Do you work in a business that needs marketing images? Do you have a project to do for college, university, school or even work?

If so the majority will probably have utilised google image search to find a suitable photo to use at some point. There is no denying it, almost everyone has, but the thing is do you realise by doing so you are most likely breaking copyright law even if you credit the photographer?

Most people won’t know it’s a problem especially as a lot of schools actively encourage it. Under U.K. Law there is a non commercial research and private study exemption but it is limited. Essentially if for a school project not going beyond the walls of the classroom it is not an issue for that instance. The problem however and the key issue is that thousands of students are being taught they can use google images with no further implications as they didn’t realise previously they were potentially covered by an exemption which doesn’t stretch beyond the classroom.

With the digital age the theft and illegal reproduction of images has spiralled. The lack of correct education is without doubt the main cause as most people are ignorant of the reality of their actions.

Hopefully this article will help with the educational cause, as even if only a couple people learn about copyright they in turn might tell a few people who may tell a few more.

So using images without permission is bad, it’s akin to walking into the corner shop and taking a sandwich or asking a mechanic to service your car for free or more notably taking a copy of a book from a small bookshop. It doesn’t matter the author has sold several other copies the author and the small bookshop owner will lose out! You just wouldn’t do those things so why steal a photo? Video piracy is similar but a key difference would be instead of the multi million (billion!) pound business you are instead most likely denying a sole trader some very hard earned pennies that could make a huge difference to their income. Video piracy is equally unacceptable but I know many reason it to be ‘ok’ because the film studios make millions.

Taking images from other sources such as Facebook, other social media or even directly from a photographer’s website is also illegal without asking permission first.

So how do you go about finding stock images especially when on a limited or non existent budget? Well it is possible to find images and stay within the law as long as you are a bit flexible with the image you need.

Free stock sites should be treated with caution as they often contain lots of stolen images themselves but there are a few good ones about. You need to look for sites that talk about Creative Commons licenses. Creative Commons was set up to create industry recognised standards across the globe for image use. There are different levels to CC licences ranging from non commercial, all the way to full use including manipulation, not requiring a credit which is called CC0. has been recommended to me as a prime good example. It uses Shutterstock and other adverts to generate income to run the site, and has strict rules on image quality and origin. For equestrian use the range is hard to search as the main keyword is simply ‘horse’ but there is a decent enough range of images.

Flickr which is a huge image search engine in itself has an advanced search functionality that allows you to search images via Creative Commons and it’s specific levels

Shutterstock as mentioned previously is one of the largest stock image websites in the world with over 152 million images in its library. Pricing varies on how many images you need and the required license but the cheapest is £29 total for 5 on demand standard licence images. An enhanced licence is £285 for 5 images in comparison. There are more equestrian images but if you are after something quite specific you may be challenged finding the right image as posed images often look robotic or hilariously unnatural.

Pferd Images is a fledging equestrian stock image website made for equestrian companies by equestriennes, and I’m proud to be involved. Photos start at just £20 each for social media use or £35 for a full licence. Photos cover all areas from at home to international events, and if what you want is not already available the team will look to create the image you want.

A perhaps obvious thing to do though is to ask the photographer. Some may be happy with just a credit, others will request a fee but this may well be less than you thought depending on the circumstances and so it’s always best to explain your intended usage. Most will have separate license options for social media use or full commercial use for adverts and marketing materials.

Last but not least you can actually hire a photographer to create your desired image. The vast majority will again want payment but this will vary depending on the required image(s), time scales and similar. You may well find it is cheaper to hire a photographer for the day to produce a number of images then to pay for licences of several separate images for different sources.

As a cheeky final remark if you are on a strict budget but need original images be honest as such but perhaps offer a trade of services. Not every photographer will but if you have a product or service that can be traded and of which the photographer is in need it can be a win win situation.

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