The SNO Report: How to credit borrowed photos

Get your staff in the habit of captioning and crediting all photos on your site. There, we said it. Now, let’s look closely at photo credits — why they matter and how to do it.

Chances are, the photos you’re using come from one of three sources: a member of your staff, a submission, or an Internet search. Obviously, you want to attribute that great photo to the staff member who captured it. Duh. But you also must give credit where it’s due for the images you’re borrowing, whether that means getting explicit permission to use a photo that’s been submitted or only using other images that are licensed for Fair Use.

Saving images from Google searches or other websites and republishing them with your content is illegal and can result in your publication being liable for compensatory damages to the copyright holder. That’s money out of your pocket potentially. That’s why it’s important only to use images, audio and video you’ve been granted permission to use or were acquired through a licensing fee or Creative Commons.

For those photos, the ones not taken by members of your staff, it isn’t enough just to credit where on the web the images was taken from. Your staff needs to secure permission from the person or organization that originally took the photo.

The only exception is when using photos for reviews, like for movies and music. Under copyright law, this is considered Fair Use, and you can safely credit the movie studio or record label for the image. Stories about the NFL or NBC’s “The Good Place” would also qualify under Fair Use. We recommend credit related images for the organization that originally created them — in this case, the NFL or NBC.

To use a photo from another news outlet, you need to obtain expressed permission from that news outlet, and then label the photos as “Photo by ___ from ___ used with permission.”

The thing is, many news outlets won’t give permission for you to republish their photos. So, we recommend searching for photos that have been licensed for that specific purpose under the Creative Commons. Wikimedia Commons ( is a large database of free and legal photos that you can republish. When republishing an image from the site, we recommend labeling it as “Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license.”

You can also do specific searches on Google to target photos ready for republishing. In the Search Tools option, select “Labeled for Reuse.” When using a photo from this search, we recommend labeling it as “Photo via ____ under Creative Commons license.”

If a photo is copyrighted by another photographer, but you have secured permission to use it — like the aforementioned submission — label it as “Photo used with permission from ___.”

Always exercise caution when taking photos from sources outside of your own staff and remember to credit it appropriately.