One of the things I’ve found to be important for a successful blog is the use of images for posts. Images make your blog look better, add visual interest to posts, and provide SEO value.
Think of it this way, when browsing your favoriate magazine, what draws you to particular articles and pages? I’m sure many of you said the images. Just imagine a magazine without pictures. A blog without pictures is no different, they look text heavy and frankly a little overwhelming. Pictures add interest, visual appeal and help break up the monotony of pure text. While many images on the internet are purchase only, there are a number of free images for blogs available if you look in the right places.
Free images for blogs
When using images for your blog, you can’t use just any image, as most images have copyrights associated with them. This is a big mistake new bloggers make: They go out to Google Images, search around and use whatever picture they like, not realizing that in most cases what they are doing is illegal. Fortunately this usually goes unnoticed, and in most cases just results in an email to the blogger asking them to take the image down (I speak from experience). In more extreme cases though, using copyrighted images can result in being sued and fined.
Fortunately though there are some great free images for blogs available. These generally only require you to attribute the author. These free blog images fall under the Creative Commons license. While there are many sources for creative commons images, I find most of mine on Flickr and specifically in their Flickr creative commons area. Many thanks for the talented and creative photographers that make their images available under this license, as it allows us bloggers to really find some great free images for our blogs.
How to find the right free image for your blog post
I find that I often spend as much time, if not more time looking for the right image as I do writing my actual posts. Yes, images are that important to me. Using the right image can make a reader that wouldn’t normally read your article take a look. Spending time finding the right image is important.
So how do you find the right free image for your blog? Navigate to the Flickr creative commons area, and use the search feature. Use the title of your blog post, particular keywords from your blog article, etc. I even search for particular colors sometimes. Think out of the box, if you’re writing an article telling your readers how to create something new, think of things that imply newness. Maybe a sunrise, a young child or animal, flowers blooming, etc. Something like this maybe:
Spend time searching and when you find an image you like, save the URL for it and go find a few more. Use that final list to narrow down the perfect picture.
Your own personal image style
Before just throwing an image up on your site, there is something you need to decide: style. Style? Yes, what size will your images be? Will they be tall, wide or square? Will they be left justified, right justified or centered? If you’re using Thesis, will they be above the post title or below? These are all questions you’ll need to determine before you begin using images.
Having a consistent and somewhat unique style for your images is important to establishing your blogs brand and theme. Here on Side Income Blogging, I place all of my images above my post titles, and use a fairly consistent size of 600×200. I say fairly consistent as I occasionally use a different size, but only when I can’t crop the images to 600×200 and make it look right. I also try to throw in my post title as text on the image as well if I can. I don’t always do this as some images just don’t have a suitable background color for text (like the one for this article).
When I wrote on my personal finance blog, I had many people tell me that they could tell which posts in their RSS reader were mine just by the image size. I definitely established a signature image style on that blog.
The important thing when asking the questions: Will they be tall, wide or square? Will they be left justified, right justified or centered? If you’re using Thesis, will they be above the post title or below? is that there really is no right or wrong answer. Choose a style that you like and that works well with your blog’s theme. Feel free to experiment as well. Certainly won’t hurt to try some different styles for a while until you find the one that you like.
Adding images to your blog posts
Have the perfect image and ready to get it in your WordPress post? Great, if you’re running Thesis, here’s how:
- Navigate to the Flickr Creative Commons page for your image.
- Copy the author’s name and save it, we’ll use it later. The author’s name is in the upper right hand corner where it says “By soandso”. Also copy the URL from your browser’s address bar. We’ll use it later as well.
- Above the image and to the right are navigation buttons: One says newer, one says older, and then in between those is a magnifying glass with a plus. Click the magnifying glass.
- Your screen will now have a black background and the images will be shown to you again. This is called the “lightbox” view.
- Click on the View All Sizes button in the upper right hand corner.
- This screen will let you select the right image size for your blog. If you want something that will span the full-width of your blog article, pick a size just a little bigger than your blogs content section.
- Once you’ve selected the right size, right click on the picture and perform as Save As… to save the image to your local drive. I always save mine to the same directory (Photos/blog) so I always know where they are at. Naming doesn’t matter at this point.
- Unless the image you downloaded is the perfect size, we need to re-size/crop your image. I use Photoshop, but if you don’t have Photoshop, most any image editing software will allow you to re-size your image.
If you don’t have image editing software, I’d recommend you use Picnik, a free online photo editing site.(Picnik is no longer available). Personally I always crop my images, as it ads a little visual interest.
- Once you have the image re-sized/cropped to your liking, save it again to your local hard-drive.
- Login to your WordPress admin console and edit your post where you would like to insert the image.
- Just above the icon bar in the post editor, there is an icon to the right of Upload/Insert. When you hover over it, it says “Add an image”. Click this.
- From the pop-up window, select the image you saved in Step #9
- After the upload completes, change the title to someone appropriate, and copy the Link URL to the file, and make sure the image size is “Full Size”. Click on Save All Changes (do not click on insert into post).
- Navigate down below the post editor and look for the section named: Post Image and Thumbnail. In the post image URL field, paste the Link URL we copied in step #13. In the post image alt text, add some text that will be displayed if the image cannot be shown for some reason.
- Based on your styled preference, select the image display opens under Horizontal Position and Vertical position. Don’t worry about thumbnail values, the Thesis default values will work.
- Save you post and do a preview. Your image should be shown. Congratulations!
Tip: When placing images in your posts, I recommend cropping them down a bit. For example, a 640px wide image is generally around 426px tall. That height will dominate your blog and in most cases throw your content “below the fold”, meaning visitors will have to scroll down to see your content. I recommend making your photos no taller than 300px. This is a reasonable size that will often keep the visitor from having to scroll down and keep the image from dominating your website.
One final step, we need to add the photo attribution. After all, the photographer was kind enough to let us use their picture for free as long as we attribute the picture. Sounds like a fair deal to me. To attribute the picture:
- At the bottom of your article, add: Photo by: [[authors name]].
- Make the photographer’s name a link, and link it to the URL for the picture, from step #2
You can see an example of this just below, as this is exactly how I do it.
Now you know how to find beautiful and stunning images fro your blog, resize them and add them to your posts. For those of you following my Start a Money Making Blog series, I’d strongly recommend you go back to the articles you’ve written and some free images to your blog posts..