Finding Picture Perfect Images for Your Work
You just finished writing a masterpiece and something feels incomplete. The text is engaging and powerful, but it’s missing a visual element! While writing in a captivating tone is important, so are the photos. They need to be beautifully placed, attention-grabbing, and used legally.
Setting a featured image for an article is a straight-forward endeavor, but there is more at stake than most people realize. Whatever image you choose to be featured for your writing is the first thing a reader sees from your content once it’s posted on a website or on social media.
Captivate Readers With Your Photos
Don’t just choose the most obvious photos for your article, especially when it comes to the featured photo. Pick photos that correlate but are also thought provoking to your readers.
Furthermore, avoid clickbait, over-sexualized images, or anything projecting sexism/racism/etc. Whenever possible, choose something beautiful and eye-catching.
But why include visuals in your writing at all?
That is partially true. However, in the digital world we live in, images are becoming more crucial to success for a few important reasons:
- Visual elements increase reader engagement; it keeps them reading to the next section.
- Writing that includes images does better on social media and can gain more traction on social sites.
- At times images, charts/graphs, and other visuals can increase clarity for readers.
Know the Limitations, Understand Copyrighting
Copyrights are generally straight-forward: if something is labeled for reuse, it falls under the Creative Commons license. If a piece of text, image, or other resource is not intended to be reused it is copyrighted.
Copyrights are simple to obtain and based on copyright law to extend certain usage or editing rights to others. There are different options that you can set up depending on how you want your work to be used.
A copyright resource by Washington State University Online explains four common forms of copyright infringement:
- Using words, sounds, or images that you don’t own in any form of shared media — usually songs, movie clips, photographs, or sections of books.
- Creating “mash-ups” of works you don’t own.
- Using media that’s open source or subject to “commons” guidelines for unauthorized marketing or otherwise business-focused purposes.
- Downloading a copy of a book without permission from the publisher, providing the book isn’t in the public domain.
Figure Out the Correct Format
Step number one: determine what the standard header image size is for whatever blog or website you’re writing for.
Make sure there is no distortion when resizing photos. Avoid borders and other distractions and try to center the subject of a photo if substantial cropping is required.
Did you know that most blogs and websites prefer images that don’t have solid color backgrounds, especially white backgrounds? This is because solid backgrounds can create a ‘white-out’ effect that may appear to resemble basic stock images.
What’s the best way to identify these specifics about image formatting from site to site? Start by checking the site for contributor guidelines and go from there. If there are unanswered questions, contact an editor or other relevant website staff.
Try to Pick Photos with Character
Whether it’s a compelling subject, a color display, or a striking hook, images with character are certainly important. They encapsulate your readers attention and break up text in a way that gives your readers mini ‘breaks’ from the text.
One unique way to achieve this is by scanning old film photographs into digital images. I have dozens of photo albums that were given to me by my parents and grandparents that can be used for nostalgic effect.
If you are curious how this process works, I found a resource full of tips for scanning old photos and making them into unique looking digitial images. The slightly grainy style of film photos looks fantastic in blog posts.
Free Image Sources: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly
A plethora of ‘free’ image sources exist out there, but it’s important to remember that they are not all are created equal!
Many sites claim to offer free images, but may actually require sifting through the ‘free’ images. Oftentimes, they are blatantly watermarked and force users to buy the images in order to use them, and it’s usually not cheap (or worthwhile in my opinion).
So that being said, here are some free image sites that I regularly turn to:
Creative Commons Search
There are various Creative Commons licenses that range from allowing any type of use with no attribution to allowing only certain uses and no changes
The official Creative Commons website lets users search many websites at once, for free-to-use images from a variety of sources. These sources include sites like Google Images, Flickr, and the Wikimedia Commons. Obviously, it’s become one of the top places to search for free images.
Aside from just image search, you can use it to access Creative Commons music, media, and video files on the site.
While I’m a diehard Flickr user, I oftentimes use Creative Commons site to widen my search horizon for spectacular images.
Did I fail to mention your favorite free image website? Please post anything I may have missed in the comments section and help increase this bank of image sources for everyone to use.