Five Sure-Fire Resources For Compelling Blog Photography
Five Sure-Fire Resources For Compelling Blog Photography
by Jason Falls

If a picture is worth 1,000 words then the right picture is worth more. Choosing the right picture to use in your blog posts can be the difference between a user reading your post and really getting it. It can also supplement the meaning of your ideas with an etherial image that expands a reader’s understanding of the topic or sets their mind down an even better, unexplored path.

While there are certainly no shortage of photo sharing and image websites available to find good images for your blog, here are five sure-fire resources I use for compelling blog photography:

Service by Wolfgang Amri on Shutterstock.comI’ll admit, when Shutterstock first asked me if I’d like to try their service free of charge I thought I would, but only if it were free. Now that I’m used to using it, I’d be hard pressed to not use Shutterstock, even though it is a subscription-based site. For $49 per month, you can download 12 images at medium or low resolution. While I generally consider that price to be a bit on the high side, the images are royalty free and the Shutterstock quality and quantity is outstanding. I type in the search term “service” and come up with great stock images or even graphics that make my posts on customer service sing. Shutterstock has video, too.

Image by Wolfgang Amri on

Service by Yuri Arcurs on iStockPhotoIf you’re looking to purchase one photo, even if for a web project, presentation or blog post, iStockPhoto is a great resource. You can buy web-ready, royalty-free images there for as low as a buck. (Though you do have to pony up $20 or so and buy 12 credits to start off with.) It offers the pay-as-you-go model which makes it less of a pocket-book hit than Shutterstock, but still gives you great stock photography, video and graphics for a minimal investment.

Image by Yuri Arcurs on iStockPhoto.

Stock Exchange

Service from Stock ExchangeYou can still get strong quality images for use on your blog with zero budget by visiting any of the free stock photo sites out there. Stock Exchange offers a decent selection of stock photography that you can download for free. They also offer up the iStockPhoto paid images as choices in their searches as well, which is convenient if you must have the right photo. The selection isn’t the greatest and the searches I’ve conducted there come back with some odd matches. You’ll spend more time trying to find the right image, but if you find it, it’s free. Just sign up for an account and you’ve got access.

Image by stylesr1 on Stock Exchange.

Service by Alan Cleaver on FlickrEveryone’s favorite photo sharing site is also a great resource for good photography. While the images on Flickr are crowdsourced from photographers of all skill levels (most of them on the amateur end), you can still find a great shot or two if you look long and hard enough. Also, Flickr images tend to be real world images, not staged, stock photography, which can be more compelling imagery. But you have to be very careful using Flickr images. “Public” images doesn’t necessarily imply you’re free to use them. To be sure you’re using images you have permission to, use the Advanced Search features and search for images that are set for commercial use under Creative Commons licensing, as seen in the image below.

While you may not be using your blog specifically to make money, there’s always a chance your business or some monetary benefit could come your way as a result of your blog, either now or in the future. To be safe, and legal, just use images that give commercial permissions.

Flickr Creative Commons Suggestion

Image by Alan Cleaver on Flickr.

Zemanta Plug-In

Jason Falls and Boss Spetic
Image by Jason Falls via Flickr

I’ve written before about the Zemanta plug-in, which is used with your web browser, blog platform or email software to suggest images, links, related articles and tags to the content you’re producing (even emails to others). Using Zemanta for your blog offers you images from Flickr and other public image sources as one-click options in your content. Click the image you want and it’s automatically embedded. The copyright information an attribution is already there, so you do nothing more. It’s so easy, it makes hunting for images on other services seem foolish. However, Zemanta uses your content to pull images it deems relevant. Because it’s a machine analyzing your text, you won’t always get a great selection, or even images that make sense to your topic. It’s awfully useful, especially for pulling logos of companies you might mention. But it can often leave you to search the other services as well.

Image from Zemanta, credited as the plugin provides. (Hover to see.) The image is of me and Zemanta CEO and founder Boštjan Špetič and is pulled from my Flickr account, another Zemanta perk.

And while we’re talking about images, there are two pretty important topics to understand:

Royalty-Free Is Not Always Free

There’s a difference between free images and royalty-free images. Royalty-free images mean you don’t have to pay additional royalties to the photographer (or sometimes models) to publish the images. These would be fees you pay on top of any subscription service to access the image in the first place. Some photographers want to be paid for the right to own the image, plus the right to publish or distribute. Thus, you’d have to pay royalties as well. Royalty-free images mean you only have to pay to own the photo. With the sites listed above, your subscription fee (if any) would cover that cost.

Respect Those Rights

Most new bloggers will just do a Google Image search and use the best image that comes up. It’s easy to right-click and download, right? The problem with this method is that you don’t know for certain that you have rights or permissions to use that image. If you use an image without knowing you can, you could be violating intellectual property laws. That goes for logos and clip art as well as photography, too.

To know for sure if you can use an image, go straight to the source — the company, brand or photo site where the image originated. We offer the above sites because they either provide copyright information or offer only images you’re allowed to use. If you can’t determine where the image originally came from, the best practice is to not use the image at all. Using it may violate someone’s copyright and put you at unnecessary legal risk.

And even though you’re not always required to do so (best to check the requirements on each photo, though), I’ve always tried hard to include the name of the photographer when I credit image use on my blog. If for no other reason, it’s just a sign of respect to their work, craft and artistry. They produced something I find useful. There’s a good chance they’re not making any money for me using it. It’s the least I can do. I recommend you do the same.

Let’s Turn The Camera On You

What other photo sites do you find useful? Do you have other tips or tricks about using photography on your blog you’d like to share? The comments are yours.

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