including what they can use for free from the internet and the standards (size, format) that are required for web or print advertisements. Let’s take a look at how you can source decent images for your business that truly reflect your vision.
How to (legally) use images from the internet for your business
You can assume that any image on the internet is protected by copyright. In Australia it doesn’t even have to have a watermark on it or the © symbol. Someone created that image and you have to get their permission to use it for free, or negotiate a fee for its use. The internet contains broadly three types of image – private images on social media, stock images for which you pay a fee, and a range of great images to use for free as long as you follow certain rules. Let’s look at these first.
Creative Commons – wonderful images for free
Creative Commons is a copyright regulatory system whereby amateur and professional photographers may allow you to use their images for advertising purposes without payment. Photographers upload their images to sites such as Flickr or Pixabay and either allow their images to be used by commercial entities (such as a small business) or not. A search on Pixabay for ‘flowers’ returned 45,468 images, most of which were marked ‘free for commercial use’. This means you can go ahead and use them to advertise your business without the risk of infringing copyright. But make sure that the image is marked for commercial use, as some photographers do not want their work used for promotion of any kind.
Stock imagery and how to get it
You may be familiar with those high quality images using professional models that you see on websites and in advertising. The production values are extremely high, and that’s because they come from companies that specialise in selling ‘stock’ images, as these are called. These companies include iStock, 123RF and Getty Images and their images are not free. You pay ‘on demand’ or subscribe monthly or annually with quotas on how many images you can download daily.
Using your own imagery
Digital cameras are now of such high quality that you can take your own images and be confident that they will be of a good enough standard. But be careful about the image’s file size. Images you see on websites have been downsized and are smaller than the camera’s original image. That’s because screen/web images need less information than printed images. They look good on screen, but will look pixellated and distorted if printed. The extra information needed to print an image on a magazine page or poster increases its file size. So select your camera’s largest file size and save images as a TIFF if you want to use them for print. If you don’t have the TIFF option, a JPG is fine – just select the largest size. Images for print use are described as ‘hi-res’ by media professionals.
Sending an image over the internet
Email is the most convenient way to send images, but some hi-res images are enormous and you may find your email’s attachment limitations prevent you from sending and receiving them. The problem of how to email large files can be solved with a solution that also allows you to fax your images if needed. Using a cloud-based fax number you can turn you computer into a fax machine. The eFax system works by attaching documents to an email then addressing it to a fax number plus @efaxsend.com. It’s received at the other end just like a regular fax. But the other advantage is that you can email large files up to 1GB, bypassing your email provider’s regular limit. Perfect for sending large files to designers and advertising companies.
If you use an image from the internet without respecting copyright, you could end up with costly reparations to the photographer or even a court case. Instead, explore photo sites that have Creative Commons clearances, use a professional stock image service or take your own images to enhance your business’s visual appeal in your marketing materials.