Images and graphical elements are an extremely important part of a blog post. Their jobs are to draw the reader into your content, and where appropriate, serve up complementary information in an easy-to-digest manner.
However, the prospect of sourcing and editing images can be somewhat intimidating if you have never worked with images before. Fortunately, you do not need to be a professional photographer or a graphic designer to use images in your blog posts.
There are a number of free resources available on the Internet, offering up hundreds of millions of images for you to use (as long as you attribute them as per Creative Commons licensing).
I use the following free resources to source images for my posts (in order of preference):
Just enter a keyword into the search boxes at any of the above websites and you will be on your way. Just don’t forget to attribute the image to its original author on your post! I usually do this at the bottom of the post in italics (e.g.: “Image Credit: John Doe“). Alternatively, you can include the credit within the image caption.
The only three things you really need to learn when it comes to image editing for blog posts are how to crop and resize images and what format to save them in.
When it comes to those simple tasks, Windows users can use Microsoft Paint and Mac users can use Preview. Both applications come bundled with their respective operating systems.
Although both applications are extremely simple to use, if you are in any doubt as to how to edit images, just Google what you need to know. For instance, I just Googled “how to resize images in Microsoft Paint” and immediately found this tutorial. We’re dealing with really simple stuff here, so don’t sweat it. If you have any problems then just drop me a line.
When it comes to the format in which you save images, you only need to concern yourself with two questions:
- Is the image color–rich (e.g. a photograph)? Use the JPG (.jpeg / .jpg) file format.
- Does the image only feature a limited number of colors (e.g. a simple screenshot)? Use the PNG (.png) file format.
The PNG file format is lossless which means that it doesn’t compress images in any way. This is great for simple images (as they will be very crisp and clear), but not good for more complex images (as file size becomes an issue).
The JPG file format on the other hand isn’t lossless but does a pretty good job of compressing images without it being overly noticeable. If you are given an option for the percentage level of JPG compression by your application, 80–90% usually offers a good balance of image quality to file size.
Be wary of large images because they will slow the load time of your blog down (something to be avoided if at all possible). As a rule of thumb I aim for images to be no more than around 150kb (and typically far less). You can find out how big an image is by right clicking on it and selecting “Properties” (in Windows), or “Get Info” (in OS X).
Doing More With Images
There will probably come a time when you want to do more with images than simply resize and crop. When it comes to that, your next step should be a fully featured image manipulation program.
If that sounds expensive, don’t worry — I use a completely free piece of software that does everything I need it to. That software is known as GIMP and is completely open source (just like the WordPress blogging platform).
A word of warning: GIMP can be pretty intimidating to start with. Fortunately, there is a comprehensive user guide available.
If you’re looking for something a little simpler there is a free application called Skitch that features an easy and intuitive interface for carrying out all sorts of basic image editing. Alternatively, you may want to check out Snagit.
- Source one or more images for the post you edited in the previous section, then add them to your post along with the proper Creative Commons attribution.
- Your post is ready — hit Publish and give yourself a pat on the back!