Welcome back for another edition of the weekly Blogosphere trends, now on its new day of the week. If you’re blogging about stories, like those on the trends list, that are covered by hundreds of other bloggers across the blogosphere or in your niche, how can you make sure your post gets the attention it deserves? We’ve talked a bit about using effective headlines, interesting formats, and strong opening lines to draw readers to your posts. Today, along with the trends generated by Regator, we’ll look at some types of images that could be used to help posts about these popular stories stand out from the crowd.
Normally, I use individual blog posts to illustrate the week’s tips. This week, I’m taking a slightly different approach and using images from Flickr (unless otherwise noted) because I want to demonstrate the variety and quality of images available there via Creative Commons licenses. We’ll talk in a moment about licensing and other places to get free (or affordable) legal images for your posts, but first, let’s take a look at how this week’s hot stories could’ve been enhanced with visuals:
- Gulf of Mexico – Powerful photos, such as this oil-covered pelican, can be used to add emotional impact to your posts. Remember, a picture is worth 1,000 words…but it’s the internet, so your readers probably don’t have the attention span required to read 1,000 words.
- Elena Kagan – Clear, well-framed photographs can also be used to set the scene for your post. This photo of the U.S. Supreme Court is Konomarked, which is a bit different from the standard Creative Commons licensing normally used by Flickr. The Konomark symbol, which looks like a pineapple in a circle, generally means that the owner of the content is willing to share it but must be emailed first for permission.
- Cannes Film Festival – Perhaps you weren’t able to stand in the center of the red carpet at Cannes to get a dramatic shot…but someone was. Use their access to transport your readers to an exclusive location or event in order to give them a perspective they wouldn’t ordinarily be privy to.
- Ronnie James Dio – When choosing photos of celebrities–or people in general, for that matter–spontaneous shots that capture a moment in time are usually far more impactful than staged, posed promo shots provided by PR companies. Though taken on stage, this shot of Ronnie James Dio, who died this week, seems to offer a glimpse into the human being behind the rock star persona.
- Senate/Rand Paul/Arlen Specter – You might also consider using a comic or illustration rather than a photo. Because of the time involved in creating them, it can be tough to find free versions of political cartoons, this Arlen Specter work isn’t free but the prices are listed to give you some idea of what something like this would cost.
- Miss USA/Rima Fakih – The right image can be used to add humor to your post. In this case, this (really weird) “pole dancing is prohibited” sign could provide light-hearted commentary on the Miss USA pole dancing scandal.
- Robin Hood – If you regularly blog about movies, music, or television, you probably receive more publicity stills and promo shots than you’d use in a lifetime. They can be useful in the right context though. Slashfilm used promo shots to give readers a glimpse of the highly anticipated but then-unreleased Robin Hood movie. PR contacts are often happy to provide you with promo shots if you just ask.
- Steve Jobs – Although the old adage that pictures never lie is certainly not true in the age of PhotoShop and photo manipulation, they do still add a certain level of credibility to a story. Gawker published screen shots of a heated exchange between a blogger and Steve Jobs because it was not only a more visually interesting approach, but also helped legitimize the story.
- David Cameron – Infographics, such as this analysis of the UK election under different voting systems, can help your readers quickly and easily understand a complicated topic or simply present information and statistics that might’ve been dry or wordy in a more dynamic, interesting way.
- World Cup – Like infographics, maps are a visually engaging way to provide a great deal of information using minimal text and space. This annotated map of the World Cup surrounds quickly conveys important safety information to World Cup fans.
Most of the images above are available via Creative Commons licensing on Flickr. It’s vital to understand the various types of licensing so that you understand what you can and cannot do with a particular image and how it needs to be attributed. Many new bloggers make the mistake of using random images from a Google image search, hot-linking to images (a BIG no-no), or using Flickr or other image sites without fully understanding the licensing. Here’s my approach: I begin by doing an advanced search on Flickr, making sure to check the box that says “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content.” Then, once I’ve found an image I’m interested in, I click the “Some rights reserved” link (if it says “All rights reserved,” it it not available via Creative Commons) under “More information” in the lower right corner of the page to learn more about the licensing for that photo.
Flickr is a great resource but certainly isn’t your only option for free-high quality images for your posts. Here are a few other options:
- Use the advanced option of Google Image Search. Select the correct option under “Usage Rights.”
- Wikimedia Commons is another amazing resource with more than six million images to choose from.
- If you’re ever in need of space or astronomy-related images, you can’t do better than NASA Images, which allows you to use any image (as long as it doesn’t imply that NASA endorses a particular product) simply by including a credit that says, “NASA/courtesy nasaimages.org.”
- Stock.xchng, now owned by Getty Images, has 350,000 free stock photos. There are also a few other sites where you can find images free of charge, including MorgueFile, EveryStockPhoto, and Freerange Stock.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a sizable library of nature-related digital media, all available free of charge.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a beautiful library of photos, all available for free with a few minor restrictions regarding attribution.
- Use your own photos. With a decent camera and a bit of practice (along with some tips from photography blogs like Darren’s Digital Photography School), you can save yourself the time it’ll take to hunt down photos taken by others and get the satisfaction of creating even more original content for your blog.
Do you have a great image resource I haven’t mentioned? Please share it with your fellow bloggers in the comments.