The Free and Legal Way to use Celebrity Photos on Your Blog
One of the most common questions I see from new bloggers is, “How can I get sports or celebrity photos on my blog for free?”
I don’t like to tackle legal topics on this blog since I am not a lawyer, and none of this is legal advice. However, there are several easy, free, and legal ways to get celebrity photos. And this is such a common request that I felt compelled to write about it.
To get celebrity images for your blog, you embed them from Getty Images, Twitter, Instagram, Giphy, or buy them from affordable stock photo sites.
How To Use Getty Images Embed Codes To Get Celebrity Photos
Getty Images is the world’s largest stock photo service. They’ve been selling their photos to large media companies since 1995. Each image typically sells for hundreds of dollars give or take.
In 2014, Getty Images realized that their photos were being pirated by small blogs at an astounding rate. And there wasn’t much they could do about it. (As we’ll discuss below it’s not very lucrative to sue poor people over copyright violations). To combat piracy, Getty decided to include an embed code with many of its images. The thinking is if small blogs have a legal way to use the images, they’ll stop pirating them.
Now if I want to use an image of Tom Brady on my blog I can. I head over Getty Images and type in “Tom Brady.” Then I click on a picture I like to see if it has an embed code. A lot of them will. If an embed code is there, copy the code, put it on your blog and voila! A free and legal picture of Tom Brady.
Use Instagram’s Embed Codes
Head on over to Instagram and log in. Find the account of the celebrity you want the photo of. Click the picture you like. In the upper right-hand corner, there will be three dots with options. One of those options will be to get the embed code. Put that embed code on your website and voila! A free and legal picture of Tom Brady on your blog.
Use Twitter’s Embed Codes
Head on over to Twitter. Then find the celebrities official twitter account. Find a tweet with an image or video that you want on your blog. In the upper-right hand corner, there will be an arrow you can click with an option to embed the tweet on your website. Copy the code, put it on your website, and voila! A free and legal video of Tom Brady on your website.
Time to run it back @RobGronkowski! pic.twitter.com/d4wmZLUV9n— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) April 22, 2020
Use Giphy Embed Codes
Head on over to Giphy and use their search function to find the gif you want. Click on the gif and they too will have an embed option that you can use. Boom! A gif of Tom Brady!
I must warn you that Giphy is a little bit trickier with the legalities of using their embed codes. Giphy is a gif search engine so the source of the gif and whether they’re cool with you using their gif becomes a lot harder to explain with 100% certainty.
Still, you should be safe here. If the content creator doesn’t like the gif being used they’ll likely contact Giphy to have it taken down vs contacting you as long as you’re using the embed option. DO NOT copy any of these images and paste them into your site.
Stock Photo Sites Are Also a Good Option
Stock photo sites that don’t offer an embed code aren’t going to be free. But, several stock photo sites provide photos at a MUCH cheaper rate than Getty Images.
Stock photo sites may also have advantages depending on what it is you’re trying to do. You’ll have to read their licenses, but they may allow you to edit photos or share to social media. They’ll allow you to save the image to your blog, so you don’t have to download from a 3rd party.
In certain instances, this could be a better option than embedding, and it doesn’t have to break the bank.
Affordable Celebrity Stock Photo Sites
Here is a list of celebrity stock photo sites. I’ve included the pricing information for each site’s pre-paid option. But definitely visit the site’s pricing pages. They each offer monthly plans that could reduce the cost per image significantly.
|Shutterstock||Pricing – $50 for 5 images ($10 per image).||If you don’t want to buy one of the annual plans, it’s a bit pricier than some of the other options. But, if you’re willing to pay $29/m, it’s got a lot of photos for a reasonable price.|
|BigStock||Pricing – $35 for 10 images ($3.50 per image)||Purchased by Shutterstock in 2009. Transparent pricing and decent options.|
|Deposit Photo||Pricing – $50 for 10 images ($5 per image)||Not quite as big of a selection as Shutterstock but a decent amount of photos and very affordable.|
|Dreamstime||Pricing – $15 for 11 credits ($1.40 per image)||Seems cheap, but prices can be deceiving. It’s 3 credits for an 800×500 small picture. So we’re still talking $5 per image or more for this option.|
Expensive Stock Photography Sites
I’m gearing this article towards bloggers on a budget. But, if you’ve got cash to burn and want the perfect picture, the following sites are also options.
|Getty Images||Pricing – $175 to download a small image.||We talked about Getty Images earlier. Huge selection. Free embed option. If you need more than that it’s going to cost you.|
|AP Images||Prices are unlisted.||The fact that the Associated Press doesn’t advertise its prices means it’s steep. But, they probably have photos that others don’t.|
|Alamy||Pricing – $50 per image||The pricing appears to be a flat $50 fee to buy an image for the web. Appears to be a decent selection of photos.|
Don’t Steal Images
It’s not legal to steal a car just because the keys are in the ignition. The same is true for posting celebrity images from the Internet.
