It is often very time-consuming and expensive to gear up and head out on a photographic adventure, hoping you get what you seek from it! It is equally time-consuming and expensive searching for and commissioning a professional photographer to do the same, hoping they can produce the results sought after.
On-line stock photos are here and now, all you have to do is search through many libraries looking for what you seek, pay the relatively low fees and download the image file.
Cautions on their use!
If you are not the photographer or owner of the works and rights, there will be restrictions on it’s use, regardless of whether you purchased the image, or was offered it for free! Firstly you cannot claim an image as yours if you had no part in its’ design and creation. Photo competitions organisers will not look kindly on purchased entries, so forget about that idea.
Copyright laws prevent the unauthorised copying and distribution of works. Copyright is automatically assigned to the photographer, and is not transferred when you download free, or purchased photos. Incidentally, the photographer is not necessarily an individual, they may be a company!
You will find you are also not permitted to resell, or transfer licensing, or to use images to promote products or services if the image depicts a person that has not provided written permission and you cannot use the pictures or illustrations on print-on-demand products (clothing, mugs, calendars, etc).
If you intend copying and redistributing images that are not your property, you need permission from the copyright holder. This is an example of where reputable stock suppliers are invaluable, as you can approach them with such requests, but also raises another concern! Is the source of your download a legal representative of the photographer or copyright holder?
Nobody, not even the copyright holder can use the images in illegal, or defamatory ways. If it promotes products or services and depicts a person, that person must agree to it—a model release is required by those using images in this way. The easiest way to acquire a model release is to ensure a copy of one is available and supplied with the image from the image supplier.
A model release is a legal form that is used to grant permission to use a person’s likeness. Most free stock photo sites, especially those that allow user submitted photos, do not require model releases, but users of such stock images might, so be wary of your source if your intent is anything other than personal use!
Even if your intention for the images is not to promote any products or services, in some countries like the USA, there exists a bill of rights, that protect people’s right to privacy. Any time you want to use a person’s likeness (as in a photo or video), you must obtain that person’s written permission (called a Model Release). Australia does not have a bill of rights or anything equivalent, so a model release is not required with images shot in public places, except for promotion of products and services. Courtesy should prevail otherwise.
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