Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Using Real Photos in Your Products

Happy New Year everyone! It's Elyse Rycroft from Proud to be Primary
I'm excited to share something with you today that I was really glad I figured out recently. 
I would like to share with you what I have learned about using photographs in my products. 
Before I started making products for Teachers Pay Teachers, I remember the thing that I needed to learn the most about was figuring out how to use graphics, fonts, and images. I needed to make sure I understood an artist's terms of use and gave appropriate credit without infringing on anyone's rights, while using copyrighted material. 

I found the same to be true when I started seeing products pop up around TPT with these beautiful, eye-catching photographs that made some products more desirable. I wanted to start putting photos into my products and on my product covers right away. However, I did not know what was allowed. Where would I find these photos? How would I give the appropriate credit where it was due? So my research began...or my hours upon hours scouring the internet trying to find photos that were "free" and okay to use in commercial products. 

It was very time consuming trying to find a photo I wanted to use, then finding information about whether that photo was available for use. Then, I needed to find out who to contact or how to contact the photographer to request use. Not to  mention, finding photos that were of decent quality and acceptable to me for use in my products. 

Today, I hope to save you some time and share with you why you might consider using "real" photos in your future products. I will share some cautionary things to watch out for and be familiar with, as well as some helpful tips and great sites to check out. I hope to make this a much simpler process for you!
As much as I adore clip art and appreciate the hard work of the graphic artists, nothing beats a photograph to portray something "real!" Photographs bring things to life that we have not experienced in our lives.They allow us to have those "experiences" again. Photographs show us what the world truly looks like. Looking at products with photographs have the potential to elicit an emotional experience and connection from us. 
Using photographs in products is beneficial in teaching children about many things, just as reading "non-fiction" books can provide. It brings things to life and provides information quickly. If they can "see" what something looks like (for example, that a spider has 8 legs in a photograph, rather than a clip art spider), it becomes more ingrained in their minds and gives the experience more context. Learning can be difficult for young children, but providing "real" visual images can help them grasp concepts and confirm meaning. Since I've been using products with real photos to teach topics in science, my students have gained a more informed and deeper understanding of what they learn. 
Using photographs in your products has the potential to increase the sales of your products. There are people looking for those "real" photos (myself being one) and will seek out products that deliver that. We can all understand how a product's cover catches our attention, as we all spend lots of time creating these types of covers. So wouldn't a cover with a vibrant photograph make us take a closer look? 

Here are some of the covers I have created using photographs, rather than clip art.

(Credit: Dollar Photo Club)

People are very protective over their own images and finding their images being used without permission could lead to BIG problems for you (think "cease and desist"). These following cautionary tips should help you avoid any problems.
*Never assume an image on the internet it is okay to use without stated permission. 
*If you find an image you would like to use, but you cannot find out who took it or where it is from...Do not use it!
*Always assume you cannot use an image (that it is probably copyrighted), unless you are 100% sure that it isn't.
*Google images and Pinterest are NOT collections of "free use" images (most are copyrighted).
*Find photos that are public domain images or through Creative Commons. 
Here is a video explaining what Creative Commons is.
*Check out this very informative blog post by The 3am Teacher. She very clearly lays everything out regarding terms of use, copyright, and commercial use of images. Inform yourself first!
*Check out this blog post about copyright fair use by the Social Media Examiner. She explains fair use and gives a list of 5 things to consider before using copyrighted material.

*Find images that are public domain images (available through fair use or not copyrighted). These images are okay for use in your products. Some sites offering these images will require you to link back to their site in your product. Make sure to provide the proper attribution and link back to the source (create a clickable link over the image in your product).
*Search for Creative Commons when you are looking for images on the internet. Make sure to attribute the photo back to where you found it (the owner and the site). 
When finding Creative Commons photographs and public domain images, I save them to a specific folder on my computer. Then, I create a Word document that lists a brief description of the photo and the link to use later when I create the product and use the image. This way I am organized and have my links saved for easy reference later on.
*Buy a subscription to a stock photo site. There are many sites like this on the internet that offer high resolution images that you can use commercially at a cost. I will share more about this below and why I choose this route after months of searching for higher quality images and variety.
*Take your own FREE photographs! Most of us own a camera, so taking your own photos is always an option. You are free to use your own images in any way you want!

*Wikimedia Commons ---> Read the information on how the file is licensed and how to provide appropriate credit. The trick with this site is finding your way through it, finding something you want to use, and then understanding the license "language" and how to give proper attribution. 
*Public Domain Pictures ---> There are tons of images available that are easy to find. You must link back to the images you use in your products. I have used lots of images from this site because I found it much simpler to search and find
*Dollar Photo Club ---> This is the BEST stock images site I have found and it is now where I go to find any image for my products. This site is extremely user friendly and offers great variety and high resolution quality to their images.
Head to my blog HERE to read more about Dollar Photo Club and why this is my favorite place of all to find images!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post today! 
I hope that I have given you some useful tips to help you get started in your own search for photographs. If you have any questions or comments. I'd love to hear them.


  1. Thanks for the informative post :).
    I usually search Flickr for creative common files but it is a very time consuming. These seem far more effective.

  2. Sheri I used to search flickr as well and it took forever to find useful photos I could use! Hope you have more success with these sites!!
    Elyse :)

  3. This is fantastic! It has already been helpful. I'm going to share it on my blog.
    Not very fancy

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