Choosing and using images for your web content

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Good images make or break your carefully crafted words and are probably the most likely thing to make a reader click to read on. It’s worth spending the time to get them right – and to know that you are using images legally with no risk. There is nothing worse than having to clean up your archive later because the images you chose when you started a blog are all of poor quality or badly sourced. Here are some basic tips, some places to look and the licences you need to use use them.

  • Don’t use images with white (or transparent) backgrounds. Most website designs use white and your image will lose impact. If you have a black-themed site you can go for white backgrounds as they will stand out – but do think what will happen if you redesign in the future. Good editorial images have interesting backgrounds, whether indoors or outdoors – the white backgrounds are normally photographed that way to allow you to cut out the subject, which is not what you’re looking to do.
  • Don’t pick the marketing shots – they will look false. An easy way to differentiate them from more editorial shots is whether the subjects are looking directly at the camera and posing (marketing) or looking elsewhere, naturally, and doing something (editorial).
  • Graphics can be good but standard action shots look most magazine-like. Some sites allow you to search for editorial images or to exclude vectors and illustrations.
  • Future-proof your site by putting in images at the largest size possible – screens are only getting bigger in the future and there’s nothing worse than having to redo all your images, if you redesign your site, because they’re too small. I once had to re-crop and reload 30,000 images to a redesigned site – as you can imagine, it was a job that took weeks and weeks.
  • Use the lightbox facility in your image account to store images as you spot them. Use different lightboxes for different themes of content.
  • You can often filter searches for landscape pictures – most website designs look better with landscape
  • Try not to use the most popular pictures if you don’t want to see your carefully chosen picture on every site!
  • Using titles, captions and alt (alternative) text properly when you upload an image into your media library will provide additional SEO value for your blog post. Do not under-estimate the importance of alt text! It’s not just for sight readers – what if the page does not download images? If you have alt text and a caption, you can still get value from that image that did not load.
  • There are lots of apps to create images/ graphics yourself, such as Canva and Word Swag (great for turning quotes into images). Infographic templates are also available to buy on stock image sites.

Understand royalty-free and creative commons

  • Public domain is the purest form of open/free, since no one owns or controls the material in any way.
  • Creative Commons (CC): A US organisation working to allow open content, which has created a set of free copyright licences allowing works to be used in compliance with their stated restrictions, such as: attribution; attribution-share alike; attribution – non-commercial; and attribution – no-derivs. Read about them on the Creative Commons site.
  • Royalty-free (RF): Allows you to buy a copyright licence once and can use the work according to the licence, often for several projects without the need to purchase additional licences.

Where can you get images from?

  • Paid stock sites: the best known are iStock and Shutterstock
  • Unsplash is excellent, free – and has a WordPress plugin. It does not generally provide image details, though, for captions.
  • Google Images: With caveats. Go to ‘tools’ and choose large from ‘size’ and ‘labeled for reuse’ from ‘usage rights’ (this is the safest option for content marketing as you are, in effect, commercialising your content). You will see your options drastically reduce!These options are only available on desktop, not mobile. Things like movie stills, architect’s illustrations and logos (although these look horrible as images and provide others with free advertising) are normally fine to use with the correct accreditation.
  • Flickr: With huge caveats. visit the Advanced Search Page, then check “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” and any other licence-related options you need before you begin. And when you find a photo you like, check on the right-hand side for a link like “Some rights reserved”, and click it for details on what you can – and can’t – do with the shot. Often you will need to add not only user details to your image caption but a linkback.
  • Social media: you can embed visual Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest posts into your blog. Look for a dropdown and an ’embed’ option, which will give you the code to drop into your post.
  • Wikimedia: Wikimedia Commons is aa project of the Wikimedia Foundation and an online repository of free-use images, sound, and other media files.
  • The US government provides a massive library of images you can use, from the White House to Nasa. Many will send you to Flickr. Search their database or go to Google Images and search “ <search term>”
  • A couple of good articles for further reading on image sources here – Tech Radar: The 12 best places to get free images for your site and Where to find free stock photos online.

Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Locke Digital Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.

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