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February 21, 2006

An Introduction to Using Images on Blogs

Posted in: Writing Content, Blog Design


The following post was submitted by Duncan Riley from the Blog Herald, Weblog Empire and b5media. I asked Duncan to explore the topic of using Images on Blogs. I think you’ll agree that his article below is a very comprehensive exploration of the topic which I hope you will find helpful.

Any good blogger will tell you that images and imagery are vitally important in the development and rise of any good blog, but they are often also quite often the most frustrating, annoying and time consuming aspect of any blogs life as well. None the less its important that you know about them

Types of Images

For ease of use I’ll categorize images on your blog into two categories: design imagery and content imagery. Naturally design imagery incorporates any images you may wish to use in the design of your blog, be that in the header, sidebar or footer. Comment imagery is photos and images you post as part of, or exclusively as a post to your blog. It’s important to understand the differences between the two because although we will be covering a lot of common ground in dealing with both types of images, there are also some separate consideration as well.

Toolbox

Some new blogging tools (such as Performancing for Firefox) allow you to drag and drop images you see on websites and other blogs into your posts, however they serve this image from the source, and that’s generally considered very poor form by most bloggers. You are going to need to be able to save, copy and edit any images you want to use. To do this I would recommend that you consider using Image Manipulation software to give you the freedom to do as you please to your images.

Free vs Paid

Personally I use Adobe Photoshop for all my image editing needs, however, particularly when you are starting out, it would be not dissimilar to learning to drive on a brand new Ferrari. Photoshop is the industry standard image manipulation tool in professional business and is available on Mac and PC, but it’s not a cheap option. Personally I don’t use the latest version of Photoshop because I’m happy with the slightly older version I use as it does everything I could ever want it to (and a whole lot more). You can pick up older versions Photoshop at places like eBay second hand if you can’t afford to buy an new copy off the shelf.

Other commercial programs that are available include Corel Draw and Paint Shop Pro.

If you don’t want to spend money on image editing software though I’d highly recommend downloading The Gimp, which is available for PC, Mac and Linux. It’s a fully fledged Open Source (free) image software package that many claim is as powerful as Photoshop.

Posting Images to your blog

How you post images to your blog is dependent on what blogging platform you use. Most free and paid blogging platforms and hosts these days provide image hosting as part of the package. What you will need to consider though is how much bandwidth/ or traffic your blogging package will provide, and also how the size of the images affects the loading speed of your blog. This is also another reason to have image editing software because programs such as Photoshop allow you to minimize image file size as well. Alternatively you can use a free, 3rd party image host, which will minimize any potential bandwidth/ usage charges or limitations you may have with your blog.

Each individual blogging package is different in regards to how you upload your image to your blog, and many now have built in features to allow you to get the image into your post fairly easily, however behind any WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get) interface, the code is nearly always the same.

<img src=http://www.yourdomain.com/yourblog/image.jpg>

It never hurts to know how the coding works, because understanding it gives you more freedom in editing your image as well.

The html tags work like this:

< > opens and closes the statement in the code

Img src literally means Image on the screen, although it’s important to note that its src nor scr, it’s a common mistake that I still occasionally make today

= is telling the code that the image to the screen equals

“http://……image.jpg” is the image.

That’s the very basic form of image code, and more advanced form is:

<img src=”http://www.yourblog.com/wp-content/image.jpg” width=”400″ height=”201″ alt=”image” align=”right”/>

Some blogging platforms will use code similar to this, others will only utilize the simple version of the code, but no matter what blogging platform you are using, you can use this code to place an image.

width=”400″ height=”201″ tells the browser in which the page is to load the size of the image to load. There is probably some web standards type reason why this is important…just don’t ask me what it is.

alt=”image” The alt tag is very important because it allows readers who are visually impaired or blind to know what the image you’ve posted is about. Only recently Target in the United States has been sued because they don’t use alt tags on their website, on the basis that it discriminates against the visually impaired.

Align=”right” is the attribute to tell the browser where it should place the image, and allows text to wrap around it. If you don’t use an alt tag, the image will appear in the center of your post, and all text will follow under it. Giving it an align=”left” or align=”right” tag, particularly if you are using an image that is complementing your post, as opposed to being a center piece, allows the text to flow at the same height as the image to the right, or left of it respectively.

Copyright issues

Copyright tends to vary from country to country, but in most English common law based societies, the concept of Fair Use or Fair Dealing generally applies to the use of copyright protected images on your site. Basically using an image as an extract/ compliment to a post would normally be considered fair use. Using it as part of your blogs design however would not. Follow the links to the Wikipedia articles for more information on these legal concepts.

Images from commercial sites should always be deemed copyrighted unless it is clearly indicated otherwise, and you should generally consider not using them, unless you are clear on legal concepts of fair use.

There is also another rule in the blogosphere with images, and that’s if you take an image from another blog you provide attribution for that image in the form of a link back to the blog (either within or at the end of the post) attributing the image to that blog.

It’s hard to give a definitive answer on copyright, but I would give this advice: if in doubt, don’t post it.

Where to get copyright free images

The very short answer is Google. Searches such as “copyright free images” and “free stock photos” offer a range of sites you can use, some free, some requiring registration or a small joining fee.

In the past I’ve used services such as Freefoto and Stock Exchange which have a wide variety of images you can use on your blog, both within posts and as part of a sites design.

Free Images Hosts.

Ask 10 bloggers about free image hosts and you are likely to get 10 different answers because there is a huge range of free image hosts out there. Essentially instead of uploading your images to your blog, you upload your images to the free image host and they provide you with the code you need to paste into your post to display the images. Image Host Advisory is the image host directory recommended by Fark and is a good starting point if you are looking for a decent image host as they rank the sites and provide an overview of the various features and limitations.

There is a warning I must give with free image hosts. Although there are a number of free image hosts who have been on the net along time, a lot of these types of services come and go regularly. They may also have time limits on hosting your image, or bandwidth limits as well. They are great to start out with but remember that you run the risk of losing your images from your posts over time, which might not mean much now but will mean a lot in 6 or 12 months time when visitors coming to your blog from search engines such as Google are visiting older posts, and are presented with missing images.

What services are there to help bloggers with images?

There are a number of ways you can make your image experience more enjoyable when blogging.

Forums: if you need help in dealing with images, check out the user forums of your blog provider or host, for example the user forums at WordPress.org are a great resource of information. You can search for people who have had similar problems to you in the past, or you can even post a question.

Support: if you are using a paid blogging service such as TypePad, services such as these market themselves on the basis of their customer support, and since you are paying for it, use it! Email through your questions to their support email address. The may not help directly but they might be able to point you in the right direction so you can find the information you required elsewhere at that service.

Blogs and Bloggers: chances are if you are having a particular problem with images, some one has had it before. Using search services such as Google and Technorati to see if you can find people who have had similar problems, or even solutions to your problems.


Return to: An Introduction to Using Images on Blogs


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