Trying to find images for your blog can be tough at times. Especially when you’re trying to understand image copyright and permissions. Read on for tips on where to find images / photos for your blog. What kind of images you can use, and more.
You should be aiming to include some kind of image in every blog post you publish, here’s why:
- A strong image will catch and demand a person’s attention
- The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text
- Images are a great way to share information and show examples
- If you have a lot of text, images can help to break it up
Where to find images for your blog post
When thinking about images for your blog post, where you can get them is probably your first concern.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first; you can take your own photos.
You don’t need an expensive DSLR as most smartphone cameras perform really well in well-lit conditions. Lens attachments are also available for your smartphone. Meaning you don’t need a DSLR and expensive lenses to take good fisheye, wide angle, or telephoto shots.
If you would rather have a camera, you still don’t need to splash out on an expensive one. A good bridge camera (this will give you manual control over shutter speed, ISO, aperture, etc.) can be picked up for around £100 and is a worthy investment.
Some kind of image editing software will also be necessary. Again, this isn’t an area you have to spend a huge amount of money on. If any at all, depending on your needs.
There are plenty of free image editors which you can find online. Your laptop and smartphone will likely come with one built in. If you want to do complicated things you may need to invest in image editing software, but they’re worth the money.
A few examples of image editing software:
- iPhoto – free on Apple devices
- Windows Media Centre – free on Windows computers
- Adobe Lightroom / Adobe Photoshop – you can get on a monthly licence for less than £9 from Adobe as part of the Photography Plan*
- Flickr Aviary – free
- Google Picasa – free
- PicMonkey – free version available, though this has limited functionality and adverts. Paid version available for $4.99 per month or $33 per year*
- Fotor – free
- GIMP – free, open-source image editor similar to Photoshop
*All prices correct at time of writing.
A camera and image editing software are your only necessities. That said, there are other things you might want to use that can help you produce high-quality photos:
- Light box / light tent – ideal for taking professional looking product photos
- Lights – good lighting can make a massive different to your photos. If you haven’t got a space which receives a good amount of light, consider buying some studio lights. (They’re not all as expensive as you might think.)
- Tripod & remote – perfect for getting a still photo, especially in low light where you might be using a longer exposure
What kind of photos should I take?
- Your products – including photos of them in use
- Shots from your office, people working, how your products are made, etc
- Photos that show the benefits of your products / services
- General photos – this will depend on your sector. So it could be keyboards, laptops, baking utensils, mugs of coffee or something else.
A few composition tips
Getting your composition right and developing a style can take time. Which means you get to do lots of playing around and finding out what works best. Resist the temptation to delete images when you’re taking them. Firstly because you might accidentally delete everything, and secondly because you might change your mind when you see it on the screen.
- Remember that bright parts will draw the eye first – avoid bright areas on the edge of the photo
- Don’t overcrowd your subject
- Blank space is your friend – it lets your subject breathe and can draw focus to the subject
- Put together a kit containing a few different backgrounds and props
- Don’t be afraid of taking a bad photo
- Try out the rule of thirds – this says that images are most pleasing on the eye when subjects are placed on vertical and horizontal thirds
- Break rules
If your camera allows it, take photos in RAW format. RAW files capture more information, and therefore have bigger file sizes. Which gives you more flexibility when editing.
For example, if you take a photo in RAW which is underexposed, that’s easily fixable using software like Adobe Lightroom. If you took an underexposed photo in JPEG, you would struggle correct the exposure and get the same result as if you’d taken it in RAW.
Plan your blog posts in advance and the images you will need, so you give yourself plenty of time to take photos. The last thing you want is to leave it until the last minute and rush and take a photo you aren’t entirely happy with.
Hire a photographer
If your budget allows it and you can’t take your own photos for some reason, hiring a photographer is an excellent way of getting high-quality images. As you might expect, this isn’t a cheap option.
Something we would recommend hiring a photographer for is products photos. Product photos need to be high-quality; low-quality product photos will not cut it with your audience.
Create your own
You don’t always need an actual photograph for your blog post. You could create an image using something like Canva, Adobe Illustrator, or even Powerpoint.
Learning how to create illustrations will also allow you to develop infographics. Which are a great way of communicating information with your audience, especially if you want to share lots of statistics.
HubSpot have a great blog post about how to make infographics in Powerpoint which might be a good starting point if you’ve never done it before.
Creating your own images allows you to develop and showcase a style which is unique to your business.
If your customers are taking photos of your products and sharing them on social media, or their blogs, ask them if you can use their images. (Giving them full credit, of course.)
This is a good way of showing that you engage with your audience. You are interested in what they’re saying about your business, and are appreciative of the effort they’re putting in to share your brand.
Doing that may also encourage more of your audience to take and share photos of your products. If they know they may be featured on your blog, which will lead to increased reach.
