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Blogosphere Trends + Choosing and Using Images

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

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Comments

  1. I use Flickr all the time, with the creative common license. Works out great, awesome pictures all the time.

    Another thing is Zemanta, it is a wordpress plugin, which suggests pictures. These pictures come from site who are under the creative common license, so that works out pretty good.

  2. Annemieke says:

    Tjee, thanks for the link to the Google Image Search, where you can select ‘reuse with modification’. I never knew you could search that way.

    I love that Google function but always went there with the normal Google search and could not select usage there. So lately I used other sites like Everstockphoto (which is also great), but with Google I especially like that you can select on color.

    So knowing that I can also select on usage is really great.

  3. akascholar says:

    Thanks for the tips. I have been looking for a way to spruce up my blog. I was too afraid to use images from google search for my blog. Its nice to know how all of this works. I am still new to this, and thankful for any tips!

    akascholar
    http://www.educatedandfabulous.com

  4. I’ve been using sxc.hu (istock’s free site) for years now and I love it! I’m also a huge fan of PhotoXpress.com

    Thanks for the tips on Flickr and Google Images!

  5. hi Kimberly! Thanks again for these lists. Good to see you again on problogger. Your lists are realy interesting, well I am getting edicted to it! Last time I didnt got answer how you develop these lists? Ankush, http://ankushwood.blogspot.com

  6. George185 says:

    I use flickr and sxc.hu very often for my photo needs. I like to try and include a photo with every post on one of my pop culture blogs. It does add to the appeal of the article and makes it look much more professional.

  7. Thanks Kimberly for your incisive article. I have learnt more ways to get images legally for my blogs. Just want to add that you can try public domain, and government sites for free usable images.

  8. CornerCaffe says:

    I include a representative photo on each one of my posts. To this end, I usually use Flickr…

  9. Joshua Noerr says:

    I would anticipate the US stock market to make quite a splash in the blogosphere coming up this weekend. Or maybe I’m just trying to pretend I can get ahead of the trend.

  10. Tirmizi says:

    I use fliker and imageshack both mostly for my images hosting needs … and adding photos in the post brings the post alive ….

  11. Bruce says:

    I would anticipate the US stock market to make quite a splash in the blogosphere coming up this weekend. Or maybe I’m just trying to pretend I can get ahead of the trend.

  12. HowToPlaza says:

    Hello Darren.

    Thanks for sharing the Creative Commons information. I’ve just started using images in my blog posts and they really enhance the visual appeal. Will pay close attention to what images I used from now onwards. Book marking this post.

  13. I’ve been using sxc.hu forever. Great selection. Pictures are an absolute necessity. No one liked to look a a huge block of text and nothing else. I also tend to add more white space than is normal for a printed page on paper because people’s eyes grow so weary reading online. It helps.

  14. fehk says:

    If we mention the source, is it still wrong to take photo’s off normal google search?

  15. Melvin says:

    well i am kinda lazy so oftentimes i just pick up pics from google image search.. If someone asks me to put it down, then i’ll put it down.. No problem at all to me..

    But thanks for giving an overview on what should be the steps in doing it..

  16. chandan says:

    Thanks for the information. I basically use google and flickr for use impage on my blog. But I did not think about creative common license when I have to use image. Next time I will have to keep attention about it.

  17. Tushar says:

    i used flicker for some time but it was a long process….so like melvin, i also use google images..if there is a copyright problem, i just send an apology and remove the image

  18. Thanks Darren, for all the great information.

    Is it okay to load self created screenshots and pictures to photobucket, and use direct links to them in the blog?

    Please let me know

  19. Wil says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Picapp as a source of blog images:

    http://www.picapp.com/

  20. sea says:

    My son, who wants to major in marine biology, and I spent some time reading and looking at some great pictures. We really enjoyed this site.

  21. thesea says:

    No Planet = No Us and you don’t have to be a scientist to fathom that one out!

  22. Nick says:

    Great post Darren! I use Flickr for my photo needs. I get awesome pictures all the time.

  23. Charlie says:

    great info,I might use robin hood for my othe music blog. Btw others are also cool and many thanks for the Infos :)

  24. Paul says:

    Using images of others until you get caught is really not the right way. A photograph or image is the copyright of the creator, if you use their image without permission you are violating their copyright. Why not use the resources that have been listed here, get permission first, buy the apprioriate licence or use creative commons if you don’t want to pay.

  25. Nice aggregation. It’s great co-incidence that I done a post on my blog about 10 free stock photo sites a blogger can use. I myself use Flickr, stock.xchng and MorgueFile. Of course, there are many others like RGBStock which provide quality images.

  26. akascholar says:

    Does anyone have any advice on how you attribute photos? Do you add a note stating the photographer, and link to their information? Is that sufficient?

