If you are a real estate virtual assistant, chances are you have encountered or have been asked to write a real estate blog at least once. Blogging is an important part of most real estate agent’s marketing strategy, and many real estate VAs log in dozens of hours a week, building their clients’ online presence through blog posts.

Part of what makes a blog good is using interesting and attractive photos and images to capture your readers’ attention. The easiest way to get these photos and images would be to download them off the Internet; however, this indiscriminately could have serious repercussions. So here are a few virtual assistant tips on how to avoid image copyright issues:

  1. Please do not use photos that have watermarks on them. They are clearly copyright-protected, and the mere fact that the owner took the time to watermark them is an indication that they don’t want anyone else using those photos. Please do not attempt to remove watermarks or crop them out of photos.
  2. Avoid using images taken from photo-sharing websites, as these are often private property intended only for the owner’s personal use.
  3. Use websites that offer royalty-free and free stock photos and images for download. The most popular ones include Creative Commons, iStockphoto, Fotolia, and 123rf.
  4. Always acknowledge your sources and provide links that lead back to where you got your photos.
  5. Ask for permission wherever possible before using photos for your blog. If the owner gives you the green light to use their work, acknowledge your source and link it back to their website.
  6. Copyright disclaimers often contain confusing terms and jargon. When in doubt, you may as well avoid using a particular image and search for an alternative instead. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
  7. In the same vein, keep track of all your photo sources so that in the hopefully unlikely event that you are taken to task for using a particular image, you have solid proof of where you obtained the said image.

In the world of blogging for real estate, where readers often respond best to appealing graphics, the use of inviting images can take your blog from good to great, so long as you exercise caution, common sense, and a healthy dose of respect for the photographers and writers who upload their work online for the benefit of others.