In this article I’m starting a series that I’ll develop over the coming weeks about how to use images most effectively on your blog. Here are my thoughts on why you should use images at all and the kind of photos you might want to take to illustrate your travel blog articles. If you’re stuck without any photos of your own to use I’ll give you ideas on how to easily find suitable photos to use that are free and won’t get you into trouble with copyright issues.
Why include images?
Hopefully I’m preaching to the converted when I say that images are essential for any blog that wants to stand out from the crowd. A quick look at the travel magazines in any newsagent will dazzle you with colourful photos and imagary and make you realise that this is the space you’re competing in. Here are a few good reasons that your blog should include photos and images;
- images catch your eye with colour and form and entice you to stay a little longer
- images reinforce the words of the story that you’re telling
- Different people take in information in diferent ways – some prefer to read, some learn visually, some through what they hear. By communicating through as many mediums as possible, you’ll appeal to a wider audience.
- if used correctly images can help bring more traffic to your blog
Photos in the multi media mix
I believe that words and pictures form the foundation of most blogs and are what your readers will expect from you as a minimum. Striking and well chosen images will always enhance a well written article. Although there are those who choose to work with audio or video from Day 1, most bloggers start with words and photos and add audio and video later . Effective use of images will provide a solid foundation for your blog to grow and flourish long term – I regard them as a ‘must have’.
Once you have established yourself with words and images it may be time to think about enriching the media you use with podcasts and videos that have a greater perceived value and will mark you out from other bloggers. I include both podcasts and video at my travel blog, Heatheronhertravels but I was probably 18 months into my blog before I started using them. I regard Podcasts and Video as ‘added value’ once you have established a solid foundation with words and images.
Below is the way I perceive images to fit into the multimedia mix – using different mediums such as images, video and podcasts to drive traffic to the blog and also to build a following in their own right to give my audience multiple ways to engage with my content.
What kind of photos should I take?
Before I started my travel blog at Heather on her travels, my photos consisted mainly of family photos with the odd scenic shot. Because photos are so important to my blog, I now find it difficult to write about the places I visited before I started the travel blog, simply because I don’t have the right photos to illustrate my stories.
Now I take a wide range of photos to illustrate my blog posts such as;
- Postcard shots – beautiful scenery or interesting sights
- Photos of myself in an easily recognisable spot that say ‘I was there’
- Photos of the people I meet, often with me in the picture
- Photos that illustrate my journey
- Photos of local people or places
What if I don’t have the right photos?
It’s always best to use your own photos if possible to avoid any copyright issues. But sometimes you just don’t have the right photos, for instance if you haven’t yet visited a destination yet, or visited it before you got interested in photography, or perhaps your camera got stolen.
You may also be writing articles that are more about the ‘How to’ of travel or about subjects where there isn’t necessarily a destination photo to use. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use images as there are many available that you could use creatively to express the point of your article. If you want inspiration on how to use images effectively to illustrate more generic travel articles, take a look at Foxnomad, where photos from the web are used to good effect to illustrate articles about travel technology and general travel topics.
There are easy ways that you can find photos that you can use to illustrate your articles, although you do need to be aware of copyright issues. You may think you could just do a quick online image search, but in fact this can cause you problems later if you then use a photo that has copyright restrictions.
Finding Free Photos
My favourite way to find photos that you have permission to use is to search on Flickr, a major photo hosting website where I keep my Heatheronhertravels online photo albums. Alternative photo hosting sites are Picasa and Smugmug. The key is to search for photos that have a Creative Commons Licence which means the owner of the image has given permission for it to be used on certain conditions, normally requiring you to credit their work.
To do this on Flickr, put a topic you’d like to find a photo to illustrate in the search box. Once you have pressed search, a selection of photos can be seen. To narrow down your search to those that are licenced for Creative commons use, do an advanced search, and check the box at the bottom of the page that says, ‘then search again. You can also search for photos licenced for commerical use here.
Finding Paid Photos
There are times when you may prefer to use a photo service where you pay a small amount for the use of the photo but can be sure that it is licenced for your use. Many amateur photographers are happy for their photos to be used for non – commercial purposes but not for a commercial website or article. If you are running a commercial site, it may be easier to find photos to use through the paid photo agencies. These may also be the best route if you want something very specific that you can’t find elsewhere and they’re also good for very generic shots or photos that are of professional quality. Try a search on istockphoto, a leading provider of photos for commercial use and FreeFoto.com where some photos for non-commerical use are free but you will have to pay for commercial use.
By now you should be convinced that you need images to complement the words on your blog and that even if you don’t have your own to use, there are easy ways to find something suitable. In my next article in this image series I’ll tell you how to use images to best effect on your blog.