A Blogger’s Guide To Using Images On The Internet
When I first started blogging, I didn’t really have a clue about how to properly use images on the internet. I thought pictures on my blog posts were simply to help them look pretty, things for the words to flow round, to give the readers’ imaginations a bit of help.
I can remember when I first tried to put an affiliate banner on my Blogger blog and it took me about 4 hours to work out the HTML. I thought I had it right and I was pretty crushed when I went to view it – only for a small black square to be where the pretty banner should have been.
Those were the days of scouring Google images for pretty pictures to decorate my sexy stories with. The delight when I found something suitably erotic, and I’d eagerly right click/save as and upload to my blog post without a second thought.
I’d often be frustrated when I tried to send a bunch of photos to someone via email and it kept bouncing back, or just wouldn’t send at all. There’s only 5 photos attached, what the hell’s the problem?
Any of these sound familiar? Perhaps I’m the only person in the history of the web who started a blog without really much of a clue about images and the internet. But in case I’m not, here’s what I hope is an easy to understand beginner’s guide to best blogging practice when it comes to using images and photos. Avoid common mistakes – and potential legal trouble, too…
Don’t use ridiculously massive images on your blog
Using huge images on your blog takes up a lot of room on your blog’s server. You won’t be able to fit as many huge size images in your library as you can moderately sized ones. Massive images usually take longer to load on your reader’s page, which is annoying for them, and when they do load they can take up a massive amount of room on the screen which isn’t ideal. Sure, you can amend the size your image shows at on your screen – whether you centre your image or your words flow round it – but if you use lightboxing (pop-out plug ins) or don’t know how to resize images on your blog then you could be blogging with giant images which detract from your writing instead moderate sized ones which complement your theme.
Make sure you’re legally allowed to use the images you choose
This may come as a shock – particularly for newbie bloggers – but you’re not allowed to use just any image you find on the internet on your blog posts. Images on the internet all have varying levels of copyright and acceptable use. Some images are allowed to be used along with appropriate accreditation, including those covered by the Creative Commons licence. Others are free to use without any attribution at all. You will find many beautiful images on the internet which you’re not allowed to use on your blog or elsewhere, as they are protected by the owner’s copyright. So… just because you’ve found the perfect image through Google Images, Flickr or elsewhere doesn’t mean you can pop it on your blog and everything’s hunky dory. You may find yourself facing legal threats. Make sure you use the appropriate filters on Google Image search or Flickr to find images you’re legally able to reuse on your blog, or visit a free to use image website such as Pixabay.
There’s a reason why stock image sites like Shutterstock and iStockPhoto charge for image downloads: beautiful photography means an income for photographers. If you don’t respect assumptions that you’ll work for free why would you expect it from those working in the photography and graphic design industry?
Protect your own images with a watermark
Perhaps you’d like to use your own photography and/or designed images on your blog. If you can take wonderful, clear photographs or have the skills relevant to image design, this is a fantastic way to illustrate your articles, product reviews and anything else you write about on your blog.
Just a word of warning: if you are happy with the image you’ve snapped or created for use on your site, other, less scrupulous folk out there may agree with you. It’s very difficult to prevent your images being taken from your blog and used elsewhere (by the way, right-click menu preventer plug-ins are incredibly easy to bypass) so my advice is to protect your own images by overlaying a watermark either in the corner or wherever you decide best. If you’re not sure how to make a watermarked icon or logo pertaining to your blog, then a simple way to show your ownership of images is by using the text tool in Paint to add your blog’s web address in the bottom left or right corner. This is the simplest way I can think of which everyone with a computer or laptop will have access to.
Watermarking your images still won’t prevent your images being taken by the web uneducated (or the morally corrupt), but it will at least clarify your ownership of those images wherever they get used.
Optimise your images
You might not know too much about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). That’s ok. Even if you haven’t the first clue about SEO, I’m sure you’d want to help your blog and the articles you write on it to place as high up the search engine results as possible for relevant searches online.
