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How to get striking images on your blog (for free)

15 Mar

When I started blogging six months ago, I had no idea how I was going to illustrate my posts. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to do so. It’s a personal choice, but I am more likely to read a blog with an appealing illustration than one without.

Since then I’ve learned a few things about finding and editing free photos — here are the 10 best.

1. Find free photos

One way is to search flickr for Creative Commons licensed photos which are free (as long as you credit the owner).

Start here. Type a search term in the box top right and click flickr. Make sure the two small boxes

  • use for commercial purposes
  • modify, adapt or build upon

are ticked. You’ll get a selection of photos. Download the one you want in the size you want. It takes a while to find the right photo as many are not tagged with what I would expect.

Important: credit the photographer and link  to their photo.

Or try Wylio. You can search only for free images, or for paid-for ones.  You get five free images a month, and if you want more you can upgrade to a paid subscription. The photo is downloaded with the photographer’s credit attached, so there is no danger of forgetting it.

2. Focus your search

It’s better to search for something concrete rather than a concept. Think of items that would illustrate the theme of your topic.

For example,  search for “old typewriters” rather than “writing” or  “woman reading a book” rather than “reading”. Think of the ideas as you’re writing and scribble them down.

Pulp fiction from Wylio

Pulp fiction from Wylio, with credit attached. I know I said I liked bright colours…

3. Choose strong but simple photos

I like photos that focus the eye on one standout image. I look for sharp focus, vivid colours, and something that will immediately grab attention and be memorable.

I’m not saying you should avoid misty forests or clouds, but do ask if the image you choose will capture your reader’s attention. That depends on who your readers are.

I imagine that my readers are freelances or working in media or creative jobs, so I assume they’ll like eye-catching rather than muted.

4. Be imaginative in your search

Choose something that will surprise the reader. Think of the most obvious illustration and then go for the opposite.

For a post on Top tech tools for writers, the obvious illustration was a state-of-the-art gadget. So I chose an old-fashioned pink  typewriter instead. For another on information overload, I found a woman with her head in a bubble.

You don’t have to like the same kind of images as I do, only to think around the topic.

5. Crop, resize and add arty effects

Do some simple photo-editing with ipiccy. I love it and it’s child’s play to use.

You can do very little, or a lot. Crop and resize, or  get creative and retouch, add special effects and text, or paint over your photo.

The only issue for me is that I can’t  find any tutorials for more advanced editing, so I’ll have to wait until I have time for my trial-and-error approach. Unless someone can tell me where the tutorials are hiding!

6. Add screenshots

You don’t have to search for photos, especially if you’re writing something information-based like a tutorial. Make some screenshots with Awesome screenshot. It lets you crop and annotate them with arrows, lines and shapes in different colours.

7.  Create a word cloud

Another alternative is a Tagxedo, a  coloured word cloud.  They are quite quick to do when you are short of time and ideas.

8. Make a collage

Create a collage from your own images using the Google photo organiser and editor Picasa.  See  this excellent tutorial at Skip to My Lou, a great crafts site.

Collage from Skip to My Lou

Collage from Skip to My Lou

9. Take the fashion blogger approach

For an advanced collage or professional-looking artwork try Polyvore, a site aimed at fashion bloggers. You can make beautiful images with this but I have not yet had time to try it out. Try the tutorial.

Polyvore creation

Polyvore creation

10.Create an infographic

Try Visual.ly to create an infographic.

At the time of writing, I had just received my invite to visual.ly/create so I don’t have any experience to share yet. The data visualisations by the Visual.ly designers are certainly stunning.

At the moment there only seem to be limited options for  infographics based on Twitter and Facebook feeds and hashtags, but I’m sure there will be others. Keep watching.

Carry a camera

You never know when you might find something photogenic!

Last but not least: uploading images

If, like me, you’re still learning how to use WordPress, read through this short  tutorial. You never know what you didn’t know before!

Main image: kevin dooley on flickr.

What sources do you use for free or low-cost images or photo-editing? Let me know and I’ll add them here.

Updates — additional tools and resources — my pick, as there are now too many to list.

Foter is a new site that aggregates Creative Commons licensed images from across the web.

Zemanta is a plugin that suggests links, tags and images with CC licences.

Stock Free Images says it has almost 400,000 free photos for you to download. At the time of writing there is no cost. I have not tried it yet – if you use it let me know how it goes.

Photovisi is a free photo collage maker.

Compfight is another way to search flickr. Nice tutorial here.

PicMonkey is Google’s new tool. Review by Robin Good.

Great tips for creating Pinterest-friendly images. Add some text and more.

Easel.ly and Infogr.am are both infographic makers – said to be quick and easy to use (in beta in May 2012).

ThingLink lets you create interactive images.

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One Response to “How to get striking images on your blog (for free)”

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  1. How To Share Online Without Worrying About Reputation | The People Behind the Paper.lis - April 20, 2012

    […] copyright laws. There are countless resources to find free or cheap images to illustrate your posts. You can search Flickr by license, browse Wikimedia Commons’ catalogue or even take your […]

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