A good reason to NOT embed images in your blog post

Recently Getty Images announced that they were making a bazillion photos available for embedding in your blog posts and other web content. Many people misunderstood this to mean that Getty was opening up their catalogue for any kind of non-commercial use, but that is not the case. There are a lot of great discussions about the limitations of Getty’s free offering, but there is one point that really makes it a deal-killer for me:

You can embed only

Embedding means that the image is still hosted at Getty and your blog post just links to it. Your blog’s site is not storing a copy of the image at all.

Why this is a good idea

Embedding means that your audience can find the source.

It means that you’re not illegally taking a copy of the image and misrepresenting it as your own.

It makes attribution really easy, because it’s like auto-attribution.

Why this is not such a good idea

What if Getty’s site is unavailable?

What if they change the terms down the road?

What if they simply change the structure of the embed code, breaking your links to their images?

It’s fine in the short term, but there is a long-term maintenance problem. That’s okay for content that is “timely” and essentially expires; it’s not okay for content which we want to have persist.

Reliability is a good reason to not embed

If you can download an image, possibly modify it if the license allows, and upload it to your blog’s media library, you have a copy of it to use forever (or thereabouts). I like to search on Flickr by licence type for CC-BY images which give me wonderful freedom. It’s also how I share my own images, so help yourself.

Include attribution and links to the source, and you’ll be okay even if the distributor is later offline or revokes future licenses.

There is a nice-looking plugin called WP Inject if you’re using a self-hosted WordPress solution, or you can do something like this when uploading media to WordPress.com:

A screenshot showing how to attribute a Flickr image to me

Which will then appear like this:

An image showing a series of three laptops in a row. Only the nearest is partly in focus.

“Line of laptops” by Brandon Grasley via Flickr (CC BY)

Notice that the creator is properly attributed, the licence is listed (which is nice if not exactly necessary), and the image itself is a link to the photo on Flickr. That makes it easy to find, and I think that’s better than a gross-looking, unreliable embedded photo which might vanish without warning.

4 sites with reference photos for artists

Acrylic painting based on a photo I took. 16x20" canvas.

Acrylic painting based on a photo I took. 16×20″ canvas.

I’m learning to paint in acrylic. I have excellent brushes (these and these), wonderful paints, dozens of blank canvases, and not many ideas.

So I go outside and take some pictures, and a few of them seem to be worth painting. I’m not a great photographer, though… I’ve taken about ten thousand pictures in the last few years, and I’m pretty happy with a couple of hundred, maybe. You can see some of them at my Flickr page.

Okay, since that hasn’t given me everything I wanted, I turn to the Internet to find images that I could paint. And I immediately run into a snag: copyright.

I’m not opposed to practising my painting techniques on any old image I can find, but on the off chance I want to sell a painting (or give one away – much more common) I don’t want any legal entanglements. Plus, copyrighted images are copyrighted for a reason; I certainly don’t want to deny anyone the opportunity to monetize their work.

So Creative Commons stuff and Public Domain stuff are great.

I have four sources I typically use for my paintings (apart from my own photos). There are others, but many sites require that their images not be used digitally, which I understand but can’t live with.


This excellent photo sharing site has a good Creative Commons licence search/filter. I go to the CC-BY licence, generally; I find the “Share Alike” licences confusing (what if you combine images with different licences?) and the “Non-Commercial” licences don’t meet my needs. [On a side note, this is also a great backup service for your own photos.]

Smithsonian Art Museum

The Smithsonian has a nice collection of stuff. Most of it is copyrighted and not okay for my purposes, but I found some good paintings by Edward Mitchell Bannister that are in the public domain (he died in 1901).

WetCanvas Artist Reference Library

This is a community for artists. The interface is a little dated, but there is a large reference library for artists that can be helpful.

Morgue File

This is the best one. Really high quality images and a pretty liberal licence (just shy of public domain), and many have higher quality versions that you can license if you need them. Lots of great photography here. I’m currently working on a painting of this, and I’m planning to paint this, this, this and this. And yes, they do explain the creepy name.