  27. Paul says:

    @akascholar yes usually. Attribution is dictated by the supplier of the CC image. If they have not stated how to attribute, then a link to the page where you obtained the image using the photographers name or website should be fine. When my images are used I ask people to link back to my home page with the text ‘free photo by toasto.com’. Other photographers my require something different, If in doubt, contact them and ask.

    From the creative commons website:-
    ‘Attribution – You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). ‘

  28. Ankush: Thanks! The trends lists are created using Regator’s algorithm, which tells us what stories bloggers are covering most in a given week by analyzing the text of tens of thousands of posts from blogs of all genres. I can’t get much more specific than that. Hope that helps!

    HowToPlaza: Great! I’m glad you found the post so useful. Thanks for the feedback.

    Junk Drawer Kathy: You’re absolutely right about online reading being more stressful on the eyes than print. Your tip to leave more whitespace to account for that is a good one!

    Nibedita Banerjee: If you’ve created the images yourself, they’re your intellectual property and you can use them however you’d like.

  29. I wanted to recap the additional resources you guys have added in the comments so far. Thanks for adding to the list:
    Zemanta plug-in (from Stefan)
    Everstockphoto (Annemieke)
    PhotoXpress.com (Erica Mueller)
    Imageshack (Tirmizi)
    Picapp (Wil)
    RGBStock (Harsh Athalye)

    Plus, I just ran across this site: http://copyrightfriendly.wikispaces.com/ which has a list of its own and seems like it has the potential to be very helpful (I’m not vouching for every resource on it because I haven’t explored it fully).

  30. Fehk, many images you find via a regular Google search are copyrighted and shouldn’t be used without permission. Try the advanced search (see link in post) to find images you can use with permission. Many bloggers don’t realize that though, which is one reason I wrote this post.

    The “Bloggers’ Legal Guide” explains more: http://www.eff.org/issues/bloggers/legal/liability/IP

    Melvin, Tushar, I agree with Paul on this one. You CAN use images until you’re caught but with so many amazing resources where you can get images to use without infringing on copyright, I’m not sure why you would. Once you get into the habit, finding good stuff that you DO have permission to use is easy and takes almost no extra time.

    Ultimately, it’s easier to get permission from the image’s creator than it is to try to interpret the fuzzy boundaries of Fair Use/Fair Dealings/Fair Whatever-Your-Country-Calls It, deal with take-down notices, and run the risk (unlikely as it is) of dealing with a lawsuit…not to mention the potential for some serious bad karma. No offense meant, and thanks for contributing to the conversation on this.

  31. I use a lot of the ones mentioned above. Here is another I find useful:

    http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/

  32. I know were talking pictures here, but sometimes a nice clip art image can come in handy. For clip art images use:

    http://www.openclipart.org/

  33. @Stefan- Zemanta rocks, thanks for the tip. I’ve been using the WP plug-in Insights and found it helpful, but this plug-in helps expand my blog in useful ways.

  34. I use Flickr images on my blog, with the PhotoDropper plugin, which lets you search for appropriately-licensed content from within WordPress and does the attribution link for you. I recommend it.

    When I re-use blog content in information products, though, I generally replace the Flickr images with ones from sxc.hu, because they’re usually more professional-looking and the licensing is more straightforward. I’ve had Flickr images vanish or seen the license change on them before now.

    Thanks for the pointer to Konomark, sounds like it fills a gap as a signal that “This isn’t automatically free to use, but depending who you are, it probably will be if you ask”.

  35. I’ve used Google images and then find that my Feedburner Medic is “calling me”. I’ve been getting error messages and some have to do with the images.

    Do you have any info on that end of image use? I end up having to Resync and Ping after every posting.

  36. Steve says:

    i used flicker for some time but it was a long process….so like melvin, i also use google images..if there is a copyright problem, i just send an apology and remove the image

  37. Anne Galivan says:

    I recently started using Fotolia due to issues with using pictures that contain children.

    Because my website is devoted to home-schooling, I frequently want to use pictures containing children, but I found on free sites that the licensing requirements for pictures containing children tend to be much stricter.

    Fotolia is inexpensive and by purchasing photos I can avoid legal issues I might otherwise run into.

  38. Cool, I hope to see more from you and continue these great posts that really gets me motivated.

  39. Melissa says:

    Thanks so much for this! I just started my blog not too long ago and was wondering where everyone got such fantastic images. I knew about most of these sites already, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to use the images I liked. Now I do. Thank you. :)

  40. Avery Dupay says:

    Either it’s all in her head or there’s some seriously effed up stuff going on with that ballerina. Looks pretty damn good and having two of the hottest actresses around having a “good time” with one another doesn’t hurt. Aronofsky is a modern genius of filmmaking and this looks to be his best yet. I’m sure it’ll have another kick-ass Clint Mansell score as well.