Image hunting techniques for bloggers
See that little doodad widget over there? No, not there. In the column on the side of this blog where stuff is. Yeah, there. The one that says, “Blog with Integrity.”
What does that mean?
Yes, even a Guru of Negativity can still maintain his integrity.
One of the ways I try to blog with integrity is by respecting intellectual property rights. I try to write my own stuff, and when I use a source, like Wikipedia, I give credit where credit is due. I do this with links and sourcing excerpts.
When it comes to images I try to do the same thing. Stealing isn’t nice so I try not to do it.
Here are some fun techniques I use for finding images for use in blog posts and respecting the rights of others.
Do It Yourself (DIY)
When possible, create your own stuff. Get off your ass and take your own photos. Of course that isn’t always workable or possible. So keep reading.
Search government sites
In most cases, images created by the government are open season and free of copyright. Makes sense since we own the government. (At least in theory.)
You can easily use a Google Image Search (GIS) to peruse these images. (This is just one way to do it.)
- Go to http://www.google.com
- Search for something (let’s try “paper airplane”)
- Search results for “Everything” will be displayed by default
- On the left column, click “Images” to narrow your search
- Near the top of the page, under the Search button, click the link that says “Advanced Search”
- Find the box that says “Domain” and enter the following to limit your search to government web site domains: *.gov
- Click the “Google Search” button to search again
- This time the results should only be from images hosted on government domains
I found the image on the left in the search results. I clicked it and was taken to a web site owned by the Federal Aviation Administration. I saved the image to my desktop and then loaded it into my blog.
Viola! It’s that easy.
Note: You should keep in mind that not all images on GOV domains are copyright free. You sometimes have to do a bit of research. Find the “policies” link and see what it says. You can usually get a pretty good idea whether an image is usable or not.
I have seen some city and county government web sites that claim a copyright on their material. I’m not sure what’s up with that. In those rare cases I just shrug and move on.
So don’t forget about the government when you’re looking for a photograph. You might get lucky. NASA is a great source for images. So is the CIA World Factbook and the Library of Congress.
Photographers on the Flickr service have the option of making their pictures available for other uses (or not). One way of letting others share your work is by using a Creative Commons (CC) license. This is a great way to legally find photographs for your blog.
- Go to http://www.flickr.com
- In the search box at the top-right, search for something (lets try “mardis gras”)
- A bunch of pictures will be displayed
- Just like before, find and click the “Advanced Search” link
- Scroll down and find the CC section and check the box that says, “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content”
- Click the SEARCH button again
Now you’ll only be seeing images where the license holder allows sharing. Neat, huh? You’ll be amazed at the quality and also the number of pictures available for most searches. There are some great finds here!
Find a picture you like, click to enlarge, then click the SHARE THIS button. Select the “Grab the HTML” option, choose a size, then paste that code into your blog post.
This will automatically create a link back to the original photo on Flickr. Be sure to leave that to say “thank you” to the photographer for sharing.
Here’s one I found for Mardis Gras that tells a nice story.
Sometimes you’ll find an image on Flickr that you want to use but it isn’t flagged as being part of the Creative Commons. Just drop the Flickr member and note and ask permission. I’ve done this many times and it has always worked. Be sure to link the image to the Flickr member’s account and then send them a copy of your post and say thanks.
Open Source Clip Art
If you want clip art rather than a photo, try the Open Clip Art Library for copyright free images. This is where the artwork for Hyppo and Critter came from.
So, that’s just a few ideas. There are many more. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.
The horrors of Shutter Island
I’ve had an interest in photography for a long time now. Critical readers who just read that sentence will note that I didn’t say I’m any good at it.
My dad liked Pentax cameras and I was familiar with them as far back as I can remember. In high school I took photography classes including portraiture and developing film and photographs in a black and white darkroom.
For most of my life I’ve owned a Pentax 35mm camera. Then I few years ago I picked up my first digital camera ever, a Nikon Coolpix. I used it a bit but not too much, mainly for family and vacation photos. About six months ago I finally decided to read the manual and learn how it worked and began using it more.
About six weeks ago my wife and I received a newer, much more powerful camera for a wedding anniversary gift. Since then we’ve really been getting into it. We’ve been researching on the web, reading photography books, and participating on Flickr. It has been a lot of fun.
Along the way I’ve made a few observations and learned a few things.
First, I’ve noticed that if you set up a tripod and put a camera on top of it, two things immediately happen. Everyone suddenly becomes very interested in what you are doing and strangers feel like it is acceptable to talk to you. “Taking some pictures?” they’ll ask. “Yep. Here’s your sign.”
Since we started going places and trying to take more pictures and broaden our horizons, there have been a few incidents:
- At the local park: We walked around all areas of the park and took a lot of pictures. At one point we were near the playground. My wife was trying to take some pictures of the equipment, not specifically trying to take pictures of anyone’s children. A mother on a nearby benched freaked out, frantically called her children to her, then aggressively demanded to know what my wife was doing and if the camera had any pictures of her kids. (It didn’t.) Her behavior went way beyond rude and was our first inkling of how people react to cameras.
- Saturday night in front of the local post office: With the camera on the tripod and pointing up at the top of the building, we were exploring night shots and how light was hitting the old building. We were approached by several of the local staggering drunks who demanded to know what we were doing. “What are you taking a picture of?” was a very popular question. After the groups got larger and rowdier we fled for our lives.
- On a public sidewalk: My wife was taking some pictures of various signs in front of a restaurant. A drunken idiot staggered out of a nearby bar for her smoke break and demanded to know, “Are you taking pictures of my car?” Well golly gee whiz. Which one is yours? And what an odd thing to be concerned about. Perhaps she was concerned we were working the repo man?
- At a local restaurant: We enjoyed our dinner where we are well known as regulars. While eating I noticed a neon sign in the window. When we finished our meal it was dark, so I grabbed the tripod and went out to shoot the sign. I must have been almost 50′ from the building. I’m snapping pictures when I realized someone was talking to my wife. Later I found out it was the restaurant owner who wanted to know what we were doing after people in the restaurant complained and freaked about the camera. Again I was on a public sidewalk. My only interest was the neon sign and the camera didn’t contain an image of a single human being. (Ugh!) I was tempted to go inside and use the LCD to prove it.
- At the local park: I set up the tripod by the entrance and had the camera pointed at some trees showing their beautiful autumn colors. Three cars in a row drove by and the drivers all looked freaked out that they might be in the shot. Yeah, right. I set up my tripod hours ago and just waited and waited hoping you would drive by. You’re on to me.
What have I learned? People are fucking paranoid of cameras. Next time I want to take a picture of a neon sign in a restaurant I’m going to go inside and yell, “Yo! Check this out! I’m going to be photographing that sign over yonder. I won’t be taking pictures of any of you humans! Or whatever the hell you are.”
I’ve also learned it pays to prepare your retorts ahead of time. Concerned about me taking pictures of your piece of shit car? “Oh, I’m sorry. Which one is it?” right before I deliberately make your POS the focus of my life’s work.
Maybe I just have a bad attitude, but people seriously need to relax. Chill out. The kid thing I can understand, even if the mom was wrong; we weren’t trying to take pictures of her kids. But a car??? Wow.
An FYI to the people of the world: I have little interest in you and won’t be trying to take your picture, so get over your damn selves already. I don’t want your visage tainting my shiny new toy!