Google and the other search engines can’t see or take notice of your images (yet). In real terms, this means you might have a gorgeous photo of a butt plug… but Google can’t tell it’s a butt plug, and so won’t take it into account when indexing your blog post for that search term. You can still make that image count towards a search for ‘butt plug’ though; make sure you title the image with a phrase including ‘butt plug’ and you should have a place once you upload your image to your blog where you can write a short description of the image where you can also include the term. Most blogging platforms will let you set the “alt text” (sometimes called caption) for an image which is the cornerstone of image SEO.
Bonus: Titling your images with specific terms about what they illustrate not only helps towards your search engine rankings for relevant terms, it makes your image files much easier to find in your PC library and your blog’s media library too. Take it from someone who has often wasted time trying to find *that* image in her blog’s library from 3 years ago, only to find it has a ridiculous string of letters and numbers as the file name instead of being called simply what the picture is of. Save yourself the headaches. You’re welcome.
Present your images well
What happens when someone clicks the images on your blog post or product review at your blog? Have you ever checked, or do you simply publish from your back-end and then forget about it? It’s good to have a look at the article or review once you’ve published it and imagine you’re a reader visiting that post. What are you expecting to happen when you click on an image in a post? Would you like it to take the visitor to another place on the internet, perhaps another, relevant page or post on your blog or to someone else’s website? Maybe you just want to give the visitor a bigger view of that photo or image, in which case you’ll need to make sure your blog is set up to ‘pop out’ images with a lightbox plug-in or similar.
Personally, I choose to pop my images out bigger for the reader to see them in more detail 99% of the time. I prefer to direct my readers to other blogs and websites through the use of text links, not just because of the added SEO benefits of linking in this way but also because *I* find it frustrating when images link elsewhere. I usually click on an image because I want to see it in more detail – not to visit another website!
Going back to point one – not using huge images on your blog – you may or may not realise that the raw photos you take with your camera or cameraphone are actually mahoosive. Sure, they look teeny on the screen, but I’m talking about the actual digital size of the image, in pixels (the dots which make up all digital images). I regularly get sent images which are as many as 7000 pixels on the longest side… whereas I upload images to my site which are max 800 pixels on the longest side. Usually 600 pixels.
By the way, when people talk about an image being a size such as 600px x 400px, the first number always relates to the width. And don’t even get me started on maintaining aspect ratio… (not stretching one side longer than it should be which ends up with the image looking stretched, blurry and amateur).
I hear of many people having difficulties emailing photos either to me, or in general. This is usually because the images are simply too large – emails tend to like attachments which are in kilobytes not megabytes… and trying to attach several massive images won’t help your emails send and deliver successfully.
Not sure how to get your images down to a suitable size for emailing? There’s a few ways you can resize them. For the ultra non-techy, you can resize images in Paint. Yep, good old Paint again. You’ll have to pop them into Paint, resize and save them separately though (don’t forget to title them well!) and this can be a labour intensive time-suck.
There’s a ridiculously handy and cool plug-in for Windows which adds a ‘resize pictures’ option to the right-click menu. You just select the images you’d like to resize, and right click, and find ‘resize pictures’ on that menu. Play around with it a bit to find the best settings for you. The plug-in is free and you can find it here (or Google ‘image resizer for Windows’).
If you’re an Adobe Creative Suite user, then Lightroom is a fantastic and quick tool for all your image editing. I use it to resize images, lighten them, crop them and watermark them all in one go. I typically edit hundreds of images and photographs in a standard working week so I find Lightroom absolutely vital for me – although it’s certainly not free. There are similar image editing programs out there; I hear many people love Gimp (like a free Photoshop), Paintshop Pro and Photo for Mac users.
I hope this quick guide has given you more of a heads-up about images and the internet, and clarified some common misconceptions about using pictures on your blog. In a nutshell: Check usage rights before download/upload, resize, watermark, title/alt tag.
If you’ve got any questions about images and the internet, or how to use pictures and photos on your blog or elsewhere on the web, I’ll be happy to answer the questions you comment below.