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just a turkey banner created in Photoshop for Patricia's Cuisine website

Turkey Shoot

Great photography can turn a website from something rather pedestrian into something rather stunning but there is a totally wrong assumption out there that grabbing images from other websites using Google Images is somehow OK. It isn't.

You Can Just Photoshop It Can't You

"Just" is a word that I absolutely loathe hearing. Next to "passionate" it is probably the worst word that a client of ours can use. Just is a word that is dropped into numerous discussions about websites: "I know it's a poor photo but you can just Photoshop it can't you?"; "I don't want a lot, I just want a website that gets to the top of Google"; "Oh, don't worry about images, I'll supply those, I'll just grab some photos from Google Images".

Grabbing photos with Google images is so morally wrong!

A "Turkey Shoot" is a phrase used to describe an opportunity for an individual to very easily take advantage of a situation. Just because you can do something online that doesn't make it right. Sure, Google Images lets you click through countless thousands of images from every conceivable website but these images aren't provided for your own use; each and every image uploaded to the Web is subject to copyright law and just because it's technically possible to right-click an image and download it this doesn't mean that it's legally OK to do so.

This image may be subject to copyright.

Search Google Images, click an image and note the information panel to the right of your web browser and you'll see the notice "This image may be subject to copyright." That's Google's warning to you that you can't simply right-click the image and steal it. You simply have no idea who took the photo, nor will you know who retains the copyright; not until you make direct contact with the owner/operator of the website to enquire about the possibility of using the image in question will you have the slightest idea about where the image came from.

Getty Images & PicScout

Grabbing images from someone else's website is not a victimless crime. It is not a defence to claim that you tried to contact the owner/operator of a website regarding use of a photograph or image on their website but couldn't find an email address so you took the image anyway. You simply must make sure that you have the right to legally use each and every image that you use on your website, in your email and right the way across each and every social media platform you use. The penalty? In many cases unlicensed use of an image can invite a letter from Getty Images demanding compensation for damage.

Photo libraries, photographic agencies and photographers have spent countless millions capturing, editing, collating, archiving and uploading images to websites worldwide; some business, such as Getty, use intelligent web crawlers to silently traverse the web in stealth mode to identify potential wrong-doers. Getty Images, a leading creator and distributor of visual content and other media, acquired such a crawler "PicScout" in April of 2011. This activity is not underhand, it's not some kind of imposition upon your civil liberty, crawling the web and serving notice upon website owners in such a manner is simply a business protecting its intellectual property.

It's both dangerous and costly to assume that right-clicking an image that you've found in Google Images gives you the right to use an image for personal or commercial reasons. You have no idea where the image that a website uses came from: it may be an image they've commissioned themselves and paid a lot of money for; it may be an image they've grabbed (stolen) from another website; it may be a digitally watermarked thumbnail or preview image that they've found when browsing through a stock image library; it may be an image that they've licensed but that still doesn't mean you can copy it and use it without licensing it. The burden of proof is upon you. When Getty Images comes-a-crawling and finds one of its images on your website, the strongly worded letter for damages that may follow can only be dealt with at no cost if you or your agent can prove that they licensed the image.

So how do you go about getting great images on a website?

Well, you can start by asking us. We work with professional photographers who work on-location and in their studios; we also have subscriptions to a number of stock image libraries; we've been known to take a photo or two ourselves and we'll even help our clients take their own photos. Commissioning or licensing a 2nd generation, high resolution image digital image to use throughout your marketing will make your business stand out as a quality business with an eye for quality.

Turkey Shoot

We recently launched a Web Diffusion website for Bedfordshire caterer Patricia's Cuisine. Patricia's web design budget was tight so, in order to achieve a photographic impact, we didn't fall into sourcing stock images of any old food but encouraged Patricia to photograph her own food over a 3 month period. As each dish was prepared, Patricia followed our photography training notes and shot each dish using her iPhone and then emailed us the photo directly from her phone. We sorted through the many hundreds of photos that were shot to find the best images, we cropped and resized the photos in Photoshop and uploaded each photo to the website. Check out Patricia's website - the results are outstanding!

The animated sequence above shows just what it takes to get a great-looking set of images on a website - Patricia cooked and shot a roast turkey with all the trimmings in August for a webpage to promote her Christmas catering menus. We chose one image from the turkey shoot to use for the website and set about searching online for a stock image that would help place the photo on the Christmas dinner table.

Even though the Christmas image we selected only occupies a tenth of the area of the cropped photo and was also very heavily blurred to throw the background out of focus, we still licensed the image. Commissioning original quality photography or licensing stock images means that our clients will never need worry about a letter from Getty Images and that the image they carry is both original and of the highest possible quality.

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Sub@omic is an independent web consultancy developing cognitive designer websites, based in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, UK