Use celebrity photos on your blog for free and legally

One of the most common questions I get from new bloggers is: "How can I get free/legal photos of athletes or celebrities on my blog?"

I don't like to deal with legal arguments in this blog as I'm not a lawyer, and nothing I'm going to give you is legally certified advice. However, there are several easy, free, and theoretically legal ways to get celebrity photos to use on your blog.

And this is such a common request that I felt compelled to answer it once and for all.

To get celebrity images for your blog, embed them from Getty Images, Twitter, Instagram, Giphy, or buy them from affordable stock photo sites.

How to Use Getty Images Embed Codes to Get Free Celebrity Photos

Getty Images is the world's largest stock photography service. They have been selling their photos to major media companies since 1995. Each image usually sells for hundreds of dollars or so.

In 2014, Getty Images realized that their photos were being hacked from small blogs at an astonishing rate. And there wasn't much they could do. (As we'll see later, it's not very profitable to sue ordinary people for copyright infringement.) To combat piracy, Getty has decided to include an embed code with many of its images. The idea is that if small blogs have a legal way to use images, they will stop hacking them.

Now, if I want to use a Tom Brady image on my blog, I can. I go to Getty Images and type in "Michelle Hunziker." Then I click on a photo I like to see if it has an embed code. Many of them have it. If there is an embed code, I copy the code, put it on my blog and voila! A free and legal photo of Michelle Hunziker.

Inlay from Getty Images

Use Instagram embed codes

Go to Instagram and log in. Find the account of the celebrity whose photo you want. Click on the photo you like. In the upper right corner, there will be three dots with options. One of these options will be to get the embed code. Put the embed code on your website and voila! A free and legal photo of Gianni Morandi on your blog.

Use Twitter embed codes

Go to Twitter. Then find the official twitter account of the celebrity. Find a tweet with an image or video you want on your blog. In the top right corner, there will be an arrow that you can click with an option to embed the tweet on your website. Copy the code, place it on your website and voila! A free and legal video of Dua Lipa on her website.

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Thanks to my gang for always getting ahead! We recorded this video in the middle of our British rehearsals and preparation. I learned the choreography in 45 minutes, kept adding outfits mid-shoot but we did the damn thaaaang!

– DUA LIPA (@DUALIPA) June 4, 2021

Use Giphy embed codes

Go to Giphy and use its search function to find the gif you want. Click on the gif and they too will have an embed option that you can use. Boom! A gif of Pope Francis!


I should warn you that Giphy is a bit more complicated when it comes to the legality of using their embed codes. Giphy is a gif search engine, so the source of the gif and whether they're okay with you using their gif becomes much harder to figure out with 100% certainty.

Anyway, you should be safe here too. If the content creator doesn't like the gif being used, they'll probably contact Giphy to remove it instead of contacting you, since you're using the embed option. No do not copy any of these images and then paste them into your site.

Stock photo sites are also a good option.

Stock photo sites that don't offer an embed code aren't free. But many stock photo sites offer photos for a price. VERY cheaper than Getty Images.

Stock photo sites can also have advantages depending on what you're trying to do. You'll need to read their licenses, but they may allow you to edit photos or share them on social media. They will allow you to save the image to your blog, so you don't have to download it from a third party.

In some cases, this may be a better option than incorporation, without bankrupting you.

Affordable Celebrity Photo Sites

Here is a list of celebrity photo sites. I have included pricing information for each site's prepaid option. But definitely visit the pricing pages of the sites. Each of them offers monthly plans that could significantly reduce the cost per image.

Stock Photo SitePricesNote:
ShutterstockPricing: $50 for 5 images ($10 per image).If you don't want to buy one of the annual plans, it's a bit more expensive than some of the other options. But, if you're willing to pay $29/m, it's got plenty of photos for a reasonable price.
bigstockPrices - $35 for 10 images ($3.50 per image)Transparent prices and decent options.
deposit photosPrices - $50 for 10 images ($5 per image)It doesn't have as large a selection as Shutterstock, but it has a good number of photos and is very affordable.
DreamtimePricing - $15 for 11 credits ($5 per image)It sounds cheap, but the prices can be misleading. That's 3 credits for a small 800×500 image. So we're still talking about $5 per image or more for this option.

Expensive Stock Photography Sites

This article is aimed at bloggers with a limited budget or no budget. But, if you have money to spare and want the perfect photo, the following sites are viable options.

