Can I use Google Images for my presentation?


This is one of those things that our clients ask us so often – can’t I use Google Images for my presentation? It is a question which can be quite confusing, yet it is important for us to understand as it can have detrimental effects on our business if there is a misuse of an image.

So can I use Google Images for my presentation? You can use Image from Google for your presentation as long as you follow the fair use doctrine. As long as the image you use is not for any commercial gains, but rather used for either commentary, criticism, news reporting, comedy/parody, or research & scholarship, it is okay to use Google Images.  

Let’s learn about this a bit more –

When can I use Google Images for my presentation?

It is important to follow the fair use doctrine when using Google images for your work. You might wonder – what is “fair use doctrine”? Fair use doctrine is a law that permits LIMITED use of copyrighted material without having to first acquire permission of the copyright holder. This basically means that even before you make a decision to hit that download button on the Google image you like, you need to ask yourself – What am I using this image for? What is the purpose of my project/presentation? Do I stand to make any commercial gains or any money through the presentation that I am using this image in? If the answer is yes, I would recommend staying away from using the image directly. If you don’t intend to use it for any monetary benefit, and the use of the image broadly falls under one or more of the above categories mentioned, you can use the image.

Still confused? Let me share an example to help you understand this better.

Let’s say you are making a business presentation for your company. You are making a slide on business profits, but you want to use an image. So you Google it, and find an image that you like. Say an image of dollar coins stacked a growth graph on it. Now you need to evaluate whether you can use this Google image on your presentation or not. At this point, we should consider the fair trade doctrine that we talked about, and if your presentation is most likely be circulated to clients who, once you partner with, most likely get monetary gains, you may want to refrain from using the image. The same would hold true if you were using this for some training presentation for which you would get paid. However, in case your presentation is only for internal stakeholders (and most importantly doesn’t get you any monetary gain), you should be free to use.

Unfortunately, there is no black or white in the fair use doctrine. It is only a guideline, and use of Google image (or any other creatives common image) may vary for each instance.

Things to keep in mind when using Google Images

If you decide to use the Google images for your work, you may want to follow what are known as the “4 points of fair use”. These points are as follows –

  • Using only a part or a portion of the original image – this means not using the full image as-is, but cropping it to represent a use of smaller portion of the image. 
  • Add your own elements to the image to make it original – a simple way could be adding text such as a header, other elements or any other information to the image.

  • Rework it to use it in a totally different way – this could be as simple as tinkering with colour values or the saturation of the image to give it a different feel.
  • Use it for nonprofit purposes – this one is self explanatory. Just no monetary gains.

Also, bear in mind that in case you are unsure of some of the points above, giving credit to the author may go a long way in helping you to use the image for free.

What happens if I misuse a Google Image?

Copyright infringement or in other words misuse of an image is a criminal offense. There are severe penalties that can be levied on your business if found guilty. In some cases you may get a “Demand to Cease and Desist” letter meaning the author of the image may ask you to stop selling the product that uses his/her image. This can be harmful for your business not only in the short term as it can impact your sales, but also in the long term as it can be detrimental to the brand image of your business.

Is there an alternative to using Google images?

Absolutely! There are a ton of alternatives that provide amazing options to use images without having to worry about the licensing as you get the license for using the image once you pay for the image. Some of the biggest platforms are Shutterstock, Getty Images or iStock. A simple Google search will help you find many more such options. However, the one’s I mentioned will allow you to get the widest search results and the most relevant images.

How much do I need to pay if I don’t want to use Google images?

This is a question many of us would have in mind. Is using Google images worth the pain? How much does it really cost to buy an image so that I could avoid all this hassle? Well, image prices do vary based on different platforms. It could be as low as $5 and can go as high as even $500! Depending on the price of the image, you may want to decide whether it is worth the value of buying an image. 

A cheaper alternative could be using platforms such as freepik which allow you to sign up for a monthly subscription of as low as $10. You can stop this subscription at any point in time. The best part of this service is that once you have the paid subscription, you can download as many high resolution images from the platform as you want! You can even use it in any manner you want. Platforms like freepik also provide you with vector icons and other elements to use for your presentation. 

This kind of a model is great especially if you need to download more than 2 or 3 images for your project. There are a few other alternative services providers as well. A simple Google query can provide you with a list of answers.

Are there any free alternatives to using Google image or paid platforms?

There are a few other platforms that provide you with totally free high resolution images for you to download and use it for your project. Pixabay is a great example of such a platform. My favourite go-to platform for using free images is Unsplash. However, there are quite a few limitations when using these platforms. For example, the images that you search are often just not tagged correctly. This means, finding a relevant image for your purpose will take you quite a bit of trial and error to identify the right search phrase. Even so, finding an image is not a guarantee as the number of options are quite limited. Most importantly, you may need to give credit to the author/owner of the image in order to use it for free. You may want to avoid using images from such platform if you are not in a position to do so.

Pro-tip on finding free to use Google image for your presentation

If you still think Google images are the right way to go for you, we’ve got a small little ninja trick for you that can help you in your cause. 

Here’s what you can do to avoid the confusion of usage rights. When searching for an image on Google, go to images.google.com. Type in the search phrase in the search bar and hit enter. Next, when you see the results from you search query, click on “tools” under the search bar. Then, click on “Usage rights”, and select “Labeled for reuse” option from the dropdown. Now Google will show only those images that are free to reuse. This basically means that you are free to resuse these images in any form or manner keeping in mind no commercial gain. If you find an image that you like, go ahead and feel free to use it for your project!

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