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Getty Images Gives Free Access to 35 Million of Their Stock Images

Getty Image Office Lobby in LondonGlobal leader in stock imagery Getty Images recently announced that 35 million photos will now be available for free. In the past, visiting Getty’s website for an image promised to cost the user upwards of $75 for a small image. For growing companies, bloggers and publishers on a tight budget, this left two options: spend the money or steal the image. As Getty soon found out, copying the image without express permission became the norm.

Getty Combats Piracy

The high price of Getty’s images led many bloggers, publishers, and social media gurus to pirate the image, creating an unlicensed version capable of being used anywhere. As Craig Peters, a Getty executive, recently pointed out, “Look, if you want to get a Getty image today, you can find it without a watermark very simply.” From copying the image off a blogger’s page to taking a screenshot, it’s not very difficult to take advantage of Getty’s massive library of compelling imagery, Peters explains. 

For Getty, this meant lost revenue, decreased brand exposure, and no way to monitor the use of their images across the web. Because the company represents over 200,000 photographers worldwide, Getty needed to come up with a solution that would benefit the company and the creative professionals who entrust their work (and salary) to them. Now, by giving free access to over 35 million images, Getty hopes to give publishers a legal, cost-free option for using their content that results in higher revenue for the company.

What’s in It for Getty?

How, exactly, does Getty plan to increase revenue by offering free content? Simple. Taking a page from YouTube’s book, Getty is offering free access to one-fifth of its total image library via an embed code. Getty hopes that users will opt for an easy-to-use embed code versus hunting down the image elsewhere online. If users accept Getty’s generosity and use the embed codes at no cost, Getty benefits in three significant ways.

  • Advertising – In the same way YouTube uses embed technology to plant advertising in videos, Getty’s free embed codes will allow the company to place ads inside original content. For Getty, this helps recoup the cost of providing a free service while earning more revenue (when compared to the complete lack of revenue gained when people pirate images).
  • User Information – Getty’s embed codes will allow the company to gain valuable insights into how images are being used and by whom. Though many of Getty’s photographers are up in arms about the recent change, the imagery giant feels the user information obtained from these embedded codes will be instrumental in transforming the company’s ability to stay ahead of trends and maximize future revenue.
  • Image Credits – When a user opts for one of Getty’s free embed codes, the published image will include credits in the lower left corner. These credits not only signal the image is Getty’s property, but will also include the name of the image creator. There are two benefits from this simple addition. First, Getty’s image credit will link back to their main site, which gives users the option to interact with the brand and potentially make a purchase. Second, the creative professional who took the photo gets credit and exposure, despite where the image is shown.

Using Getty’s Free Images

For bootstrapped publishers, Getty’s recent change may seem like a blessing. However, there are two important stipulations the company has outlined.

  • Noncommercial Use – Getty made it crystal clear that the use of free embedded code is not to extend to entities using the images for a commercial purpose. So, Getty’s commercial clients, like the New York Times and other large media outlets, are not permitted to use embedded code.
  • Editorial Purposes – Independent bloggers and social media publishers are allowed to use free content for editorial purposes only. For those wanting to beef up their web presence with a ton of Getty’s images, embedded images are a no-no. Instead, the company encourages the use of free images to promote “newsworthy” content.


Ultimately, Getty wants users to promote their high quality images during the course of online communication. With the addition of free image code, Getty hopes to transform piracy, a loss leader in the stock photo industry, into a profitable event.

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