Stock Photo SitePricesNote:
Getty ImagesPricing: $175 to download a small image.We talked about Getty Images earlier. Great selection. Free insert option. If you need more than this, it will cost you dearly.
AP ImagesPrices are not listed.The fact that the Associated Press does not advertise their prices means that they are very expensive. But they probably have photos that others don't.
AlamyPrices - $50 per imageThe price must be a flat fee of $50 to purchase an image for the web. Seems to have a good selection of photos.

don't steal the photos

It is not legal to steal a car just because the keys are plugged into the ignition. The same goes for posting photos of celebrities on the Internet.

Let's dive into some of the reasons why you shouldn't copy these images and host them on your site.

Of course, it's easy to save an image from Google Images, Twitter, or Giphy and upload it to WordPress. But this is still stealing even if it was extremely easy. You are clearly infringing the copyright of the image owner when you do so.

There is a myth that it is possible to attribute the attribution to whoever has stolen the image and that in this way it becomes "fair use". I'm not a lawyer, so I don't want to go into detail about what is and isn't fair use in this blog. But when you copy a photo from another site to put on your blog, you're probably entering a potentially risky gray area.

Are you at risk of being sued for copyright infringement?

A blog with no money and no traffic will "probably" not get sued for copyright infringement. But this is only because it is prohibitively expensive to sue for copyright infringement unless you promise a large financial return.

In most cases, the person who stole the photo is so broke that it's not worth taking to court. This is why image theft is rampant on the Internet, very few people have been sued to know that they are taking risks.

Despite this, you should avoid stealing images. There are some companies that don't mind suing anyone who infringes their copyright (like Disney does, for example), if you ever borrow an image from them, you might regret it one day. Also, as more and more money is made, it becomes a more important target for lawsuits.

Fortunately, with all the free embed options and photo options available, there's no point in copying and pasting the images onto your blog.

Do embedded images have any legal risk?

It has long been thought that embedding images in your blog is a practice without legal risk.

Embedding allows you to use the photo on your blog while keeping the creator in control of the image. Unlike stolen images, embedded images can be removed by the creator instantly. All you have to do is log in to the service you're pulling in from and delete the image.

However, in 2016, a man named Justin Goldman took a photo of Tom Brady and added it to his Snapchat story. The photo went viral and was shared on social media countless times. Time, Breitbart, Vox, The Boston Globe and others have decided to use Twitter embed codes to get the photo onto their websites for free and legally.

However, Justin Goldman sued all these big media companies and has won the case.

This scared everyone because the prevailing wisdom at the time was that you couldn't be sued for incorporating images. Twitter or the user who uploaded the photo was thought to be responsible for the copyright infringement. Not you.

The lesson to be learned then is to make sure you embed images directly from the creator. Do not embed by random Twitter users who have probably routed the images to someone else. This also becomes an issue when embedding from Giphy, as it's hard to tell who the source of the gif is and whether the content creator agrees to the GIF being shared online.

With that said, Justin Goldman sued every major media company he could trace. Surely he's still unlikely to be sued even if he makes a fuss because he probably doesn't have enough money to make it worth his while.

As of 2021, very few people or organizations have been sued over embedded images. But you should know that it is theoretically possible and you should keep an eye on these numbers as they may increase in the future.

Celebrity photos are for editorial use only.

All celebrity photos are for editorial use only.

This means that you cannot use these photos to promote your products. So if you sell mugs, don't put a celebrity photo on the mug. If you're creating Facebook ads, don't put a celebrity photo on your ad or product page. You may not use these photos to sell or promote your merchandise.

Remember that celebrities are real human beings. Imagine that your neighbor took a photo of you on the way to work. And then he used your photo to sell herpes medication online. That's not good! You didn't register!

The same goes for celebrities and anything you sell online. Unless the celebrity gives you explicit permission, you may not use it to promote their merchandise.

Photos for editorial use also have other restrictions. In most cases, you won't be able to make major changes to the photo (no cropping, resizing, excessive retouching, etc.). There may also be restrictions on sharing on social networks. And of course you are not allowed to use someone's image to defame them. Check the terms of the place where you purchased the photo for restrictions.

How to get videos for free and legally for your YouTube channel?

Unfortunately, embedding is not an option on the YouTube platform. My personal recommendation is to use Shutterstock because they have the clearest license, the best selection, the best prices, and the easiest user interface for movies (or photos) of celebrities. If you are going to use a celebrity video archive site, it is by far the best option.

The only other option is to try to claim fair use. While "reaction" channels blatantly use copyrighted material (and still get Adsense approval, if the video is done right), it's not a viable option for a serious video creator. The thought that copyright owners could sue me or issue a copyright infringement restriction on my channel at any moment would keep me up at night.

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