rules for sharing photos on social media

Rules for Sharing Photos on your Business’s Social Media

You’ve crafted the perfect caption, and set out to find an image that will garner loads of engagement for your post. You accomplish this by:

  1. Saving the photo that catches your eye in a basic Google Image search.
  2. Grabbing a relevant image from a Facebook Page.
  3. Browsing Pinterest for the first infographic you fall in love with.

All of the above options are totally kosher, right? Wrong! You can curate photos from Google, Pinterest and Facebook, but there are rules you must follow to share photos on social media without worrying about copyright laws.


Understanding The Laws

We’ll keep this brief, but please read up if you want in-depth information about Copyright and Creative Commons laws. Generally speaking, if you produce a piece of work and share it with the world, you own it–even if you didn’t pay for a copyright. The good news is that many content creators out there are willing to share their work with you! Though there are a few caveats.


Wikipedia and Flikr offer commercial-free images under the multiple types of Creative Commons licenses. However, not every license is created equal. Whenever you find a photo you want to share, hunt down which exact Creative Commons license it’s protected by, because some require you to give attribution to the creator or prohibit commercial-use entirely. First look for the Creative Commons logo, where the specific type of license should be listed.
creative commons

Click on the logo or go to Creative Commons website to read up on the parameters of the license. Use photos that are “attribution-only” or a CC0 license.


The Google Filter You Need

Google is a great resource for commercial-free photos! If you’re unsure how to filter out the photos that are safe to share for commercial purposes from the no-no’s, here you go:

  1. Type what you want in the search bar just like you always do in Google Images.
  2. Underneath the search bar, there are various settings listed. Click “Tools” on the far right.
  3. Another line of options will appear below that. Select the one second from the right titled “Usage Rights.”
  4. Click on “Labeled for reuse” to find photos you’ll share without editing in the slightest.
  5. Or click on “Labeled for reuse with modification” if you intend to crop, edit or otherwise manipulate the original photo.

Google search filters

Social Sharing

Sharing user-generated content  is a smart move. It’s not only a nod to other users in your social media communities, but it makes your brand look authentic by diverting from the overly stock-photo look. While it seems there are unwritten rules about sharing other users’ posts, I highly suggest you follow this rule: ask for permission. There are best practices to asking permission before sharing someone else’s photo on Instagram and Facebook. It can be as simple as commenting on a photo or direct messaging the person or organization that posted the image you’d like to share. Nonetheless, it’s worth mentioning that you technically can share a user’s photo on Facebook without asking for permission if the post is set as Public.


And Then, There’s Always Stock photos

The beauty of using stock or commercial-free photos to accompany your posts is that you can breathe easily knowing you’re definitely not interfering with copyright laws. Using Shutterstock or Bigstock is relatively inexpensive, but Pixabay and Unsplash are other great resources for commercial-free images that won’t cost a dime.


In the new and ever-evolving world of social media that we live in, there are plenty of reasons to be confused about what’s OK to share and what’s not. If you’re using social media for a commercial business, follow these suggestions to get yourself out of the gray area and be confident when sharing images on any social media platform! If you’re searching for more advice about using social media to promote your business, take a peek at this blog post.