skip to content

How to use stock photos to make your nutrition business stand out

I started a blog as a way to get my voice heard through all the nutrition noise out there, as I am sure many other dietitians do. I wanted a way to stand up to all those self-proclaimed “nutrition gurus” prescribing 12 bananas a day as the holy grail to better health.

I assumed that people would rather hear quality nutrition advice, and naively believed growing a following would be easy. Well, as I’m sure all you bloggers out there know, that is not the case.
I quickly learned that to gain credibility and be seen online, I needed to have social proof.  Social proof can be built on social media using high quality images, videos, and graphics. Most people prefer to consume information in short bursts – putting all that much more importance on images to capture the attention of your goldfish-like target audience.

One of my biggest fears with starting a blog was not being able to produce high quality images at the rate I had planned to produce blog posts.

I quickly learned that it was unrealistic for me to prepare a shoot, take the photos, and edit the pictures for each and every one of my blog posts, but I was too cheap to pay for images when just starting my business. However, I was also terrified about the copyright laws of online images.

I knew the waters were muddy. I constantly saw people abusing and misusing other photographers’ images – without permission or attribution. Being the type-A, morally-lead dietitian I am, I couldn’t possibly consider using someone’s photos without knowing the laws inside and out.

So, I proceeded to read through the legal jargon, which was a snore-fest. At the end of it – I came out more confused than when I went in. Next, I turned to other bloggers, but the information I got from them was contradictory regarding the use of photos online. Talk about frustration.
Deeper down the rabbit hole I went. And then, luckily, I started to make headway. I found some great resources that:
  1. Didn’t cost money
  2. Didn’t require confusing attributions and copyright contingencies
Over the course of my research, I began to understand the various types of licenses that exist protecting photographers. If you’re interested in knowing about creative commons licensing – which is one of the most common forms of licensing for online material that is meant for public use and has a variety of different licenses available – you can read about it here.
But, for those of you who really could care less about the legal jargon and just want to get down to brass-tax, let me save you all the headache.
The simplest way to make sure you’re not breaking the law is to choose resources that are either licensed under creative commons zero, or contain these key phrases:
  • Non-licensed or “free” photos for personal or commercial use
  • Can be edited, adapted, remixed, or transformed without re-licensing
  • Does not require attribution
However, I find photos that require attribution & re-licensing to be tedious. This is a personal preference. Legally, attribution isn’t just as simple as, “Hey – thanks so and so for this fantastic photo.” It requires attention to detail and time.
Attribution tends to require link-backs, including a link to the license the image was published under, a copyright notice, photo credit, a disclaimer notice – and often details about how a photo was edited (if applicable).
Re-licensing requires you to use the same license the photo was initially published under if you have adapted or changed the photo in any way: So anywhere you post the photo, you will also need to include the licensing information. This can be challenging on social media platforms, like Instagram, where you are not able to include link-backs to the license. You can find out more about those licenses here.

My favourite sites are ones that are licensed under Creative Commons Zero. Meaning as long as I don’t sell the person’s images, I can utilize, edit, crop, overlay, and add text to the image as I wish. It affords me the comfort of not breaking the law, while allowing me a wide variety of images available all over the internet.

To save you time, here are my five favourite places to grab awesome stock photos, which are either licensed under creative commons, or are not licensed, but are free for non-commercial use (in any way you see fit):
I quickly found that using great graphics not only attracted people to my blog, but had them reading my posts, engaging with me on their thoughts and opinions, and often returning for future posts.
Great quality images, whether you use your own photos, or stock photos, gives you the ability to stand out in a sea of nutrition misinformation. To find out more, check out the “Just for Dietitians” section of my blog – where I provide practice advice and tools to help dietitians stand out online.

Editor’s note: As a blogger myself, I always worry about proper attribution for photos. Thanks so much for sharing your great insights with us, Andrea! 
If you are looking for photos that show the actual serving sizes of foods, being a Dietitians of Canada member gets you free access to
Do you have other photo sources you would like to share? Have you ever been in "hot water" for using someone else’s photo? Share your thoughts, comments, and questions for Andrea below. 
Back to top