Blog Images Made Easy: Tips From a Non-Graphic Artist

“I have made it a rule for a long time, not to part with the copyright of my drawings, for I have been so copied, my drawings reproduced and sold for advertisements and done in ways I hate.” — Kate Greenaway, artist and book illustrator

How would you feel if someone published one of your blog posts or stories without asking and called it their own? Using someone else’s photo in a blog post without permission is similar. Yet it’s become  so commonplace that many bloggers do so without a second thought. It’s easy to presume that crediting Google Images or other sources covers our rears, but it doesn’t.

Last week Roni Loren admirably shared her story of photo-use gone wrong—and expensive—on her blog, in hopes that others would learn from her experience. And Roni is far from alone. In 2007, a photo agency sued celebrity blogger Perez Hilton for $7.6 million for using 51 copyrighted images. In 2011, Brian Hill, a 20-year-old blogger with autism, was sued and asked to settle for $6,000 for posting a photo that belonged to the Denver Post. And the list…goes…on.

I’m no graphic artist, but I have learned some ways to create simple graphics. Doing so can prevent taking from and offending visual artists, safeguard us from lawsuits and make our posts Pinterest-friendly and fun.

5 Simple Steps:

1. Start simply, with what you know. You don’t need to be Picasso. If you’ve mastered your phone camera yet feel intimidated by self-concocting images, stick to phone pics for now. Or use royalty-free images from a free-to-use Flickr site or morgueFile. (See more below.) Then gradually take steps to tweak the images, add text and branch out into more complex programs. Ask a friend to help you, trade images or services with friends or take a workshop. Working within our comfort zones can help prevent frustration and giving up.

2. Keep royalty-free image sites bookmarked on your computer. Here are some good ones:

morgueFile: Free photos for creative professionals

Flickr: Here you can share and use free photos. Do an advanced search for photos upheld by Creative Commons, which are free to use. Then credit the owner properly, which requires giving the owner credit without endorsing yourself. For example, state this in the caption: Photo used under Creative Commons from MomandPopPhotos.

Creative Commons search: Here you can search 12 different web sites and services that utilize Creative Commons.

123Stock Photography: Photos and vectors for a low-fee (Images go for 21 cents and up.)

Deposit Photos: Photos and vectors for a low-free (The smaller the image, the less you pay. They have lots of basic background images you can easy doll up and add text to.)

3. Create text-only images. Use whatever graphic program you have on your computer to create simple boxes with eye-pleasing text. These images work great for blogs, especially if you want them shared on Pinterest. Pinners will know straight away what the post is about, and will be more likely to click and read it. Use the title of the post or a strong quote and easy-to-read text with a light or otherwise non-distracting background.

4. Use simple apps to create and edit photos. I use ArtBoard—a super easy Mac app available on iTunes. It’s one of the easiest ways to add text and create text-only images. It also provides a variety of free backgrounds and clip art. And I LOVE PicMonkey. Upload your images to the website and start playing. It’s almost too easy to explain. 😉 For PCs, I’ve heard that Power Point rocks. With your phone, it’s tough to beat Instagram. It can make amateur photos look artsy with the click of a button.

5. Keep a camera nearby and keep life interesting. Flowers, animals, food, rainbows, funky buildings, ocean views, trees, bridges, sidewalks, carnival rides, hairdos, the sidewalk, dirt paths, sunsets, ourselves… Almost anything is material for a great blog image. If you don’t take pictures or feel your daily life isn’t photo-worthy, perhaps consider being more adventurous. As writers, many of our activity takes places in our minds. Taking breaks and working outside of our homes can add funk to our writing, our lives and our photos.

What blog images do you use most? What graphics do you find most appealing? Any awesome tricks I’ve missed? Or lessons you’ve learned the hard way? I’m sure y’all have brilliant ideas to add, so please, bring them on!

Speaking of photos, if you haven’t sent me your “I’m a writer” image and would like to, I’m accepting them until August 1st. By submitting your photo to me via email, you’re granting me permission to include it on one page of my site. Don’t worry. I won’t share or sell them! 😉

Pinterest-Friendly Blog Posts: 5 Important Steps

I was 8 when I received my first bulletin board. *sigh* Memories… *pauses to ponder whether non-to-be writer kids cherish cork boards* My family had just moved to suburbia, and to ease the angst of moving, my mom bribed me with gave me Sweet Valley High and Babysitter’s Club mysteries. (Smart woman. ;)) So guess what landed on my board? Photos of my favorite books and characters, and anything else I found compelling—Paula Abdul, hot pink and purple what-evers, our family dog, my BFFs and code names for boys I totally did not have crushes on.

