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  • Writer's pictureCarma Levene

Photography & Copyright

This is going to be a slight change of pace from our regular content about marketing news and campaigns but it's SUPER important.

Someone in our The Marketer community contacted me privately to get some feedback on an issue they are having with some stolen content, and the more I thought about it the more I wanted to help set the record straight about posting images that aren't yours.

And this isn't an attack on people who didn't know, you aren't born knowing everything about marketing, social media and copyright (you don't even die knowing everything). But you also don't learn tax law in school and you betcha bottom dollar you've made it your business to learn what you need to know about that.

Also, not knowing isn't a defence from breaking the law - which is pretty clear when it comes to nabbing images from the internet. In short, don't do it. In long, keep reading.

But first, I'm not a lawyer. I'm not a creative. I'm covering this topic at my own peril because it's important as a social media marketer (or any marketing discipline) to understand at LEAST the basics of copyright. If you have actual experience or knowledge in this area and you'd like to correct me or add anything, feel free to get in touch.

Creators & Photographers

We all know that successful social media marketing needs to be fuelled by creative. Stopping the scroll takes beautiful, eye-catching and up to date photography and video (I haven't forgotten you video folks) and that sourcing this creative can be time consuming, expensive and frustrating.

Creatives make content we desire to engage with. Many of them do it out of passion, and have spend countless hours learning to do this, scoping shoot locations, editing etc. and countless dollars on equipment and software. Many creatives sell their prints or photography/videography services to make a living, or to make some money to offset their costs.

Who pays them? brands and businesses. You pay for your headshot photos (or at least you should - the selfies don't cut it kids), your unique product shots etc. but where it gets confusing for people is taking images you find online. For example, if you want to showcase that your business operates in Perth, you could use a photo of the Crawley Boat Shed. But you can't just take a photo from Instagram and put it on your website or social media channels.

Again - those aren't yours to take and use. Louder for those in the back.

If you do this, how can the creatives keep creating? Why do you think you're entitled to use people's work without paying them?


Creative is automatically subject to copyright – which protects the creator from having it used without their permission. Seems pretty fair, right?

If you need a fact sheet on copyright from the ACC, head over here now.

So when can you use curated creative?

Seek Permission

See an image you want to use? Ask. The. Creator. If it's on Instagram leave a comment, DM them or send an email and ask if you can re-post their photo WITH CREDIT.

What's credit? You tagging them, something like this:

The photographer, in this case Anton Wilk has interacted in the comments of this post, and was happy to have his work shared with credit in the form of a tag to his Instagram profile.

Note: I asked his permission to include this post in the article.

Asking a photographer to use their content could mean you get a "no" answer. Respect that. You could also get a rate card/price in which they have established that image is worth to them. If you want to use that image, you need to pay that price.

Where else can I find images?

So you're still looking, that's cool! There's some places you can use images from.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a way the creator of the image can allow its use under certain conditions. These conditions are generally to do with attribution (declaring the creator of the image), modification (whether you use the image in its original form or alter it), and whether the use is commercial or non-commercial.

Just a quick note – your business social media channels should be considered commercial use.

There are loads of ways to find Creative Commons images:

  • Wikimedia

  • CC Search

  • Google Images – sorted to reflect “usage”  

Images found under Creative Commons will not always be of good quality and attribution may not always be the most desirable.

Public Domain

Some images fall into the Public Domain, meaning they have been released to be used by the creator, the copyright holder has died or copyright is unable to be established. This is often the case with historical photos.

All content curators have their favourite Public Domain sites to find these images such as Unsplash.

Stock Sites

Getty, Shutterstock etc. are resources to fin stock imagery that you can download for a fee.

Create Your Own

You can of course make or take your own creative. Then it belongs to you and you can do whatever you like with it.

It'll also tickle social media platform's algorithm bone, as they all love a bit of unique content.

Commission Some

Love a photographer's work? Get in touch and hire them. Simple. By paying them for the photo shoot and the subsequent images they belong to you.


A decent photographer will have a contract that covers exactly what is and isn't included in your costs.

If you need some suggestions of great local creators, feel free to email me on and I can recommend some depending on your requirements.

In Summary - Don't Steal

You can't legally take someone's work and post it. To be honest even the tagging on Instagram is a bit of a grey area but generally accepted practice after permission has been granted.

If you use someone's work they are entitled to send you an invoice for the cost of the image. And they will! Stay out of trouble and ask, pay or create your own work.


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