When it comes to tools for bloggers I have always been a staunch supporter of Flickr. I started using it in 2005 — right after Hurricane Katrina — and in the years since I’ve endorsed it to clients and friends, not only as a great photo sharing platform, but also an excellent way to source Creative Commons images for blog posts.
Earlier this year that started to change. With no warning at all, Flickr implemented a major redesign that has seriously detracted from its usefulness. This is hardly surprising since Flickr was purchased by Yahoo a few years ago, a move that was met with trepidation by users across the Internet. A good illustration of the reason for the trepidation is a recent brouhaha about their email service, as noted in Slate:
Apparently messages delivered between Nov. 25 and Dec. 9 have now gone missing from some users’ inboxes. That’s two solid weeks’ worth of email. How many crucial messages might have been among those? As of 4:45 p.m. Thursday, a Yahoo spokeswoman told me the company’s engineers were ‘still working on restoring messages that were delivered during that time.’
Furious users, already incensed about the decline in the usefulness of Yahoo services overall, saw Flickr go down last week, giving them an “inactivity timeout” message in lieu of their images. Not the sort of thing to inspire confidence in users, especially in the wake of a massively unpopular reboot.
Since a major tool is becoming so much less useful, let’s take a fresh look at ways to source images that fit in with your corporate blog best practices.
What makes a good image?
There are a number of factors to look for in a good image for your blog.
- Look for an uncluttered image. Something too busy will detract from the impact it makes. Images that are too “busy” don’t capture the reader’s attention as well as simpler pictures with an obvious focus.
- Size is another vital factor. Make sure that the image in question looks good at the size you plan on displaying it. Small images sized up can become grainy and large ones scaled down can lose their focus.
- Can you use it legally? You must either have direct permission to use the picture or it must be freely available for reuse through the public domain or Creative Commons. In short you must have the right to reproduce it.
Public Domain Images
While usually not requiring any form of attribution, it is a best practice to always include one. It is also worth noting that just because an image appears on the Internet does not mean it is in the public domain. To ensure you don’t accidentally use one of those questionable images, here are two great resources for finding truly public domain picture for your corporate blog.
A branch of Wikipedia, Wiki Commons not only allows you to source images under a variety of licenses, but it also give an exact and detailed explanation of what permissions are granted on each one.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs
A stupendous resource that is especially useful for those seeking historical images. The downside is that many of the images you find may not actually be in the public domain (although many are listed as such). Always, always check the image details for permissions. The site also has options for purchasing individual photographs, which can be extremely useful if you’ve found just the right image and it is not public domain or share-alike.
Free and Open License Images
There is an amazing array of images free to use; it is just a matter of finding them. Here are a few places to look.
Creative Commons Search
I’m a massive fan of Creative Commons. Their tiered licenses allow for a variety of levels of use which can even include remixing the original content into something new instead of just using it as-is. Creative Commons Search aggregates many different search engines for images and works attributed with a Creative Commons license. This is pretty much always my starting point when looking for pictures.
Google and most other search engines have the option to filter by license, including Creative Commons licenses. Just take a look under the Advanced Options tab and search only for pictures labelled for reuse.
Additional sources for free stock images include the following: Stock.xchng, Morguefile, KAVEWALL, NASA, US Fish and Wildlife Services, The NOAA Library, Free Range Stock, Graphicsarena.com, Image After, Public Domain Photo, and Image Temple.
Stock Photography and Images (Subscription / Royalty based)
The best quality stock image service I’ve used! Pictures that would not look out of place in a commercial advertising setting (and often far superior to a lot of what you see in print advertising). You can get a subscription, but unless you have $1,000 and upwards in your image budget it’s not exactly accessible to small operations. What makes it useful to smaller companies is the average price of $1–5 per web resolution.
Images here are rights-managed, which often means that they are more restricted in how they can be used. They also have a huge archive of royalty-free images that is one of the best I’ve seen. Just keep in mind that access to them can cost a bit, depending on the images. Expect to pay for the quality.
While the degradation of Flickr is a true loss to those in the business blogging world, there are still numerous options out there if you know where to look. As a matter of fact if you see an image you would like to use, try emailing the creator to ask for permission. I’ve found that many times they are happy to not only let you use it, but will also get you higher res copies if needed.
By asking or using one of the resources above you can not only make your blog shine with beautiful images, but you can also avoid potential legal liability in the form of angry creators.
Additionally business blogging should always be done with the highest of ethics: missteps will always find their way onto the public parts of the Internet.
Do you have a favorite resource for finding usable images that I did not cover? Let us know in the comments!
Image by poolie
George "Loki" Williams is the community and brand manager for award wining game company Savage Mojo, Ltd. and the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC, an online consultancy specializing in Web content and online communications. Loki has produced content for clients including the Open Society Institute, National Association of Broadcasters, Kobold Press, and Kaiser Permanente. His work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, Air America, The Gambit Weekly, and NOLA.com, among others.