Can You Use Candid Photos on Your Website?

One of the questions that often comes up as we gather information and images for a website is this: can you use random snaps you have hanging around for your website?

web photos

Here are the advantages to doing so, or at least the reasons people often want to do so:

  • They’re free. We send photographers in sometimes, and get good shots that work just right for what we have in mind. But if you have a bunch of pictures on the computer, you can save money if you use them.
  • They’re handy. Not only can you save money, but you can also save time. We’re about to launch a site that had only one delay, for pictures. It took several weeks to get past that difficulty, and that isn’t unusual.
  • You like them. Often, clients have snaps they really like. The photo brings up positive emotions for them, or it’s beautiful. Granted, sometimes the positive emotions are based on happy memories, not on the quality of the picture, but sometimes they’re just right.

And here’s how you can do it:

  • Make sure they belong to you. Your family photo taken by the local studio may not belong to you, in the sense that you don’t have a legal right to use it on your website. Make sure before you use a photo that you have the rights to do so.
  • Get permission — and ideally, a model’s release — from every recognizable person in the photo. A signature is the best thing, but we usually feel okay with just asking permission, as long as the people in the photo are adults. We generally use stock photos of children, if we want clear faces.
  • Choose someone unrecognizable. That distant shot of happy tourists playing in the ocean? The shot at the top of this posts, showing anonymous backs? The artfully blurred image of a kissing couple? I think those are okay.
  • If you’re not sure, stick with objects or landscapes. It’s fine to use a picture that you took of an object or of scenery.

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