Lifestyle, Photography

A Quick Guide to Photo Etiquette

On the subject of photo rights, I feel like a broken record because this subject often gets spoken about but rarely seems to make a difference.

I think it’s down to laziness and carelessness because it’s not an excuse any longer to profess to being “unwise” – Google is a marvelous source of information when it comes to checking what you can and can’t do with photo content.

However, in case you want one condensed source, here’s my guide to understanding how and when you can use images.

The first rule is this – If the photo isn’t yours, if you did not pay for it or set up a discourse for a trade exchange/collaboration, then you must ask if you can use it.


I am shooketh to see people, especially brands, taking images off of Pinterest, sharing them on their SM accounts and stating “Source – Pinterest”.

Taking images from Pinterest and using them on your social platforms is copyright infringement

Pinterest allows you to post content, including photos, comments, links, and other materials. Anything that you post or otherwise make available on Pinterest is referred to as “User Content.” You retain all rights in, and are solely responsible for, the User Content you post to Pinterest. (source)

Likewise, Google is not your photo playground either – “You cannot download or use images from Google without seeking permission from the copyright holder” (source)

Aside from the general thievery, if you’re using Pinterest or Google images to promote your brand, you’re being disingenuous to your following as this isn’t your work. 


Commissioned photographs are owned by the commissioner (client)

This means that freelance photographers have no rights to their work. Yikes. Though this sounds ominous it can be side-stepped by a mutual agreement between parties, even if only verbal. Contract law overrides copyright law and parties can be held to the negotiated agreement.

NB: Even if you didn’t sign a contract/booking document with a photographer, if that booking document had an invoice attached with it and you paid the amount stated, you have now agreed to those terms and breach them is an offense.

For content creators and influencers, PLEASE read carefully the campaign agreements and contracts sent to you from brands – some line items state that any content you create is theirs for everlasting usage and manipulation which, when you have kids, is freaky!


Whatever is verbally said, or written between parties is what stands and I encourage every one to have something written when you wish to enter into a collab with a brand or influencer/content creator.

As a brand or content creator, I suggest doing the following:

  • Always state exactly what you want from the photographer
  • Tell them what they will receive in exchange
  • Give everyone involved a time frame to work to
  • State where the images will be used

When you eventually post the images of this collaboration, DON’T add the tags on top of each other in the image. That’s rude. It undermines the work done by all parties involved. Use the caption to tag those involved.


If you received photos for free – a client sent them to you to show off your product etc – the images are not yours. If you want to use it for advertising purposes (to promote yourself is advertising) then you require permission first.

Did someone tag you in an image on Instagram? Cute! Think you can now take it and use it?

Just because someone tags your brand in an image does not give you the permission to take that image and use it – from a personal point of view, I despise it when brands use images of my kids without asking me just because I tagged them in the image. I may be tagging to inform others of where a particular item is from, a tag is not permission!

If you paid the photographer for a set of photos, and there is no contradicting terms and conditions, then you can share them and you don’t need to tag the photographer.

However, if you place a filter over someone’s work, it is nice to state that as this just covers the photographer’s artistic direction and prevents confusion.

What if someone took the image and you edited it?

If your editing style is completely different to the photographers OR, your feed has a particular style and tone that you wish to emulate, it’s easy to share the image and state, in the caption, “Photo by xyz, edited with my filter/edited by me”

So what images can I use?

If you thought that taking away Pinterest has now left you with nothing, think again! There are SO many free stock image sites which allow you to take images and use them (some have stipulations) without needing to credit anyone.

  1. Unsplash – this is my personal favorite
  2. Gratisography
  3. Morguefile
  4. Pixabay
  5. Stockvault
  6. Pexels
  7. Picjumbo
  8. Pikwizard
  9. Rawpixel
  10. Reshot

Alternatively, you can pay a photographer to create unique content especially for you!

Photographers offering this service include:

Madison & West

Pretty Social

Roxy Hutton

Cheryl McEwan

Project Flash Photography

(Shameless plug) Shante Hutton Photography


Think I missed something? Let me know in the comments!

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