That, my beautiful friends, is Pinterest in a nutshell—virtual cork boards to fill up with content we’re intrigued by. And like childhood cork boards, they reflect our interests, personalities, goals and dreams. For bloggers, they are also visual platforms that can enhance our blogging/writing brands.

Whether you’ve joined Pinterest or not, your blog posts may have.* We can respond to this with an aggravated, “How dare they pin my stuff without asking?!?!” attitude, or appreciate the promotion and accept the fact that making our posts more pinnable can be highly beneficial. As the current fastest growing social media platform, Pinterest offers bloggers a fun, visual way to connect with readers we might not connect with otherwise. Cool, right? And because it’s a top referral to many online retailers, those of us with books or other products for sale have multiple reasons for excitement.

In my last Pinterest post, I focused on 7 keys for blogging/pinning success. Today, we’re digging deeper into the blog posts themselves. **If you’re a Pinterest brand-newbie, take a peak at the Pinterest Getting Started guide. If you’d like an invite to Pinterest, drop me a note. Trust me, it’s less confusing once you get started. 😉

1. Start with compelling content. Most successful blog posts have a common denominator: compelling content. Sure, it helps if the text, format and backgrounds are clear and the topics are tagged well and popular. But from my experience in reading and writing posts, the stronger the content, the more eyes and interest they gain. (If your heart races a bit at the thought of a topic, you’re probably on to something… ;))

2. Feature a fabulous, topic-specific image. Using an adorable koala bear photo is a great idea if your post somehow relates to animals. But using an animal photo just because it’s cute and you think people will pin it isn’t the best idea. Why? Because people will pin the photo, but they’ll be less likely to click to read the connected post. Or they’ll be disappointed when upon clicking the koala bear, they find a “how to de-lint your carpet” post (unless they happen to love koalas AND struggle with lint-laden rugs). It’s better to have a simple graphic that ties into your topic than to be cute but on two different planets.

Photos that work—and don’t infringe on copyright violations:

  • Your own snapshots and graphic creations. If you have visual arts skills, use them! If you don’t, now’s a great time to start practicing. I use my camera more often since joining Pinterest; you never know when a great photo opp will arrise—including those that require little, if any, expert skills. 😉
  • Purchased photos upheld by the Creative Commons license, which is a legal code that allows you to utilize images freely. Many Flickr users offer uphold CClicensure. You can also enter keywords into the CC Searchtool,which will take you to independent companies that offer CC-friendly works. Once you find an image, look for the CC license trademark. If you don’t see this—> contact the site owner.
  • Free (not stolen) images. Many stock photo companies offer free images. To find them, Google-search “free stock images.”, and Getty Images all offer royalty-free, affordable and/or totally free images. (When I use such images, I add text, crop them or combine them with other graphics to make them unique. More on this below.)
  • Fellow artists’ work, with permission. If you’re in love with a particular image, contact the creator. As long as we credit artists’ work properly, many are happy to share work samples. If you have an artistically-inclined friend, team up! By working together, you can both benefit.

3. Enhance your images with text or other “tweaks.” I’m not very graphics art-inclined, yet have been able to edit images and add simple text using Artboard—a Mac app I found on iTunes. Trust me: If I can do it, you can. I’ve also heard great things about PhotoShop and PicMonkey. Add your web address, a powerful quote that ties into your blog post or your post title—whatever floats your blogging/pinning boat.

4. Use easy-to-read text. When adding text to images, the words may read loud and clear until you make them into a smaller image on your blog, and smaller yet on Pinterest. Particularly if the words are the focus of the image, i.e., you’re featuring a quote, use bold, extremely legible font.

5. Invite blog readers to pin your posts by implementing Pinterest share buttonsAdding the “Follow Me on Pinterest” button to your blog also helps, by showing your readers you’re in the game. Notifying your current readers that you’ve joined Pinterest and that they’re welcome to pin your posts isn’t a bad idea either.

Once you’ve created a Pinterest-friendly post, pin it along with intriguing text that gives readers a feel for the post. To make it even easier for pinners to read your post, paste the address after the description. Then, use hashtags as you would on Twitter. You can also tag others in your post by adding their Pinterest handle. If your account is linked with Twitter, insert the Twitter handle of anyone featured in the post. If I’m posting a link by talented writer Lisa Hall-Wilson, for example, I’ll put @Lisa Hall-Wilson to ensure that she’s notified. If I want to tag her on Twitter, I’ll add @LisaHallWilson.

*To learn if your blog has been pinned, plug this into your web browser, with your site inserted:

I’d love to hear from you. Are your posts already Pinterest-friendly? Any tips to add? How has Pinterest helped your own blog?