Let’s get into some of the reasons why you shouldn’t copy these images and host them on your site.
Sure, it’s easy to save an image off Google Images, Twitter, or Giphy then upload it to WordPress. But, that’s still stealing even though it was easy. You’re clearly violating the owner’s copyright when you do that.
There’s a myth out there that you can give attribution to wherever you stole the image from and that it makes it “fair use.” I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t want to get into what is and isn’t fair use on this blog. But, you’ve minimally entered a gray area if you use a photo like this. If prosecuted, you’ll probably lose the case.
Will You Get Sued For Blatant Copyright Violations?
A blog with no money and no traffic “probably” won’t get sued for copyright violations. But, that’s only because litigating copyright violations is prohibitively expensive.
In most cases, the person who stole the photo is so broke that it’s not worth taking them to court. This is why image theft is rampant on the Internet, too few people are being sued over it to know it’s not OK.
Despite this, you should still avoid stealing images. Many lawsuit mills like Disney exist, if you ever borrowed a picture from them, you might one day regret it. Plus, as you make more and more money, you become a bigger and bigger target for lawsuits.
Luckily, with all the free embedding options and stock photo options available, it really doesn’t make sense to copy and paste images into your blog ever.
Do Embedded Images Have Legal Risks?
For a while, embedding images into your blog was a practice thought to have zero legal risks.
Embedding allows you to use the photo on your blog while keeping the creator in control of the image. Unlike with stolen images, the creator can get embedded images taken down instantly. All they have to do is log into the service you’re embedding from and remove the image.
However, in 2016, a man named Justin Goldman took a picture of Tom Brady and added it to his Snapchat story. The photo went viral and was shared over social media countless times. Time, Breitbart, Vox, The Boston Globe, and more decided to use Twitter embed codes to get the photo onto their websites free and legal.
Well, Justin Goldman sued all those major media companies and WON THE CASE. This freaked everybody out because the prevailing wisdom at the time was that you couldn’t be sued when embedding images. It was thought that Twitter or the user who uploaded the photo should be at fault for the copyright violation. Not you.
The lesson here is to make sure you’re embedding directly from the creator. Don’t embed from random Twitter user’s who are probably stealing the images themselves. This also becomes a concern when embedding from Giphy as it’s hard to say who the source of the gif is and if the content creator is cool with that GIF being shared online.
That said, Justin Goldman sued all the largest media companies he could find vs joetalksabouthiscat.com. You’re probably still unlikely to be sued even if you mess this up because you probably don’t have enough money available to make it worth it.
As of 2023, very few people or organizations have been sued over embedded images. But, you should know that it is theoretically possible and keep an eye out for these numbers potentially increasing in the future.
Celebrity Photos Are Editorial Use Only
All celebrity photos are going to be editorial use only.
What this means is you can’t use these photos to promote your products. So if you were selling mugs don’t put the celebrity photo on the mug. If you’re creating a Facebook Ads, don’t put the celebrity photo in the ad or on the product page. You can’t use these photos to sell or promote your merchandise.
Remember that celebrities are actual human-beings. Imagine if your neighbor snapped a photo of you as you were going to work. And then used your picture to sell herpes medication online. Not cool! You didn’t sign up for that!
The same is true of celebrities and whatever you’re peddling online. Unless the celebrity gives you explicit permission, you can’t use them to promote your wares.
Editorial use photos come with other restrictions as well. In most cases, you won’t be able to do major edits to the photo (no excessive cropping, resizing, retouching, etc.). There may also be restrictions on sharing on social media. And of course, you’re not allowed to use somebody’s image to defame them. Check the terms of wherever you acquired the photo for their restrictions.
How To Get Celebrity Videos For Your YouTube Channel?
I wrote an entire blog post on how to use celebrity videos on the YouTube platform.
Unfortunately, embedding isn’t an option on the YouTube platform. My personal recommendation is to use Shutterstock because it has the clearest license, best selection, best prices, and easiest UI for celebrity footage (or photos). If you’re going to use a stock site for celebrity video, it’s by far the best option.
The only other option is to try to claim fair use. While reaction channels are blatantly using copyrighted material (and still getting approved for Adsense if done well) it’s an option that I’m less comfortable with as a serious business owner. The idea that the the copyright holders could sue me or issue a copyright strike on my channel at any time would keep me up at night.
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