Find the right image for your post

Blogs are composed by a long flow of text: even if the content of posts is specific, they still appear as a long flow of text to the eye. To help your reader distinguish between different posts, you usually rely on a good amount of whitespace, nice typography for titles and subtitles, some graphics, and so on.

All these strategies separate one post from each other, but to identify a specific post you need most of the times to read its content. Actually, it’s important that your readers have some more informations at the first glance: for example, just opening a page they should be able to know if there are new posts, how many, and – more or less – what are they about.

You can easily achieve this goal using images: a nice pic draws your visitor’s attention much faster than the most intriguing title and lets him obtain a bunch of informations in a fraction of a second. The flow of text becomes immediately a series of different, clearly separated pieces, each one with its characterization; moreover, they know instantly how much content has changed since their last visit: they may not remember exactly the titles but surely they know if they have already seen those images.

So the problem is: how to obtain good quality images?

Well, you can just google something and pick up the first one that fits from the “images” results. It works. Actually, you should verify if you’re allowed to do so, because often images are copyrighted. Moreover you’ll likely need to go through many useless results, because search engines partly rely on keywords obtained from the context, which could be misleading, or tend to be redundant (you see the same image repeated from many different webpages).

What I suggest you is to use flickr, instead, in a way which is fast, efficient, freeĀ and fair.

A couple of years ago I was working on one of the websites I manage. There was some hard work to do, so the website had to be pulled offline for many hours. I decided to put a funny temporary page telling the visitors we were “working hard” to send the blog online again soon – and what’s better than a deeply sleeping baby or pet to assess this statement? So I went to flickr and performed a search using the “sleeping” keyword.

Advanced Search

Be careful now: use the advanced settings. You will see some options to refine your search, but the most important is the last one:

Search Creative Common

You can look just for pictures under a Creative Common Licence. Here we are: this raccoon was exactly what I was looking for.

Search results

On its page you can read the licence:

Licence

In this case, the picture is released under a Creative Commons 2.0 by-nd: this means that you can freely use it if:

  1. you specify the author (“by”): Tambako the Jaguar
  2. you don’t create a derivative work from it (“nd”): perfect for me, because I’ll just post the pic as it is

The same way you can find images for any purpose.

Flickr users are usually passionate people who love photography, so most images are very nice; they tag them, so your search has a good chance to be successful; their photos are often free or under a non-commercial licence; and this is a nice way to obtain some unexpected results, meet talented photographer and see some very interesting photo sets.

If you use their images, just remember to respect the licence: writing a note and/or adding a link doesn’t make your website look less professional, on the opposite: it means that you select your sources and credit them and that you’re reliable – so don’t be afraid (just choose a nice way to do it).

You have some more options, but I’ll cover them another time (why don’t you explore the flickr search, while you wait?).