Using Photopin to Find Suitable Free Images for Your Blog Posts

Different people will give different answer if asked what the art of blogging is. Some might say it is the pleasure of running one’s fingers across the keyboard and see words show up on the screen. Others might say it is the thrill of discovering a question they can personally answer in a blog post.

by R. Nial Bradshaw is licensed under CC BY 2.0

by R. Nial Bradshaw, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Some others might find joy in formatting, finding a suitable picture or a famous quote to go along with a certain post. To some people an accompanying picture might be rather low on their list of priority. Some probably think of it last, some might fuss about it early on. It is difficult, however, to find a blogger who says an illustrative picture is not important at all.

Using Creative Commons

Photographs for the purpose of illustrations or accompanying images are widely available online. The question is, are you willing to pay for it? For the most part, photographers are reasonable and a blogger can purchase a license to use a photography at an equally reasonable price.

If you do not have a budget for it, fret not. There are photographers who are willing to let you use their work for free, provided you still give credit and link to their website. This practice falls under what is called Creative Commons licensing where artists let other parties use their work for free in return for attribution.

Types of Creative Commons License

There are different types of licences when it comes to Creative Commons so as a blogger you need to sort out how you are going to use a certain piece of artwork and see if the artist offer suitable licences.

A blogger who would like to make money from blogging is going to need Creative Commons licences that specify commercial permits: CC BY, CC BY-SA and CC BY-ND. (Outside of these are several others that fall under non-commercial permits.)

  • CC BY: Creative Commons Attribution

  • CC BY-SA: Creative Commons Attribution, Share Alike

  • CC BY-ND: Creative Commons Attribution, Non Derivatives

If you are going to simply use a photo on your blog, an image that has CC BY-ND license is good. If you are going to modify, or build upon said image, you are going to need one with CC BY license. If you are going to modify and then distribute said image, you need one with CC BY-SA license. This is to ensure that the original photographer or artist gets the credit all the way down the chain of distribution.

Using Photopin for Faster and More Effective Image Search

Photopin helps you find suitable images by cutting two corners at the same time. When you do image search at your favorite photography sites, you usually plug in a keyword (e.g. “independence”) and then you click search. A selection of images is then presented to you to choose from.

Using Photopin starts out the same: give the site your keyword, it gives you an array of images to choose from. But once your search results come back, you can also click to choose Commercial and Photopin will sort out the images tagged with non commercial CC license and leave you with the ones that you can use for commercial purposes.

Weeding Out Bad Seeds on Flickr

Photopin aggregates pictures from Flickr, a site where arguably the best amateur and professional photographers showcase their work. Some people use Flickr to collect pictures they like as well, while some unscrupulous others use it to pose as photographers. They take others’ photographs, maybe crop out the watermark and upload said images to their respective account.

It is usually easy to sort out which one is which. Real photographers will have the large file(s) of their work; any images that listed a 500+ x 600+ pixels (or even lower resolutions) as their biggest file are most likely stolen. Legit names will have as big as 3000+ x 3000+ pixels for their biggest files.

You can check this out quickly with Photopin. Hover over the image you are interested in, and click on Get Photo. A preview menu will show you selections of image size and you can decide if the Flickr account is legit or not.

Downloading the Image(s) of Your Choice

Once you have found the image you like, do click on it to be taken to the Flickr page where it is originally uploaded. Scroll down to verify the Creative Commons license. Click on the Creative Commons icons if you are not sure what type of CC it is.

Remember that some photographers may not want you to touch up on their work; this is what it means when you find CC BY-ND (No Derivatives). You can use the image for free, provided you don’t change anything, clearly name the photographer in your caption in your blog post and link to his or her chosen webpage. (Sometimes they want you to link to their Flickr page, sometimes they want it to be their personal website.)

If you see an icon with a dollar sign that is crossed, it means it is a CC BY-NC and you can only use the image for non commercial (NC) purposes, rendering it unusable for your blog(s). Unless you have a blog that is not monetized then the image is yours to use.

Click the button Flickr provides to see all available sizes and then make your choice. 500 pixel in width is usually a decent size for a blog post. Click download and you are set. Remember to name the photographer in your photo caption and link his or her name appropriately.

Limitation and Creativity

Driving in Heels Flickr

by Sarah, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Free things are usually limited and it is not rare that a blogger finds herself with a selection of images that is less than satisfactory. When this happens, do try different keywords even if they seem slightly unrelated at first. Independence, freedom, fresh air, open space… use your imagination and most of all, have fun!