In one of my upcoming guest posts on Problogger I’m going to discuss why it’s worth to use images along with your posts, and how to use them so they become an integral part of the message you want to convey. But today let’s focus on where to get the images from.
I figured that this requires a separate post as there are various paths you can take. And certainly, images help with making your already quality content even more quality. Every piece of writing seems more complete if there are some graphical representations displayed next to it.
This is important both for traditional bloggers and online businesses that use content as part of their business strategy. The mythical quality content (i.e. the product) is usually the most important element of an online business plan and marketing strategy. Or as Seth Godin says it (in a cooler way): “the product is the marketing”.
Without further ado, let me just give you the “where.”
1. Your own archives
This is obvious. If you have an archive of your own photos or images created in Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. then you can obviously use them alongside your content.
More than that, if you’re hiring anyone as a graphic designer, photographer or any other art related position then you can also use whatever they’ve created. If you’re paying them to design/photograph/etc then you, as the business owner become the owner of their work (if not defined otherwise in the contract).
You can usually use such works without any attribution.
Whenever you’re describing a tool or an online application you might want to include a screenshot of the thing.
I haven’t ever experienced any problems with this. From my experience, you can pretty much take a screenshot of everything that’s publically available on a website (for example) and use it in your materials. Just make sure you’re attributing the place where the screenshot came from.
One thing I’d be careful with are all the sites that sit behind a securely protected login forms, or other mechanisms which require you to have some kind of credentials for accessing those sites. Like online banking sites, for example. Making a screenshot of those might not be the best idea.
3. Free image and icon packages
Such packages are often shared on many design and photo blogs. Every once in a while the webmaster announces a giveaway and everyone who grabs a link in time gets the package for free.
The exact rules vary depending on the actual offer. Sometimes some attribution is required, sometimes not. You just have to make sure to read the license agreement.
Some blogs that often announce such giveaways:
This is my favorite source of free images so far. Flickr is a massive directory of images on virtually any topic. Although I’m sure people already familiar with Flickr don’t want me to call it merely a “directory” as in reality it’s a social network for everyone interested in photography.
Not every picture from Flickr can be used on a blog or as part of a product, i.e. not every picture can be used commercially. But finding those that can is not difficult.
Go to Flickr, and use their search field to find whatever topic interests you the most. Then when the results are in click on the “Advanced Search” link (image below).
Then go to the bottom of the screen, select these two checkboxes, and click on “search” again:
By doing this you will make sure that the images you get are all licensed under one of the specific versions of the Creative Commons license – one which enables you to use the images commercially in your projects.
Now all you have to do is find a nice picture, and don’t forget to attribute the author. The most common way of doing this is by providing a link to the original image.
Another great source of free images. The directory is smaller than Flickr’s but it’s still full of quality images. Now here’s the best part. Most of the images at morgueFile can be used without any attribution. So you can just take the photo and pretend it’s yours.
One more thing, the photos are usually very big (in dimension), so there’s nothing stopping you from using them as a billboard if you feel like it.
Fotolia is one of my favorite sources of images as of late. Mainly because they’ve given me a free membership… Well OK, the fact that they have many exceptional pictures has a lot more to do with it.
One important thing. Now we’re entering the paid images part of the list. Almost every image at Fotolia comes with a price. I say “almost” because there is a small section of free images, but from what I see there are only 15 of those at a time.
Basically, Fotolia provides two main payment options: you either pay-as-you-go, which is a fancy name for buying each image individually, or you can sign up for a subscription plan, which is more worthwhile if you plan on downloading a lot of images.
Now the prices. Similarly to other stock photos directories everything is “credit” based. So in order to buy photos you have to buy credits first, and then use these credits to buy photos.
On their home page they say that you can go as low as $0.75 per image, but this isn’t possible for a normal human being. You’ll understand when you visit their “Buy Credits” page. Anyway, a normal human being can get an image for around $3-$4.
That being said, the price shouldn’t be an issue here because the photos are of truly exceptional quality – you get what you pay for, and this time the price is fully justified … maybe even slightly underpriced.
Also, the images are available in a variety of different sizes (from 0.1 mega pixel to 20.2 MP). Not to mention that they also provide vector images. And those can be transformed to any dimension imaginable. And by “any” I do mean any.
This is probably the biggest stock photo directory on the internet. I’m including it on this list only because you can’t aim at compiling an honest list of places where you can get images and forget about iStockphoto.
It’s a site that’s very similar to Fotolia. Only older and bigger. If you can’t find an interesting picture on Fotolia (highly unlikely) you can try your luck on iStockphoto.
Of course, this is a paid directory of photos.
8. Ordering custom graphics or photos
The idea is simple. Whenever you’re in need of some fancy graphics which you can’t find anywhere else you might consider hiring a freelancer who will create them for you.
Most often this is the last resort if all else fails. This is really unlikely to happen as there are many sources of great photos just waiting for you to pay them a visit.
Anyway, some time ago I discussed the possible places where you can go to hire someone (17 sites you can visit when you’re in a hiring mood). Make sure to check that post out before you go out looking for help.
Very often a good starting point for finding a contractor is to look within your circle of friends and personal contacts. There’s always a friend who can recommend a creative professional for the job. Someone who has already earned that friend’s trust.
That’s it for the list. I hope these 8 places where you can get images for your blog are more than enough to get you going and introduce some freshness to your blog. Feel free to comment and let me know if you have any other sources of images you’ve been using successfully.