Getty Images goes 'free to use'

There are approximately six million bloggers in the world who have prayed on at least three separate occasions for Getty Images to go 'free to use'.

I've made that statistic up, but the significant thing here is, if anything, I probably underestimated it.

So, unsurprisingly, my timeline's been pretty full over the past hour or so with the news that Getty Images HAS gone free to use.

In fact, that's a slight exaggeration - Getty Images is now no more of a free stock photo library than YouTube is a DVD collection; they've just done the sensible thing to hang on to control of more of their content, and it looks like this:

Important things to recognise:
  • this is not, in any way, a 'free stock photo'
  • it IS an embedded iframe, which may cause security alerts and compatibility issues for some visitors
  • you cannot remove the attribution from the bottom of it (not legitimately, anyway)
  • Getty Images can deactivate this functionality or alter it at any time
That means if you use embedded Getty Images widely across your blog, you run the risk of a huge headache if, at some later date, this functionality is altered in a way that makes it unsuitable for inclusion on your pages.

Importantly, you are also expressly forbidden from using these images for commercial purposes; whether that extends as far as marketing blogs is not entirely clear, but it definitely (probably) rules out sales pages.

Plus points:
  • this is infinitely better than stealing Getty Images' content, either the watermarked previews on their site, or their images used under licence elsewhere
  • it gives you legitimate access to a genuinely vast selection of professional stock photos, free
  • it's really easy to do - just click the embed icon beneath a picture preview on the Getty Images site, and copy the code into your blog post
  • you don't host the image yourself, meaning no extra bandwidth usage on your website hosting account
(Speaking of bandwidth, Getty Images have some pretty odd ideas of how to represent such an abstract concept...)

Do we like 'free' Getty Images? I'm not sure yet, but personally I'd rather use an image I can host myself wherever possible.

You won't, for example, be able to set a Getty Image as your post's 'featured image' in WordPress, as you don't have the image file itself to use.

Likewise, if you use CSS to set images as backgrounds to divs or spans or other elements, you won't be able to do so with Getty Images - you're strictly limited to embedding them as iframes.

Given that you have to attribute the creator of the image (via the footer in the iframe, which you have no control over) you might be better off just using something from Flickr that requires attribution.

Or there's Morguefile, which requires no attribution at all.

Or Wikimedia Commons, which generally does not require intrusive attribution on your page.

Or Google Images, filtered by usage type.

In all of these cases you should be able to find images you can use directly for commercial purposes - even adapt and edit if necessary - and that's much better for many people than simply embedding what is little more than a watermark-free preview.

For more about how to find free stock images (genuinely free to use images, not just embed code like Getty's), visit my full post here.