Young man sitting at a desk holding a letter looking unhappy and stressed

Why voluntary organisations shouldn’t use images found on Google

Published: 01/08/23 | Categories: Information & support, Author: Ruth Hall

Ruth Hall, Head of Marketing at Alamy, outlines how voluntary organisations can avoid getting into trouble when using images in their communications.

When it comes to finding the right imagery for your charity’s marketing materials, it’s important to understand where to look and what is permissible to use. As a charity owner or someone involved in the charity sector, it can be especially confusing to navigate copyright laws and fair usage guidelines.

Unfortunately, many people turn to Google for inspiration, leading them to save and utilise images without considering the copyright implications. However, this practice comes with significant copyright issues and potential legal consequences, which can have serious ramifications for both you and your charitable organisation.


While it may be tempting to download readily available images and videos online, it does not automatically grant you the right to use them. Copyright laws exist in most countries worldwide to protect the creators of original works, including photographers.

Under copyright law, the creator of an original work holds exclusive rights to control the use and distribution of their work, which includes photographs. Therefore, before using any photographs for commercial purposes such as advertising or marketing materials, businesses must obtain permission from the photographer or their authorized agent.

Failure to do so can result in legal action, financial penalties, and a lengthy and costly resolution process. Consequently, it is crucial for charity owners and their team members to grasp the basics of copyright law when it comes to using photography. By doing so, you can avoid infringing on the rights of photographers and safeguard your charitable organisation from any legal repercussions.


Photographers play a crucial role in the creative industry, and their work should be valued and respected. When charity owners and marketers use images from Google without the appropriate permissions, it undermines the hard work and creativity of these photographers, preventing them from earning income for their work. This detrimental practice can have a negative impact on the photography industry.

To support photographers and ensure their continued success, charity owners should consider licensing images or directly commissioning photographers for their specific needs. Licensing images allows charities to legally use the visuals for their intended purposes while compensating the photographers for their valuable work. By directly commissioning photographers, you not only contribute to their livelihood but also can create unique and tailored images that align precisely with your charity’s brand identity and messaging.

Ultimately, supporting photographers benefits everyone involved by fostering creativity, innovation, and growth within the industry. As a charity owner, you have the power to make a positive impact not only within your organisation but also within the wider creative community. By respecting copyright laws and actively supporting photographers through licensing or commissioning, you can play a vital role in ensuring the sustainability and prosperity of the photography industry.


Fortunately, there are numerous websites available that provide photography free of copyright restrictions, which can be a suitable alternative for charity owners seeking suitable visuals for their campaigns. One such platform is Alamy, and we are a trusted source for high-quality images.
Using stock image websites like Alamy ensures that you have access to a diverse range of images from reliable sources, while also obtaining the necessary licenses to use them legally. Additionally, investing in high-quality visuals can significantly impact your charity’s online presence and enhance its brand perception.

By incorporating professional images that align with your charity’s aesthetics and messaging, you can establish a strong and consistent brand identity, ultimately attracting more supporters and building trust.