Screenshots are a useful way of showing your audience how to do something, or providing them with examples.
People learn and understand things in different ways. Providing your audience with step-by-step screenshots and instructions can help those who are visual learners understand what you’re explaining.
There are a few ways you can take screenshots:
- Your keyboard may have a print screen button
- On Macs, Cmd + shift + 4 will allow you to choose the area you want to screenshot
- There are plugins available for your browser
It’s ok to share a screenshot of a website to comment on, for criticism, or a news story. LifeHacker have an excellent article which goes into more detail about publishing screenshots. And list four factors to take into consideration to make sure you are using the screenshot under fair use.
If you’re buying, or downloading, images you need to understand image copyright to avoid a hefty fine if you’re caught using an image incorrectly.
All images are protected by copyright as soon as they’re uploaded to the internet. Regardless of whether they have a copyright symbol or not.
Never use an image without understanding what kind of licence it’s available under.
In the UK and US, images are under copyright for the life of the creator plus 70 years. Starting at the end of the calendar year of their death.
Each country has different copyright lengths, and they may be dependent upon when something was published. Luckily, there’s a handy Wikipedia page which has a list of countries and their copyright lengths.
Creative Commons (CC) licence
Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit that has created a handful of copyright licences which allow creators to share their work for free and explain what their images can be used for.
There are six different CC licences:
- Attribution – this allows you to distribute, tweak, change, and build upon an image as long as you give the creator credit. This licence allows you to use an image commercially.
- Attribution-NoDerivs – under this licence, you can change and build upon an image as long as you give the author credit, do not use it commercially, and apply the same licence to your new image.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike – using this licence you can change and build upon an image as long as you give the author credit, do not use it commercially, and apply the same licence to your new image.
- Attribution-ShareAlike – you can change and build upon an image as long as you give credit to the original creator, and licence the new image under the same terms. You can use images under this licence for commercial use also.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs – this is the most restrictive licence and allows you to download an image, but you cannot change it at all or use it commercially, and you must give the creator credit.
To find out more about CC, visit Creative Commons.
What are Royalty Free images?
Don’t be fooled by the ‘free’ part, these images are not free. Royalty Free images are images that you pay for once and can use as many times as you want without having to pay royalties each time it’s used.
These images can still come with restrictions, for example you may not be able to use it commercially.
Again, always check exactly what you can do under the licence.
What is commercial use when it comes to images?
You’ve seen us mention ‘commercial use’ a few times now, but what exactly does that mean?
Generally speaking, commercial use is using an image for marketing, advertising, or promotional purposes, where the aim is to make money. A few examples would be your website, a leaflet, a catalogue, etc.
Whether or not your blog counts as commercial use is a bit muddy. You might argue that you aren’t using an image commercially if your blog post is a how-to, with no call to action or encouragement to buy anything. However, as it is on your website, which is commercial, it would probably be considered commercial use.
The best thing to do is get in touch with the creator to find out.
What kind of images should I use?
Exactly what your image will be depends on the topic of your blog post.
Some topics translate well into imagery. For example, if your blog post is about something like fashion, food, home décor, pets, travel it’s really easy to find or take an image. The problem comes when you’re trying to find an image for something that isn’t a physical thing.
How do you show the benefits of something like being up to date with your human resources policies? It’s not quite as simple is it?
This is where your creativity and a bit of inspiration is required.
Do a bit of research into what kind of images other people are using for similar or the same topics and evaluate them. How do you think the images work in relation to the topic? Which ones are boring? Which ones are interesting and eye-catching?
From that, you can use your creativity and think of a few different ideas until you take / find / create something you’re happy with.
What size images should I use?
You need to strike a balance between a high-quality image and an image that doesn’t slow down the loading speed of the page. If you upload a large file, it can make your page load much slower, which doesn’t provide a good user experience.
It’s advisable to resize your images so that they are the same (or roughly the same) width as the width of the copy column in your blog. For example, if your blog post copy column is 1000 pixels wide, your image would be no wider than 1000 pixels.
You can find out the width of your blog column by:
- Viewing a blog post
- Right clicking on the page and select ‘inspect element’ on the menu
- Look for a magnifying glass, click on it, and hover over the body area of your blog post. You’ll see a number in pixels (widthpx x heightpx), which will give you the width.
See the image below for an example of how this works.
Resizing image is easy to do in photo editors and is normally a case of finding an option in a menu or a button which allows you to type in the size you want it to be. Some editors, such as Adobe Photoshop, will allow you to resize during the saving process if you select ‘Save for web’.
We hope we’ve given you enough to get started with, and provided you with some inspiration.
The best thing is to take your own photos as you have control of quality, can shoot a photo to meet your requirements, and you know you aren’t violating any copyright laws.