pinterest is not a source.

pinterest is not a source. someone, somewhere is. find them!

i don't want to ruffle any feathers today, but i do want to discuss a topic that has a huge impact on me and my livelihood as a creative (as well as all other bloggers, artists and photographers): sourcing your images.

let's start with the basics. some of you may or may not know that it's absolutely (as in 100%) necessary to give sources to any and all images you use on your blog, website, facebook page, etc. without properly sourcing your images, you will lose credibility as a reliable source, damage the image's owner's livelihood and may open yourself up to legal action taken from the image's owner. kapeesh?

the topic that i want to talk about today though, is the importance of finding the original source to an image and using that on your blogs and websites. lately, i've noticed that so many bloggers have started to link to pinterest as the source of an image, however pinterest is never a source. as my good friend jessica nichols put it: a person somewhere is the source. so i say, find them!

my philosphy is simple. if i can't find the original source to an image, i simply won't use it on my blog. yes, it's frustrating. yes, it takes a lot of time to find the original source sometimes. and yes, sometimes i don't get to use beautiful images because i can't figure out where they came from. however, i feel that my integrity and the livelihood of the person who does own the image is more important than using it on my blog (no matter how perfect the image is!).

so just how to i go about hunting down a source? i like to use the google image search feature.

how to use google image search to find an original source.

if you follow the link to an image on pinterest (or from anywhere for that matter) and don't end up at the original source, search for it using google's image search. in this example, i'll be showing you how to search for this pretty flower image from suzanne & johns wedding by the nichols (originally found on pinterest which linked it to a tumblr site).

step 1: right click on the image and select 'copy image location'. this will copy the image url.


how to use google image search to find an original source. (1)

step 2: paste the image url into google and hit search. then, select 'search by image'.


how to use google image search to find an original source. (2)

step 3: start opening what looks to be the most legitimate sites (tip: automatically open them each in new separate tabs by holding down the command button (control button on a pc) as you click each link). skip the links that send you to pages like pinterst, tumblr, indulgy and we heart it. go to the 2nd (or 3rd!) pages if necessary. in this example, i opened the first two links. the first one was a dud and the second one took me to this blog:


how to use google image search to find an original source. (3)

step 4: once you find what looks like to be a pretty legitimate source (like this pretty blog above), read the text and look for links to an even more original source (sometimes people call this 'going down the rabbit hole'). in this case, wed loft has done a very nice job of clearly linking to the original source. following that link led me to this page:

how to use google image search to find an original source. (3)

step 5: ta da! the original source! here, elizabeth anne designs featured several original images from suzanne & john's wedding and linked to all of the vendors at the bottom (we could possibly assume that suzanne and john submitted their photos and info to this blog to be featured). use the link to this blog post as the source on your own blog if you choose to use any of the photos for any reason. in this case, you should go a step further and link to the actual photographer (the nichols) as well (since it's clearly listed).

clearly labeling the original sources to all the images you use on your blog/website will help build your trust within the creative community, make your readers come to you as a reliable source and help support the careers of other artists and creatives in the community. it's a win-win-win!

thoughts? advice, tips or tricks? i'll meet you in the comment section. xox, bonnie

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  • Amen! I’m so glad you posted about this. I know most people don’t understand why this matters, but to any of us who have our own images online, it’s a big deal. Respecting the copyright and ownership of images is extremely important to our creative community. I am confident that with a bit of education and gentle persuasion people can develop better pinning habits, and in the process, contribute to a healthier online environment for creativity. Thanks for putting this out here!

  • Oh, such a tricky subject. One the one hand you want to encourage another’s creativity, but on another you want to be acknowledged for the creative person you are and not have it stolen. I do think that going the extra mile can create some great trusts in this community, but as an avid Pinterest user (I usually don’t do blog posts that go back to my pins), it’s the nature of the beast. We can only do our part and hope others will too. Thanks for sharing. It’s encouraged me to go the extra mile next time I post my pins!

