10 Ways to Add Copyright-Usable Visuals to Bling Your Blog

Good visuals are essential to the success of your blog. According to research from Brain Rules: We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%. 

It is very important to understand basic copyright rules for image and media use. I am not a copyright lawyer by any means, so I can’t give anyone official legal advice on copyright issues, but I have learned some of the basic rules and some good ways to avoid copyright issues. Most importantly, here is the Golden Rule of using visuals and other media on your blog or website: If you don’t know if it’s copyright usable, don’t use it. Always ask for permission from the source and if you can’t, again, don’t use it. 

Legal Zoom has some helpful information for bloggers about copyright.

The good news is that today, with the Creative Commons (CC) movement, finding good images and other quality media freely shared by content creators has never been easier. The CC0 (that’s a zero) copyright license means “No Rights Reserved.” There are also many free or affordable apps available to help you create your own graphics and illustrations. So let’s get to it! Here are 10 ways you can add visual appeal to your blog:

1. Take your own photos

You don’t need a special camera or equipment, and your photos don’t need to be artistic. They just need to illustrate the words or points in your post and be of decent quality. You can also find fun frames options in Canva or options for creating a gallery of images right in your blogging app.

While it may be common practice for bloggers and feature writers to use product shots with a link to purchase when recommending products, unless you are an official affiliate of the brand or a online retailer like Amazon, you may be subjecting yourself or your blog to an infringement claim by using a product image. It’s best to take your own photos of products because crediting/linking is not a substitute for permission.

You can also see if a brand you’re writing about has downloadable assets, which I cover in #3 below.

2. Pay, bribe, or barter with a photographer friend

If a friend snaps your pictures, give them/her/him credit in the caption. Photo by _________. This is especially important to do if your friend is budding-professional or semi-professional photographer.

3. Know the best websites for free and royalty-free images

There are many excellent websites in addition to the old standards like Wikimedia Commons and Flickr that have royalty-free images under the Creative Commons license. Unsplash, Pexles and Pixabay are very popular and excellent sources of copyright usable images. Shopify has a list of 40 sites that offer free or some free images.

But just because an image is freely available doesn’t mean you can post it without restriction. You still have to check the license of each photo to make sure you’re following the attribution requirements. Always check the CC0 license before using any image. You should also create a free account when that’s required so you can download the image rather than just saving it. You will get much better photo quality, the attribution (if required) may be in the photo for you and you will be supporting the site by joining.

4. Download Brand Assets Directly from Brand Websites

Brands want you writing about and publicizing their brand and products. This is why most major brands, like Starbucks, have “downloadable assets,” which will usually include a logo and product shots, for the media to use for editorial purposes. You can usually find these on their press and media pages.

5. Know How to Use Google Images  —  the Legit Way 

Of course, our first stop when “shopping” for photos is often Google images. This is a great resource, but you have to make sure you’re using a legit image. Here is how. When you’re on Google images, go to “Tools” and then “Usage Rights.” Search for Non-Commercial Use. You will often be directed to one of the sites listed on the Shopify article above or Wikimedia Commons.

Use legit Images but avoid super generic images (the business world is famous for these.) You are better off using an amusing gif than a photo that screams “stock!” Although there are some good photos in the WordPress photo library and other blogging platforms, they are pretty generic.

6. Create your own illustrations and infographics

You can create simple but engaging visuals using a free design app like Canva, or even easier-to-use Pablo, where you can take images and add text to them to create quotes or to add informative or fun captions to otherwise generic images. You can also create infographics or charts, which can be helpful for presenting data to B2B and B2C audiences. Here is Mala Deep’s article that presents Five Free Data Visualization Tools for Beginners.

Canva has simple and free infographic templates and Venngage has free options too. You can also use PowerPoint and Google Slides to create infographics. I made the infographic above using Canva Pro.

7. Use memes and gifs

Don’t go overboard but memes are a fun way to add visuals.  GIPHY is good source for gifs and they’re easy to embed.

8. Embed social media content

Most social media sites provide embed code so you can recreate and link to social media content directly on your blog. Unless a user turns off the embed, you can copy the code for a YouTube, TikTok or Reel or capture an Instagram post and post it to your blog. This is copyright usable and you don’t need to attribute it because it’s clear where it’s from and there’s a link. The downside is that if a user deletes a video or post, it will also disappear from your site.  

Content-Managed Platforms like WordPress make it easy to embed content using a link. Others require you to copy the embed code and paste it in, but it’s very easy. Here is a helpful post from Hubspot: The Ultimate Guide to Embedding Content on Your Website.

9. Use screenshots, but only in limited situations and with caution

Screenshots that you create from your own screen to demonstrate the use of software or to provide instruction, like the one above to show you how to search Google images and the one below to show you brand assets, are generally fine to use. But you cannot simply screenshot copyrighted images from websites or social media and reuse them. The same goes for a video game, TV show or movie scene screenshot; they are not legit usable simply as screenshot, though you do see them on many sites. However, if you screenshot a video game scene that you did something original with, like you built a certain castle or hit a score, that likely falls under fair use. If you want a movie clip, embedding the video from YouTube is best for copyright purposes.

For social media, taking and using screenshots is a gray area. Screenshotting a tweet or post may be considered fair use, especially if the intent is to use it for editorial commentary. But the trouble with fair use is that you might need to demonstrate it in court, and there are no fixed rules, so it’s open to interpretation. A screen capture of a whole tweet, with a link back to the source, is unlikely to cause you any problems, but embedding as discussed above is the better option. If you are afraid someone might delete the tweet (because it goes viral for the wrong reasons) screenshotting it will retain it, but if the user’s intent is to delete it, technically you shouldn’t be using it; however, for journalistic and editorial purposes, this would probably not be an issue. (But you never know! Again, I can’t give anyone legal advice.)

10. Use media covers

If you are writing a post featuring or discussing media like your favorite book of all time, Lincoln in the Bardo, and/or albums or video games, using the covers are all considered fair to use when discussing, reviewing or recommending them. For movies, the official movie poster or DVD cover would generally be considered usable.

I hope these 10 ideas for visuals help you bling your blog without violating copyright law. Again, my best advice is, don’t use unless you’re sure it’s legit or you have permission. Let me know if you have any questions or comments!


updated 4/10/2023

8 responses to “10 Ways to Add Copyright-Usable Visuals to Bling Your Blog”

  1. Amazing blog! Found it extremely helpful  ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Greetings Susan,
    This is an excellent refresher for me, with links to new resources.
    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Terri. Hope you’re doing well! I am glad the tips/resources are helpful. Stay tuned for more!


  3. James Pignataro Avatar
    James Pignataro

    Amazing post — I’d like to ask though, is it still considered copyright if another blog, which used a Creative Commons picture in a post, you chose to copy it directly from them for the purposes of using it in your own blog or content?


    1. Hi James — I know the quick rip is tempting! BUT, the best and most legit practice is to find the image yourself and download it directly from the source for three reasons. First, the quality will be better. Second, you should create accounts to the sites you’re using. These sites need and want actual subscribers/followers/members to keep their business functioning. Third, what if the person you’re taking it from didn’t use the proper attribution? You only know the copyright is legit when your read the CC license yourself! I hope this helps. Thanks for reading!


  4. Great Blog! I’ve never heard of Unsplash before but it’s super helpful!


    1. Unsplash is one of my favorite sites for CC0 images. Let me know if you find another good site!


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About Me

Hi, I’m Susan, and yes, I really am a college professor who teaches blogging, professional writing, social media, PR and all things communication to undergraduate and graduate students in Philadelphia. Welcome to my blog!

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