Would you click through an online dating profile that didn’t contain one photo of your prospective date? Chances are slim. That’s why images are key components to your blog post, used to attract immediate attention. Everyone wants a quick idea of what to expect if they reward you with their valuable reading time, and, coupled with an engaging post title, the right image can do just that. Whether it’s a graphic directly related to your blog post, or a cool featured image that sets the tone of your article, utilize something relevant to quickly grab your reader’s eye and lead them further into your content.
Many people do a Google image search, grab the first image they like, and insert it into their content. This method doesn’t take into account the many licensing issues and rights that could come into play. Fortunately for bloggers, many of these licenses allow millions of images to be used freely, provided they’re sourced from compliant locations, and attributed properly.
The Creative Commons copyright licenses “provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use creative works — on conditions of the author’s choice.” As you can see in the Times Square photo above, the photographer, source website, and licensing rights are all listed and linked below the photo. This grants me the right to display the image within this post, and at no cost. Different licenses offer varying levels of restriction, including commercial or non-commercial distribution, remixes, derivations, tweaks, and builds upon the original creation. It all depends on the license the creator applies to each original work.
The three sites listed below provide simple search options to locate free images to use in your blog posts. They search or host millions of free Creative Commons works, supply various image sizes to download or link to, and list the proper licensing code to copy and paste into your blog post. That’s all there is to it. Just be sure to read each license prior to making any changes to the original work.
Foter has almost 230 million free stock photos available for use. You can sort your search results by commercial or non-commercial license type, related tags, or my personal favourite, interestingness. They also have a plugin available for WordPress.org users, allowing you to search for images while composing your post, using an icon installed beside the add media button above your post formatting toolbar. WordPress.com users will have to take the extra step and visit Foter.com directly. Once you select an image, you have the neat option of clicking add to blog, which allows you to set the image width and desired placement, then copy all the necessary code to paste the image and license into your post using the text editing mode. This displays the image by linking to its original location. You can also choose a direct download of various image sizes, which you’ll have to upload to your media library, then copy and paste the licensing code separately into your post. This allows you a bit more control over two things – hosting the image on your own blog and placing the license information separately from the photo, usually at the very bottom of your post.
Compfight also has a plugin available to WordPress.org users, installing an icon beside the add media button, as mentioned above, for image searches from directly within your new post area. Again, WordPress.com users will have to schlep over to the full Compfight.com site for access. Compfight searches Flickr exclusively for Creative Commons photos, but isn’t directly affiliated. Once an image is selected, download the desired image size, upload it to your media library, and cut and paste the HTML code containing the photo credit and licensing rights into your post. No nifty ‘add to blog’ button here.
Photo Pin has the coolest looking homepage of the three, but is otherwise very similar to Compfight, as it also searches for Creative Commons photos via Flickr. The method of implementation is the same as well – download your desired image size, then copy and paste the licensing code. The one bonus Photo Pin has over the others is in its selection of available image sizes. Up to 8 different size options is not uncommon, although it varies depending on the image. Photo Pin also utilizes a larger image preview that pops up when you hover over the image. There is no WordPress plugin option available yet for Photo Pin.
You can also search for licensed photos, videos, and even music through the Creative Commons site itself. It’s not a search engine per se, but offers convenient access to search services provided by other independent organizations, such as Flickr and SoundCloud. I personally prefer the presentation and ease of use provided by the sites listed above, and their WordPress plugins.