Sourcing Images from Google Image Search

Why can’t you just use that image from Google image search?

Sometimes in the professional world, people in the smartest and even most high-level professions will have not encountered the reasons why they can’t just use any old image they found on Google in commercial ads or collateral. Don’t get frustrated, they just haven’t had to think about it before. But it usually clicks when you explain that videos and photos have to be properly licensed as the creators need to be compensated for their work.

  • There’s images you commission directly with a photographer and they will grant usage rights to through an agreement and fees.
  • There’s editorial use only images that can be purchased but only for articles and not for commercial uses.
  • Rights-managed stock and can only be used for certain mediums or at different rates for different uses, lengths of time, impressions, etc.
  • Royalty free images can be used in a bit more of an unlimited way, for an upfront fee.

In any case, you don’t know the copyright status of that image your client found on Google images, so you need to find something else that fits their timeline, budget, and message.

But it gets really hard when they’ve found that perfect photo in Google, and now you need to either re-create or find an alternative that you can license. And sometimes the project requirements are just a little too specific for stock photo sites.

“I need a female police officer with a police dog at a crime scene! Stat!”

Easy right? Ehhh…Not exactly. That’s not an easy scenario for a royalty free site photographer to stage, especially at that level of detail. They have to get a location permit, they have to borrow some police cars somehow, they have to obtain some police uniforms and other gear such as weapons. And they just happen to have had to decided to use a female model, and a K-9 police dog.

Well, I actually had this request, so I had to build this image. Finding an active crime scene with a dog was a bit challenging, but I eventually did find a couple cops with a K-9, except it was with two male cops, and I needed a female…and the setting was not an active crime scene…

Two swat team members walking in a shopping center with a K-9 dog
Stock Image Sample Courtesy of Shutterstock

So I had to find an image to superimpose them into, this one was pretty cool:

Photo of a dark crime scene at night with red police lights in the distance
Stock Image Sample Courtesy of Shutterstock

I still needed one of the cops to be female. I only really needed to swap out one of my K-9 guys with her head.

Studio image of a female police officer
Stock Image Sample Courtesy of Shutterstock

Those SWAT K9 uniforms are pretty gender neutral, so it worked out.

Image of female police officer superimposed over first image

But the final finishing touch is to color correct, brightness/contrast correct, and other tweaks to get them to really fit into that scene.

Version of image that is fully color corrected

Finding a needle in a haystack…

At a certain point in their career, most designers will have spent hours scrolling through pages and pages of terrible stock images, looking for that diamond in the rough that captures all the elements of their assignment. But, sometimes, you just have to fake it.

Often times, I’ll propose that we shouldn’t even use stock photos at all. But not all brands will support line art & hand drawn illustration, or they simply won’t have the budget or time to commission a photo shoot. So that’s when you just have to draw on the artist side of your job and build something out of stock photos, so that you’re creating a unique image. One of many examples I’ve used is an image constructed to mimic double exposure photography. The beauty of this approach is you can combine a lot of elements and meanings into a single image.

Say you want to show that a character in your story is from San Francisco.

And the quick and easy Photoshopped result:

(Free stock photos for demonstration courtesy of Pexels)

Why do I need a unique image?

For one thing, your competitor might come across everyone’s feed using the same stock image…how embarrassing. By purchasing a royalty free license at any of the stock sites, you’re not getting any exclusivity to it, and it can be used by basically anyone. By having a unique image created, you’re also creating a really unique look that can be done in a way so it is all yours. Just with a little help from our friends at stock sites. Rather than leaning on the stock tools, we use them as building blocks to support the full picture.

Some of my favorite paid stock sites are Shutterstock, iStock, and Corbis. These are some inexpensive sites that are royalty-free, but there is some editorial-only content you have to be careful of, as they can’t be used commercially. The rights managed content at sites like Getty Images can be quite a bit more expensive and the licensing can be tricky. It’s all based on your usage and generally has a shelf life.

So enjoy your image search, at least you’ll get a few laughs in the process….

(Stock Image courtesy of Pexels)