Can you use images from google?

Website Design
Digital Marketing

Images play a vital role in eCommerce. 90% of customers say that a high-quality photo impacts their buying decision. Product images give your customer clear expectations of what they will get, and without them, your website will look unprofessional. But as a small business, how do you get high-quality product images like your competitors. Can you use images from Google?

Understanding Google Image Licenses

Especially when you are on a low budget, sourcing images from google seems like the easiest option. After all, there are billions of professional product images readily available. But if you decide to do this, you need to be very careful because using Google Images without the right permissions is a terrible idea that could lead to legal troubles for your business.

Not all licenses are the same on Google, but there are some advanced filters that you can use to use images on Google and remain copyright compliant.

How to filter images on Google by license type

The first step when using Google images for commercial purposes is to filter the results based on their ‘usage rights’. You can do this very easily in a couple of steps.

Step 1: Select the tools option underneath the Google search bar. 

Step 2: A new opinion menu will appear. From that menu, select ‘usage rights’.

Step 3:  A dropdown menu will appear with a list of licensing options, and you can select the license best suited to your needs.

Types of Licenses on Google Images

Licenses on Google images fall into two broad categories.

  1. Creative Commons Licenses
  2. Commercial & other licenses

Creative Commons License

Typically, images under the creative commons license are free to use, but not all Creative Commons licenses are the same. There are a set of rules for each CC license, and you’ll need to fully understand the following terms before you even think about using images on google.

Creative Commons Terms
  • Copy & Publish:  Every CC license allows you to copy and publish; this means that you can copy, distribute and display any image under this type of license. However, you must comply with the other rules to remain copyright compliant.
  • Attribution  Required: If attribution is required, you will need to link back to the source everywhere the image is displayed on your site and credit the original publisher. 
  • Commercial Use:  Because you intend to use images for commercial purposes, you need to ensure that the CC license allows for commercial use.
  • Modify & Adapt: If you want to edit/change the photo, for example, add your logo to the bottom of the image or change the background colour, you will need a license that allows for modification and adaption.
  • Change License:  You can change the license after modifying the image under certain Creative Commons Licenses. For example, you could change the license to attribution required; this would mean that anyone who uses your product image would have to link back to you as the source.

Creative Commons Licenses

There are six different Creative Commons Licenses, and we’ve compiled a table of the requirements for each. For more details, you can visit the Creative Commons website.

Liscense Copy & Publish Attribution Required Commercial Use Modify & Adapt Change License
Public Domain YES NO YES YES YES
CC BY YES YES YES YES YES
CC BY-SA YES YES YES YES NO
CC BY-ND YES YES YES NO YES
CC BY-NC YES YES NO YES YES
CC BY-NC-SA YES YES NO YES NO
CC BY-NC-ND YES YES NO NO YES
Checking the License type on Google Images

Even after filtering the Google images by the license type, the rules for each photo will be very different. You will need to check the specific license for each image individually to make sure you can use it on your website. 

To check what CC license an image on Google falls into, select the image on Google and click the ‘License Details’ options underneath the image title.

Clicking on ‘License Details’ will bring you to the Creative Commons website, where you’ll see the specific license type for that image.

Commercial Or Other License

Similar to the Creative Commons License, you will find a variety of usage rules and regulations when searching images from Google under the ‘commercial or other’ category.

Typically, most Google images found under commercial licensing will cost you money; however, some are free. 

When looking for commercially licensed images, you need to ensure that you are using a trusted source. Just because an image is under commercial licensing in Google doesn’t necessarily mean that you can use it on your website. Smaller websites might have mislabeled the photos for commercial use or even stolen the image from a competitor, and you could be left liable for a copyright claim.

Stock Photo Sites

If you are looking for pictures for your eCommerce store, you will want to choose a site with a considerable number of photos. Another thing to consider is the pricing of these sites; some of the biggest royalty-free platforms have very affordable subscription plans for those who need a lot of images. Here are just some of your options and the licenses that go with them:

  1. Adobe Stock 
  2. Bigstock Photo
  3. Envato Elements
  4. FreePik
  5. iStock
  6. Pexels
  7. Picjumbo
  8. Shopify Burst
  9. Shutter Stock
  10. Stocksnap.io
Using images on Google with Search Operators

If you are already a subscriber to some of these stock image sites, you can use Google Operators to find photographs from these particular companies. 

For example, if you wanted a product image for a football but only wanted results from istockphoto.com, you could use the ‘Site Operator’. 

To do this, you would start with the keyword(s), in this case, ‘Football’ followed by a space and “site:istockphoto.com”. Ensure there are no spaces between the ‘site:’ and the website address.

Alternatively, you could search for images on multiple sites by using ‘OR’ between the two or more ‘sites’ you want to use.

Subscribe to our
Daily Marketer Newsletter

If you are looking for a weekly dose of marketing tips that are guaranteed to support you in growing your business then this is the group for you.

Enjoy your morning coffee with The Daily Marketer Newsletter and up skill your marketing and sales knowledge.

... more insights

Need a new website?

Click the video