Last week, Getty Images made a stunning announcement — their images would now be freely available to embed into a website or blog.
Getty, one of the world’s biggest sellers of stock photography, illustration and video footage, has been fighting pirates for years. The company estimates there are tens of millions of stolen copies of their photos on the Internet.
Realizing there was no effective way to win the copyright battle, Getty has instead decided to allow free use of their images through an embedded viewer.
It’s a shrewd move from Getty — but not such a hot deal for business bloggers. Here’s why you should think twice before using the new embedded viewer.
1] You can’t resize or alter the photo.
I never use a stock image exactly as it is. At a minimum, I resize it to fit the dimensions of my blog and the space I have for it.
Sometimes I do more: I might crop it differently, recolor it, add text, isolate elements or combine it with elements from another image. All of these edits help customize the photo to fit my blog and my post, and make my version of the image different from that of everyone else who downloads it.
With the embedded viewer, you have none of those options. You must use the photo exactly as Getty shows it.
Here’s an example of an embedded Getty photo below so you can see how it looks.
If I’d really wanted to use this image in a post, I would have cropped out some of the white space as a start.
2] You don’t control the image.
…availability may change without notice. Getty Images reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove Getty Images Content from the Embedded Viewer. Upon request, you agree to take prompt action to stop using the Embedded Viewer and/or Getty Images Content.
If Getty decides to take a photo down, you’ll have web rot in your post — a blank space that links to something no longer available. Web rot on one or two posts might not be a big deal, but if you have dozens, or even hundreds of images that get taken down, your site could become a big mess.
I acknowledge this is a small risk. Getty isn’t likely to take down a bunch of images a lot of people have used — it just wouldn’t make good business sense.
The same risk exists with YouTube when you use their embedded viewer. With YouTube, web rot is definitely a problem but a manageable one and worth the trade-off of being able to embed videos.
But with Getty, when you have so many other options for finding free images, I see not being able to control the image as one more strike against them.
3] You don’t get any search engine juice.
One often overlooked SEO tip is to give your images keyword-rich file names.
For example, this image from my post about 4 Free Twitter Tools to Focus and Improve Your Connections has the file name birds-wire-free-Twitter-tools-followers.jpg.
The file name describes the image (birds on a wire) and connects it to the topic of my post (free Twitter tools). It even works in a more common word for connections that people might search on: followers.
The file name helps my post and my site rank better with Google. You don’t get any search engine benefit from Getty’s embedded viewer. The file name is in their control and it’s a long number string.
4] You can’t use the images in other media.
Smart content marketers repurpose material for different platforms to get as much from each piece of content as possible.
For a business blogger, not being able to reuse images from a blog post across other media, such as a PowerPoint presentation or an ebook, can be problematic.
You’ll have to choose a different image for the other media (which diminishes consistency) or pay to license the photo for the other uses (which defeats the purpose of getting the image for free).
5] The images don’t appear in social feeds.
If you only use Getty images on your blog post, visitors to your site won’t be able to include any images with their social sharing.
For example, if a visitor tries to share your blog post on Pinterest using the Add from a Website feature, the Getty image won’t show up as a pinnable photo.
On Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn, where images are automatically pulled in from links that you share, an embedded Getty image will not show up.
Since images are proven to attract attention and improve sharing, this drawback is a big one. (h/t Krishna De.)
6] The embedded viewer will almost certainly contain advertising in the future.
Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetise its use without any compensation to you.
What are the chances Getty’s going to try and make money from their images once millions of people have embedded the viewer on their websites? I’d say pretty darn high. I’d say it’s probably one of the reasons they built the viewer.
Again, shrewd business move from Getty. They had no hope of recouping lost revenue from the millions of bloggers already using their images without permission.
So what they’ve done with the viewer is build a Trojan horse that should bring back some of that revenue in the long term. Offer the library for free. Once bloggers starts using the viewer in droves and Getty gains access to a massive global audience, turn on the ads.
Great for Getty, not so great for you.
You’ll have no control over the type of ads that will run. If you’ve built your blog to be purposefully ad-free, you’ll lose that control. If you already run ads, Getty’s ads will compete with yours.
I’ll admit that Getty has a lot of beautiful images. When I first saw the news that they were sharing them for free, I got pretty excited. But once I dug deeper, I saw the pitfalls.
With so many other places to find great photos that are truly free, smart bloggers will steer clear.