Photos From Getty Images Are Free- Think Again

Don’t celebrate too soon.

Getty Images just announced that non-commercial users can now have access to millions of photos for free through use of their new embedding process. Check it out. The photo for this post has been embedded and I didn’t pay to use it. The photographer, Kristian Sekulic, created and owns the copyright to this photo. She has contracted with Getty to assist in the sale of this work and didn’t earn a dime when I used it for this post.

I get it. Many of us bloggers are small fish, and have limited budgets. It’s difficult to pay for photos. So, use of free photos without the concern of getting sued sounds fantastic. But, the adage “if something is too good to be true, it probably is” applies here.

Read through this section of the current Getty terms of service:

“Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.”

I’m not an attorney, but what it sounds like to me is that one of these days, I can reasonably expect any of these embedded photos to contain advertising for products that I may, or may not, be interested in supporting. My post may be about a very painful family moment and the ad may be for a weight loss company. Or the photographer who owns the photo has decided to no longer do business with Getty and the space is now blank.

By using the embedded photo, I’ve now given Getty the right and ability to change the content in the photo area, and permission to track data associated with the photo and my blog. I’m not sure that I care to have Getty earn money by selling space on my blog for their financial benefit in exchange for using “free” photos or illustrations.

I also believe that artists, photographers, illustrators and yes, blog writers, should be able to control usage of their work and be fairly compensated. If Getty begins selling ads associated with the use of these “marketing” photos, will the copyright owners get paid? Maybe, but I don’t know.

So Getty is giving away images for free? I don’t think so. Is it worth it? Only you can decide.

Update: Here are a few links to some thought provoking posts.

Getty Images Not Quite Free to Use
Free Images From Getty-Why it Matters
Getty Images Blows the Web’s Mind by Setting 35 Million Photos For Free (with conditions of course)


Hi Jennifer, I don’t have a long comment. But, I did read this. Twice. I think this is an area of blogging that folks will need to pay more and more attention to in the future. Companies like Getty and others are one’s that bloggers will have to give pause for thought on in their decisions to use or not use. So much for not having a long comment lol 🙂


I agree with your concerns, Jennifer. There are always strings attached to embedded photos and this one has a lot of holes.


It’s a difficult situation, Mike. I’m a photographer and I expect to be paid for my work, just like I don’t want my writing stolen and posted on other sites. I do my best to pay for the photos on my blog. Does it get expensive? Yes, it can. I’m sure we can find photos that will cost us $3-$4 each, but if we are writing daily, that’s about $100 a month, unless I supplement with photos I take myself. Let’s face it, just like many of us, Getty’s goal is to make money and if, in that process, some photographers lose out, it’s just the price of business. So, at least for now, this is the only “free photo” that will appear on my blog and I can go back every now and then to see what the impact is of that decision.


Getty has made the offer, Dawn, and I respect everyone’s right to decide whether or not to take them up on it. I hope they make the time to know what they are signing up for before they embed the first photo.


As another photographer I share your dislike of Getty’s new program. I’ve sold stock photography for about 35 years. The early years were back in the film days (i.e. no internet) so it was difficult but not impossible for anyone to steal images. It was also much more difficult to sell images – back then I made more money on assignment than I did from stock. Suddenly we got computers and there were online agencies to sell our images. Wow, we diligently scanned our slides and negatives – fixed them up with primitive Photoshop or Picture Publisher, burned them to a CD and mailed them off to the agency. I actually made a good amount of sales and $$ during this short time period. Then came digital cameras and digital uploading and it became so easy everyone became a photographer.
Now, any picture anywhere on the internet is free game for those people who choose to steal them. Most will just copy the picture right from their screen and save it on their computer to repost as their own. I don’t have an answer to the problem and I still upload to my agency (not Getty) but sales and prices are miniscule. I still do it because I enjoy photography not no longer expect to even come close to covering costs.
Sorry I crashed your blog with my vent… but I think we share the same feelings about the issue.


Thanks for the your insight, Sue. I know you have been a photographer for a long time and have some truly amazing work. I’m not sure what the answer is or if the ability to get paid what I would consider to be a reasonable fee for our photography, without doing photo shoots for weddings, family portraits or working with galleries, is even possible anymore. Some of my friends are incredibly talented photographers who work at it full-time and I’m sure they will survive based on their skills and persistence. I think the rest of us won’t be earning much anymore.


This is just more reason to continue using only my photos and occasionally my husband’s. These sneaky tactics are just awful to me. Why would any sane photographer and/or blogger want to be associated with this? Crazy. Totally crazy.

Carol Cassara

Once I found out people I knew were being sued, I simply snap photos everywhere I go or go to Bing’s “free to use” tab and find something there. It just gets too complicated with these image houses!


It does, Carol. The photographers have a right to be paid for their work. I can’t blame them for trying to protect it. At the same time, photos and illustrations can be expensive. So making sure that the images you use are in fact really free is the best way to go and then take your own photos or only buy an occasional photo for your most important posts, makes a lot of sense.


This is a really great rundown of all the things that are bad about the Getty decision. I think I will make my life easy, and avoid pictures that will possibly disappear, ads that I don’t want on my site, and questions about whether or not my blog is “for profit” or “commercial” in the future by staying far, far away from these embedded images. Even though some of them are really pretty and call out to me loudly to be used….for free-ish.


Great post Jennifer. It is a sad day for Getty indeed. This is the worst move they could have possibly ever made in my opinion. The contributors they stand to lose is massive and if/when these images are monetized I can’t see a lot of blog owners continuing to use these ‘free’ images.

I have been using SnapMarket for buying and selling my photos, for those who are interested check out – They pay great commissions and all of their media starts at just $1

Thanks for the great post Jennifer 🙂


I’m with you, Tracie. I’ll continue to buy the photos I use or to take them myself. If I purchase photos in iStockphoto and stay with the cheaper collections, I can keep my budget under control. There are a lot of agencies out there that are possible options. Many of the photos and illustrations available on Getty Images and iStockphoto are beautiful.


As long as people are clear what the costs are, Dora, they can make their own decisions. I think we are going to see a lot of people, especially bloggers who are going to be very angry when the ads go up. But, Getty has clearly stated in the terms and conditions what they are planning to do. So, even though it will be annoying, it won’t be Getty’s fault.


Thanks for the suggestion, John. I buy and sell at iStock which is in the Getty family, and just a little over 100 images at Getty Images. At some point, when artists no longer make a reasonable amount of money from agencies, they will pull their work and leave. Getty did not include some of the major image providers in this current deal, so even if the smaller artists cancel their accounts, it should not have much of an impact. I’ll check out SnapMarket. I also like Stocksy, although I’m not sure that my photography fits with their style.

Cathy Chester

I know Carol Cassara said it, but I agree that I know someone who was sued for a lot of money for using one image. It’s simply not worth the worry! I snap away with my phone/camera or get permission from Flickr.

Great post, Jennifer. I’m so glad you put this out there.


Thanks for your feedback, Cathy. It’s important that everyone knows what they are signing up for when they use these photos. Otherwise, they may be in for a nasty surprise.

JD @ Honest Mom

Great post. It’s so important to think about all these points. I, for one, won’t be using Getty’s “free” images because I like to alter images in PicMonkey and add headlines to them. My go-to for free images is You just need to credit the image when you use it. Love it!

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