Just Because It’s There, That Doesn’t Mean You Can Use It

Too many non-professionals assume that just because a photo or illustration is free to to look at on Google Images, it’s free for the taking to use in their ads.

It isn’t.

First of all, they physically can’t use it. And even if they could, they shouldn’t.

Here’s why:

Google captures every image displayed anywhere on the Internet and lets you search them  by subject matter. Advertising professionals can look at them to suggest concepts and visual ideas, just as, decades ago, they used to leaf through stock photograph books.

But there are some very important differences, aside from the fact that you can download a file from Google Images for free.

Wrong physical size

Because the vast majority of online image files are for web use, they have to fit on a computer screen. That means they’re smaller than they need to be for ad use.

Wrong file size

Photos or illustrations on websites need to open up quickly, so people won’t become too impatient to stay on the site. The smaller the file (in terms of data), the faster it opens. But the less there is to work with in larger size.

That means they could very well start falling apart and/or pixelating when you start enlarging them. And you will have to enlarge them. (See above.)

Wrong resolution

Compared to professional printing, computer monitors are very low-resolution.

An image with 72 dots per inch (dpi) is considered high-res for online use. But it’s grossly inadequate for print media.

There the standard is 300 dpi, or more than  four times the resolution.

You can’t increase the resolution because there’s just not enough in the file to resolve. (See above.)

The only way to turn a low-res image into a high-res one is to reduce its physical size. Reducing a 72 dpi image to one-fourth its size quadruples the resolution; a 72 dpi image becomes a 288 dpi image, which is marginally adequate.

But then you’re left with a postage-stamp-size image.

Wrong color system

Computer monitors, like television monitors, use a three-color system called RGB, for Red, Green and Blue.

Color printing is done by combining four different color inks in a system called CMYK, for Cyan (a synonym for blue), Magenta, Yellow and blacK.

Use an RGB file for anything higher in quality than Kinko’s-style printing, and your colors will be very noticeably off.

Someone else owns it

Images are intellectual property, and like other forms of property, they belong to someone or some corporate entity. There’s an esoteric technical legal term for using other people’s property without their permission. I believe it’s called “theft.”

You won’t necessarily go to jail for it, but you could be sued – or get cease and desist letters from lawyers – if you’re caught.

It’s not worth it.

Especially when you can get hundreds of royalty-free, CMYK, high-resolution, large-size  photos and illustrations with instant download and for unlimited use from stock libraries like iStock, Thinkstock and Shutterstock for as little as $25 each. You can download watermarked versions of the images for free for layout purposes, then download the high-res files when you need them (after paying online by credit card).

There are even sites where you can download press-quality stock photos free.

In the right size. With the right colors. With the right resolution. And with no legal risk whatever.

All you have to do is use Google Search instead of Google Image.

Read more about advertising at www.BrightOrangeAdv.com

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