9 Sites and Tools for Locating and Editing Images (more if you count Powerpoint)
This is the third in a series of posts about blogging. The first was about how and why I started a blog in the first place, and the second post was more tactical tips about how to get the blog live on the Internet. This post is also fairly tactical, and is about where to find perfect images to accompany your blog post, and tools for editing them. Of course you can use this as a resource for finding images for every purpose, for example for presentations, email templates and other marketing materials.
Images are extremely important, sometimes even more important than the text of your posts. Humans are visual animals, so even if you have the best content in the world, images will bring your blog to life. So if you’re going to spend time creating great content, you should allocate at least some of that time to finding the right image(s) to accompany it.
Unless you are an avid photographer, you probably won’t have your own stock of images to use in your blog. But never fear, its fairly simple to find images, and many of them can be used at no charge, you simply need to include a credit to the creator/owner of the image, usually with a link to the original location. Many people I know just do a quick image search in Google images, which is great for inspiration, but often the images that appear in the search results are owned by someone, so you need to be very careful to check your rights to use the image, and not simply copy/paste whatever you find on the Internet.
There are many sites where you can find images for reasonable (or even no) cost:
- istockphoto – paid stock photography
- Dreamstime – paid stock photography
- Fotolia – paid stock photography
- stock.xchnge – most of the images here are free, but the search results will also point you to premium images that cost money
- Clker – online royalty free clip art
- Flickr – be sure to check the copyright link since it varies from image to image
These sites are fun to look through, but they have a tendency to lure you in with their beauty, so my suggestion is to set yourself a time limit, or you may end up sucked into the image vortex.
If you download the image in a standard Web format, such as JPG, PNG or GIF, you should have no trouble uploading it to your blog as is. You may wish to change the size or crop it slightly, and even though there are lots of fancy programs to do this type of editing, I have found over the years that MS Paint works just fine.
The only time you will need a “real” graphics editing program such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator is if you have to edit vector images. I purchased a vector image for my home page (the test tubes) which was great since it had a transparent background, but I had to add the gray shading behind the test tubes to match the template background. Because I’m really not that skilled at Illustrator, I simply opened the file in Illustrator, and copied & pasted it into a program I am much more familiar with – MS Powerpoint. Graphic designers hate Microsoft programs, but for those of us that have to hack our own Web sites together, they are a godsend.
You might be wondering how I got the gray background of the image to match exactly the WordPress template that surrounds it. Well, I sampled the background above the existing image in the template, and then stretched that small sample to cover the size I needed.
In order to cut out the piece of the gray background that I needed, I used a great tool called SnagIt, which allows me to simply take a screenshot of whatever size I want, so I simply “snagged” the grey-white rectangle above the image. SnagIt is a paid tool, and if it’s just the “snagging” aspect that you want to use, rather than all the other nice bells & whistles that they provide, a free tool called MWSnap is great – I’ve been using it for years.
Once the background was snagged, I pasted it into Powerpoint. Yes, Powerpoint. I’m not that familiar with Photoshop, so I wanted to see how far I could get using tools I am more comfortable with. I stretched the rectangle downwards so I would have a full grey-white background for the image that would dominate the top of my site. I needed to make it exactly the same size as the image it was replacing from the template, which I knew was 250 x 200 pixels. I knew that because I right-clicked on it & selected “view image info.” The problem is that in Powerpoint it’s difficult to create a rectangle of an exact size. Perhaps there’s a way to do it, but I wasn’t aware of one. So I had to take my rectangle into MSPaint in order to make it the right size. Incidentally there are some free “ruler” programs (like Ruul for Chrome) you can overlay on your screen, which also might have done the job. I didn’t have one installed on my computer, but if I find myself doing this often I may need to get one.
Incidentally, while writing this post I came across another online tool for taking screenshots and editing them, Aviary. Looks great but I haven’t tried it, yet.
Know of any other great sites for images? tools for editing them where you don’t need a degree in graphic design? Please share in the comments.