  • Bonnie,
    I don’t think I realized this was so important. That is probably ignorant of me, but I really appreciate you pointing it out and sharing how to find an orginal source. I for one will do better. Thank you for your words.

  • Great post! It is so frustrating when you are looking at a pin on pinterest and then it just goes to a tumblr page and you can’t get to the bottom. I have never tried the trick of google searching the image url, great tip! :)

  • I am glad you posted this too! I try not to post images when I can not find the source. I have done it before though. Thank you for explaining the goggle image source. I knew it was possible I just was not sure how to use it. Also I try to take all of my own photos if possible or link back to the item and seller in posts.


  • YES! I’m so glad you’ve written about this! It drives me crazy when a pin isn’t liked up to its original source. I am constantly updating broken pins – almost seems like a full time job sometimes.

  • I completely agree and I am on the process of cleaning up my Pinterest, which I love because is a way to show how much we love all blogers work (only when we are fair). However and following your process there is one little problem: Language. When I finally find the blogger who is probably the source of the picture it is in a language that I don’t understand and there I have the conflict on how to prove it is their picture or not?

  • Here is a question–I’ve seen that some blogs have made it so their pictures are un-pinnable. Do you know how to do this? I would see Pinterest as a catch22–on the one hand it’s great free advertising, on the other–it’s easy for people to copy and spread as their own ideas. I just wondered how people are able to do that? (I totally respect that decision, I’m just curious is all.)
    Sarah M

    • hey sarah! i’m not sure how to go about making images unpinnable, but i’m sure it’s possible through a plugin perhaps? i think in this situation, pinterest is not the problem. if anything gets pinned directly from a site, then it will always link back to the correct location. i think the problem arises when someone take an image directly from a blog/website and then reuses it somewhere else without giving proper credit (in which making an image unpinnable wouldn’t help).. does that make sense?

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. I have recently been more and more frustrated by the bad sources of things pinned on Pinterest…even more maddening how many times un-credited images get repinned. I never pin an image without looking and finding the original source. It is tough, but important.

    The one thing I will add is I occasionally pin improperly credited images to a secret board until I can find the original source. If I can’t find the source I delete the pin. I try to never share anything on my public boards without proper credit.

    Again, thanks for tackling this tough topic. I think some people just don’t know better until they are told.

  • I disagree. If this is so important to you, you should make your images unpinnable or take it up with Pinterest. Ask them to remove the repin option. I hit repin all the time. I don’t have the time to trace every source……..which is why the repin button is there. I understand your point. I have a blog too. To make such a big deal out if it sounds a little more like greed to me. Maybe greed is too harsh a word. I think for people who feel the way that you do about it, they should seriously consider making their images unpinnable. I don’t like the idea that people intentionally make their images public and then get all bent out of shape, greedy for recognition, and sue happy when the public likes them enough to pin it as inspiration. Should that not be a compliment?

    • hey guys! thanks for all your input on this topic!

      let me clear: i’m not so much talking about the images you pin on pinterest and keep on pinterest. i certainly repin things frequently without taking the time to research each one before doing so. i’m more so talking about when you take an image OFF of pinterest, then repost it to your blog/website and then link to pinterest as the source of the photo (a no-no in my book). if you repost an image you found on pinterest, you should do the homework to find out where it actually came from and give due credit. that’s all i’m sayin’!

      hope this makes sense and clears some controversy up! xox, bonnie

    • hi melissa! i think maybe you’ve misunderstood. i’m not discussing the topic of pinning images from a website or repinning them on pinterest. i love it when people pin images from going home to roost. also, if anything gets repinned from my site (either by the built in pin it button, or their browser’s pin it button), it will always direct people back here to the correct source.

      this conversation is about when someone takes an image off of pinterest to repost on their own blog/website, and how important it is to give it proper credit. hope this clears things up a bit. xox, bonnie

  • OMG! Thank you so much for this post Bonnie! I’m a recent design blogger and how ignorant of me to do this. Sad part is I’ve seen professional in my field do this often and I thought it was okay. Thanks again for the heads up, I owe you one!

