Practice safe (marketing) sex with royalty free images

Marketing is sort of like sex…
If you do it the wrong way or with the wrong people, the consequences can be pretty severe.

Right now, you’re probably thinking “What is this crazy chick on about?”, right? 
Let me paint the picture for you (because you KNOW I love using awkward analogies):

Google images are NOT free…

So, last week, I had a client request an ad design for women’s day. There were no images provided, so I sent her some royalty free options. Obviously, she didn’t really like them, because she replied with a selection of images of her own.

“Can you rather use one of these?”

When I asked where she got them, she casually answered, “Oh, I just searched (xyz) on Google images”. 
Here’s why you can’t do that…

Google searches pull up images related to the keywords you have searched for. 90% of the time, these will be images from other business websites. Images that they have paid for, taken themselves or images of their products. These images look good because they have been carefully curated and paid for and are RIGHTFULLY OWNED by that company. These images are protected by copyright laws.

You can technically get rights to certain Google images

When I explained to my client that these were not royalty free images, she did ask how much she would have to pay to use them. While my answer was “a law suit”, she actually was asking the right question. 
Often, you can in fact contact the owner of the images and request the rights to use them. Do this IN WRITING! They may charge you for them, they may ask you for photo credits, they may tell you to just go ahead (although this is rare) or they could just give you a flat-out “No”.

Which brings me to my next point (and pretty much the punchline)…

Businesses need sex education!

Most small businesses are simply just not educated in these rules. It’s like lack of sex education (I believe this should be one of the first things any business learns when learning about basic advertising). You could technically just pull whatever images you feel like off of Google. If you’re a small business, the odds of the company actually coming across one of your ads and calling you out is slim, but there’s BIG shit if they do…
It’s exactly like unprotected sex!

So, before you go slutting it up on Google, I’ve compiled this list of royalty free photo sites that you can use:


This one is one of my personal favourites because, first of all, it’s 100% FREE and, secondly, you can search royalty free videos too!


Pixabay is like Pexel’s little sister. Not as cool, but still super useful for searching images and videos (but in separate searches).


I dig how this site has categorized their pics for easy searching, even if you don’t know what you’re looking for 🙂


This is a great site for finding images that you won’t find in the above selections. They even offer you 40 exclusive photos when you sign up, which means you’re less-likely to get that cringe moment when you see another company using the same images as you. (This actually happens quite often when using royalty free images)


If you can’t afford a professional designer or aren’t one yourself, Canva should be your best friend. Not only does it offer a selection of royalty free stock images for you to use in your marketing, but you can customize and design professional(ish) looking ads for almost any platform!

There you have it. 5 image sites that will help you practice safe (marketing) sex!

If you practice safe (marketing) sex and have a royalty free image site that you think is AMAZING, share it in the comments! You may just help a fellow entrepreneur create their ultimate post, ad or content without getting screwed with a lawsuit.

“screwed” – see what I did there? 
(Holy cow, i need to grow up and stop making these puns 😂)

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