Is it bad form to link directly to an image on a website?

Almost put this in ATMB, in case there’s an official Straight Dope policy on this. If it should have gone there in the first place - forgive me. Placing in IMHO to get the opinions of webmasters when this happens to you (if you notice it).

It’s quite easy to link directly to an image on any website - just right-click on it, select Properties, and copy the filename and path of the image. The result is a url to just that one image, not the page which the image originally appeared on.

Example: This image.

I do this sometimes. Is this a terrible thing to do? Do webmasters hate me when I do this? (ATMB question: am I violating SDMB rules if I do it here?)

Does it make a difference whether the link gets clicked on once, or a million times? Or is very light use just as bad as very heavy use?

If I have done wrong, tell me, and I will mend my ways.

It’s bad form. That means that the webmaster is hosting that image for you, without the benefit of any advertising that he may have on his website. Also, he may have other things on that page specifically related to that picture (copyright info) that people will not see because you linked directly to the image itself.

It would be best not to do it.

Depends. Technically, it can be a rude thing to do, because “deep linking” to images on someone’s site is a freebie for you and it costs them the bandwidth, with no real exposure to their site. If the owner of the site wants something for that usage (like banner impressions, or simple exposure to the rest of the site) then it could piss them off. In some cases, it can REALLY piss someone off. I’ve known people who purposefully had to replace images with porn images to “get back” at someone who had deep linked an image on their site.


It’s a pretty trivial thing for server admins to make it impossible to deep link images, many free hosting sites do this. It’s hard to get too worked up about the issue considering that there’s (usually) a trivial way to prevent it.

In the end, posting links to images on a message board is pretty benign. It’s not like you submitted it to Slashdot or anything.

It’s not nearly as bad as putting it inline in an <img> tag. A link forces people to consciously click on it, while the tag will load it for everyone regardless.


Several friends of mine have had their bandwidth costs driven up by this, denial of service, etc.


I know that they don’t allow it here on the SDMB - I did it once.

OK, OK, OK, I won’t do it again!

(I’ve done it here at SDMB at least twice and not been reprimanded. But a lot of stuff slips under the radar, of course. I’ll consider myself lucky.)

THANK YOU ALL for the advice. I will certainly take it.

Somethingawful has a rather nasty way of getting back at people who link to their images. They replace the linked image with a picture of . . . . something else. Believe me, you won’t ever do it again. :smiley:

Lemme guess-does it have to do with goats?


I think I’ve done this now and then, (shame on me) but as a webmaster, I have to say that I don’t mind so much when people do it to me. (I usually have copyright info and my URL imprinted on any of my larger pictures, which is what people usually directly link to.)

What is unforgivable as far as I’m concerned is the inline <img> thing (as Smackfu brought up already). When someone does this, and I have the time, I replace the image they are swiping with another more embarrassing image. One time, this stupid woman was using a thumbnail image of mine on a message board she frequented. (She used it as her avatar, so anyone who opened a thread she posted in saw the picture and sucked up some of my bandwidth.) I replaced the image she swiped with a different image (something nonsensical) figuring that she’d get the hint and go away. She didn’t. She was a stupid git. She then linked to the large picture (not the thumbnail, which was much smaller) so that was crammed into her little avatar picture. Even more of my bandwidth stolen! Well, that did it. I became quite blunt. I switched the picture with a graphic that said, “I am a bandwidth thief”. Finally she got the hint.

That kind of shit drives me insane. Linking to one of my images, though, does not piss me off, since sometimes people do then visit my site because they like what they see. Actually, a Doper once linked to one of my images on a thread on these boards. (Not knowing it was my image, of course.) There was my image, with my name, copyright information and URL right on it! I didn’t have a problem with that.

HA! Nothing slips under our radar, Roscoe. We didn’t say anything because we were just playing cat-and-mouse with you. We’re hideously subtle and cruel like that.

::waits, peeved, for rolling gales of laughter to subside::

Wiseacre ingrates.

On a rather more serious note, we do ask folks not to do this, for all the reasons stated. And thank you, masonite for having the decency and responsibility to ask.


There’s a difference between linking to images and leeching images. Linking means you just provide a link. Leeching means you actually display the image on another site whilst it’s being hosted by the original site.

Linking doesn’t seem that problematic to me, but I suppose that it’s better to link to the page the image exists on as opposed to directly linking to the image,

OK, how about this? I don’t have access to a scanner. Sometimes there are threads that bring up “What do you look like?” I can’t directly post my picture, but there are pictures of me on my church’s site and the zoo’s. Can I link? Directly, so I don’t have to explain “I’m in the third picture to the left after you go to the fourth page from the Homepage?” How about if I ask my boss first?

If the owner of the site (your boss? or more likely your IT department in this case?) gives you permission, then go for it.

Yes, one hit makes a difference from 1000 hits, but you never know what is going to hit the big time. Somone might decide you are the cutest (or dorkiest looking) person they have ever seen and spam you all over the net, the site hosting the link gets swamped.


  1. Link to the actual page that shows the image.
  2. Take a copy of the image, put it on a free-host like geocities with a little text under saying where you got it, that it’s not yours and linking back to the site you took it from.

Forgot to say that IMHO, if it is a picture of you, you can (by MY moral reasoning, ymmv) snag the pic and host it wherever you like, possibly unless is was professionally taken studio shots or something that people might want to have associated back to the photographer.

Inline img-you mean displaying a picture on your site, linked from another?

That’s what I thought you meant. If you meant a text link to an image, like see what this looks like, then I wouldn’t have a problem with that.
Direct linking is a huge problem in the graphics community-since I do cartoon dolls and blinkies.

What about linking to Google images? Are they the same problem as other more personal sites?

I’m sorry to say I have recently done this without knowing that it’s a problem for the hosting server.

When you do an image search, Google provides a link under each picture you get. Also, it shows you the original content underneath the picture, so you have the option of switching over to their webpage, and even turning off the top frame to leave Google altogether.

But if you mean that you enlarge the picture fully and link to that, then yes, you are using the host’s bandwidth (if you look at the web address line, you are now out of Google.) And, Google gets away with it because of what I said in the first paragraph. Most people want Google to host their images to get more traffic to their site. They don’t get traffic if you don’t link back to them, etc.