  • I use the add-on “tin-eye” which basically does the google search for you & breaks it down by links & then also the largest image size which will usually point back to original. At the same time, i think this is an issue that isn’t going anywhere & bloggers will need to adapt… Use a watermark or web developers can show you how to embed your details in the HTML… I forsee bloggers needing to take these extra steps & think ahead of everyone else- it’s part of the profession & isn’t going to back to where it was pre-tunblr/ Pinterest.

    • hey emily! thanks so much for the advice on using the tin-eye!

      i also just want to be clear that i don’t wish for the days where tumblr & pinterest didn’t exist. i love pinterest! it’s an amazing resource for inspiration and discovering new things. the conversation here is less about pinning images from a blog/website and more about what to do when you take an image off of pinterest to reuse, and how to give it proper credit. we all have to take responsibility for sharing images properly.

  • Bonnie, I agree 100%! I always (or at least try to) check the source on the things I pin just because things get lost in the Internet wormhole. I also edit the pin I pinned when I find the original source. It’s just so easy to ignore but I try to encourage other bloggers to properly credit their images and I hope people do the same on Pinterest as well.

  • AMEN! My biggest pet peeve is when I want to use an image and it brings me to Tumblr. Unless, it’s the artists actual Tumblr 99% of the images I can’t use. It’s a huge bummer, and I hate that people are so neglectful.

  • Great post! I’m even annoyed when people say “I got the idea from Pinterest” in person instead of “Such & Such Blog.” Pinterest is just a collection of links, people! grrr. lol.

    I do want to point out though that it is still (often times) illegal to post images to your blog without permission even if you do give credit to the original source. Even if you have the best intentions. It’s always best to shoot the photographer an email asking them if you can blog it. That way you can completely avoid legal trouble!

  • It’s great to see this issue being addressed. I would like to echo Katie’s recent comment, however, that even more important than just crediting a source, you need a photographer’s permission if you’re going to use their images for your blog or website. Professional photographers (as well as amateurs and hobbyists) have likely invested in their craft by way of equipment, time, software, etc. and to make a living (or simply afford to practice photography) must give value to the images that they create. I find it frustrating that so many bloggers benefit from beautiful imagery that is not theirs and that they haven’t compensated the photographers for. If the images are what you need to dress up the style and feel of your blog, learn to take them yourself or purchase them from a photographer that you want to support. At the very least, i think bloggers should make sure to ask permission, not just post a link.

  • Excellent post, Bonnie.

    On a related note, pinterest user should avoid pinning images of original art to “DIY” boards without permission from the artist. As a full-time painter, t bothered me to no end to find a beautiful painting by Siiso posted as a pin that, when you clicked on it, led to a DIY article on how to copy that artist’s work. Copyright is a real, legal issue, not just a courtesy. I love having my own paintings get pinned, but started adding warnings not to post to DIY boards.

    I think abstract art may be more vulnerable to this because people don’t always see the painstaking care put into the process of making these: the subtle layering, use of archival materials, special tools, etc. There’s a jump to the assumption “I could do that in an afternoon with craft store paint”. People need to trust themselves to come up with their own ideas. :)

  • Bonnie

    I got here through a referral. I love your post. I am about to do one as well because this is a major issue here in my country: Brazil.

    Famous Brazilian bloggers (not all but many) are publishing/pinning pictures from well known international sources without any credit.

    I put a badge of the link with love site on my baby site (I am a new blogger, but an oldie on the Internet, LOL).

    At the same time I am taking this battle I am afraid I will be banned from the Brazilian blogging community. They will hate me!

    I will be get inspiration by your clear directions of how to google image search it. I always do it if the link goes to the sites you mentioned.

    I will keep in touch when I decide to publish it.

    BTW, I pinned the Pinterest is not a source! I love Pinterest.


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  • YES finally someone said it. I am fustraited with Google pintrest links!
    There should be a separate search to exclude pintrest. Ty for the artivle