When you want to illustrate your writing with pictures, it’s tempting to use Google Images Search. With millions of pictures at your fingertips, why not just right-click on someone’s awesome picture, save it, and use it in your blog?
Even though it’s easy and it’s nearly impossible to catch, it’s still plagiarism, and you know how I feel about plagiarism:
- Plagiarism, Inspiration, and JD
- What to Do When Someone Steals Your Blog Posts
- More Thoughts on Blog Plagiarism
Instead, try using Flickr’s Creative Commons search. The results will be images you can use in your blog, presentation, or letter to Grandma without worrying about IP rights. You just need to properly attribute them to their original source. I do this by saving the picture on my blog (so that I’m not leeching their bandwidth), then linking the picture directly to the Flickr photo page. People love clicking on pictures, and that way readers will go straight to the source, where they can see who took the photo, leave comments, and explore other photos from that user.
Here’s the catch – just because someone uploaded a photo to Flickr and licensed it with Creative Commons doesn’t mean they actually have the rights to that photo. Take the search results for Lady Gaga – I have a sneaking suspicion that some of those images were taken by professional photographers. Someone just saw an image they liked, stole it, and then uploaded it to Flickr. This sucks, because now I have to be some kind of image detective that guesses whether a photo is really legit.
To make my life easier, I use the “Interesting” link on the Flickr CC search at the top left. It sorts images by the number of times they’ve been tagged Interesting by viewers, and this bubbles some cool content to the top. For example, I was working with another blogger to find images he could use to reference The Highlander. Rather than using an image of the movie itself, I suggested using a funny image that turned up in a Highlander search on Flickr – the Highlander Motel. This ends up being even funnier than the movie cover itself. Bonus points if you use a funny caption like:
- “There are no rooms with two double beds.”
- “Right down the street from the Hotel California.”
Sometimes I think I have more fun writing captions than writing the blog post itself, and I’m ashamed to admit I usually spend more time searching for the perfect photo than the perfect phrase. Oooo! Shiny object!