Blog Better Week: Spice Things Up with Images


This week I’m focusing on how you can improve your blog. So far I’ve talked about why you should schedule blog posts and the basics of search engine optimization.  Tomorrow’s post will cover how to write a product review on your blog.

Your writing is boring.

Bored Blog Reader
Your Blog Readers

I’ve read your blog.  I know you’re struggling to be funny, and I appreciate that.  I struggle with it too.  We can’t all come up with ways to weave detective stories into our SQL Server blog posts.

Cheat: add pictures to distract us from your writing.

Your writing can be dead serious and technically complex, but you can still liven things up with a romance novel cover, a drag queen, or a guy making fun of himself.  There’s just two simple rules you have to follow when adding images to your blog.

Rule #1: Don’t Steal Pictures

I hate plagiarism.  I hate it when people pass off my writing as their own, and I know my photographer friends feel the same way about their creative work.

Fortunately, some photographers don’t mind sharing their work as long as it’s properly attributed and linked.  There’s plenty of places to get free images for your blog, and my favorite is Flickr’s advanced search.  Put in your search terms, and then scroll to the bottom of the page and check the box that says “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content.”  These are images that you can reuse as long as you link back properly to the original image.  (When I’m doing presentations with Creative Commons images, I put the link on the bottom of the slide.)

When you have trouble finding good pictures, turn your search around.  Instead of searching for technical terms related to your article’s topic, search for words that describe the emotion you’re trying to convey, like funny, confusing, challenge, broken, etc.  Sort by “Interesting”, and Flickr will show you the images people love the most.  I’m always surprised by how many great photos I find this way, and how well they work in the blog entry even though they didn’t initially appear to have anything in common with my point.

Side note – I tend to reuse funny images when I find real gems, so I mark them as favorites in Flickr.  If you ever wonder what my next presentation will include, check out what photos I’ve bookmarked recently, and that’ll give you a peek into my brain.

Before you edit the file (change the orientation, crop it, add a funny lolcats-style caption) double-check the usage rights.  It’s on the right side of the photo page on Flickr where it says “Some Rights Reserved.”  Some photos allow Remix use, whereas some don’t allow modifications.

Rule #2: Don’t Steal Bandwidth

When you find a picture you want to use, right-click on it and save it to your computer.  Upload it to your blog, and make the photo be a hyperlink back to the original web page, not the image.  The web page has information about the author and links to their other photos.

Don’t just put an IMG SRC tag that point directly to the other person’s web server.  This uses too much of their bandwidth at no gain to them.  Savvy webmasters will figure out what you’re doing and take action.

Next Up: How to Write a Product Review On Your Blog

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6 Comments. Leave new

  • Ok when I was catching up on this series from you yesterday I was thinking “OH I hope he does something about photos.” Then bam-o! here it is today. I had been hoping for some expert advice on which plug-in to use on wordpress or simpler ways to get photos to your blog. So I guess I will ask, which plug-in do you use and why do you like it?

    • Professional mindreader, that’s me, heh. I didn’t use any image plugins until recently – I just started using the Amazon S3 WordPress plugin, and I blogged about it when I upgraded my web host a while back. That plugin integrates seamlessly with WordPress’s normal attachment uploads, but it stores your images in Amazon S3 instead of your local web server. That way if you get a big spike in web traffic, the images are getting served from Amazon’s crazy-fast web servers instead of your pokey-slow web servers.

      Also, if you’re looking to host higher-quality photos, I use Flickr to store my high-res photos, and then I just show the thumbnail here on the blog. I link the blog photo to the Flickr home page so people can comment on it there.

      I’ve also started using the awesome Wibiya toolbar this week, and at the bottom of my blog, there’s a toolbar with a link to a photo gallery (among other things). It’s pretty easy to set up and it integrates with Flickr. You give it a photo set number, and it shows those photos in the toolbar. It won’t automatically do your most recent photos, but that’s okay for me since my recent photos are usually wacko anyway.

      What parts of the image process aren’t working well for you? I’ve seen a bunch of stuff and I might be able to point you in the right direction.

  • Thanks for the compliment, Brent. From you, that means a lot.

    I use a lot of images on my blog that I get from Google images, but these are mostly screenshots from movies and such. Do you think there’s anything wrong with that? I don’t link to where I found the image because it was most likely “stolen” from someplace else, and it’s impossible to attribute them to the actual source.

    What’s your opinion of that?

    • Oooo, yeah, that’s violating copyright. The safest thing to do is check Wikipedia for source images first, because they tend to get stuff under Wiki Commons licensing. I’ve been able to get some images from there that were copyrighted in most other places.

      Are you ever going to get sued? Probably not. But I just be safe about it because I wouldn’t want anybody stealing my work either, and sooner or later I *do* hope to get popular enough for people to notice, hahaha.

  • A picture is worth a thousand words, unless it’s a picture of a celebrity doing something stupid. Then it’s worth big bucks!


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