It’s a Question of Permission and Respect

There are so many fabulous photographs available!  Can I post them?”  Variations on this question are often posed to me.

How do you know what you can do with someone else’s image?   Basically it all comes down to permission.

When someone creates a photograph, music, writing, or other work, they legally own the rights to how that object is used.  They have the copyright, whether or not a © symbol is present.

You always have permission to do some things with other people’s work.  For example, it is perfectly fine to cut up magazine pictures and create a personal SoulCollage® card.  The key is that you are using the photos for your own personal use.  You are not selling them or publishing them.

You do not automatically have permission to publish another person’s image or use it commercially.  For example, posting a SoulCollage® card on your website or blog can cause legal problems, unless you have obtained the rights to use all of the images in it.

There are many situations when you would like to use a great image.   You see an awesome photograph and want to share it on Facebook.   Maybe you are writing a blog and searching for a compelling photograph to include.   If you are a SoulCollage® Facilitator, you want people to see how powerful the process is by sharing pictures of your cards.

SoulCollage® card with background of different colored circles painted with watercolors. Pictures of a lit candle and spring flowers are grouped in the bottom 2/3's of the card.

How do you find an image that you have permission to use for your purpose?

  • Use a photograph or artwork you have created.  Not only is this free, but you have a unique image not used in other places.
  • Pay a fee to buy the rights to use another person’s photograph.  This is a great way to tangibly support a photographer’s livelihood, and you have a wider variety of picture choices.
  • Find an image that the photographer has given permission to be used freely.   This can be an easy and free way to find pictures.

Here are a few of the websites where photographers offer photos to be freely used.  Because changes can happen at any time, be sure to verify the licensing and attribution requirements before downloading and using photos.  

Here are two sources for books of photos to buy and then use the photos freely.

It is a good idea to keep track of where and when you get images in case there are questions later.  The reality is that people do get sued even when they had no intention of violating copyright laws.  I personally know a SoulCollage® Facilitator who was sued for sharing a card on her website that included a partial image owned by Getty Images.   

Read more about photograph copyright considerations: 

I Got Sued (For Something You’ve Done!)

Being mindful of using other people’s images is about respecting and valuing the photographers and their gifts!

A black woman's hands holding her camera.


Thank you to the photographers whose photographs are part of this blog post!