Did Getty Images, the world's largest photo service just make its photos free to use? That depends on how you plan to use them. Getty Images says you can use images for free by embedding them on your website or blog as long it's for non-commercial purposes. As I understand it, the photos can't be used for commercial purposes, such as selling a product. They can't be used for raising money. They can't be used to promote a campaign or endorse someone, like a political candidate.
People's initial reaction to the announcement was positive, but once they dig deeper, I think that they will quickly see the downsides.
For example, let's say many organizations find a way to use the photos for non-commerical purposes. This could negatively impact the stories the organizations are telling because stock photos are not authentic. Humanizing an issue through storytelling and visualizations of real people are some of the most effective forms of engagement, especially for nonprofits.
I'm also not a fan of many stock photos because they usually have a stock look to them, making your content a lot less compelling and a lot less powerful.
Plus, with the use of stock photos, you run the risk of multiple of organizations and businesses using the same images. This could be especially embarrassing if your competitor uses the same image as you.
While the inauthenticity of stock photos may be a concern, there's one risk that may be even worse: Getty Images has the right to serve up ads or other content through the embedded images onto your site. They will be using these embedded images to collect, store, and mine data that will, of course, be sold to generate revenue for Getty Images. This is not the experience nonprofit organizations want to provide to their constituents who visit their website.
Stock photos should only be used as a last resort if you can't acquire good, authentic phtotos from your organization's events, or if you can't afford to hire a photographer. However, the embedded images just added a new layer of complexity that nonprofits should be weary of.
What do you think about Getty's new, free embedded images?