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The Photography Wars Heat Up

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My entire life I’ve enjoyed taking photos. Follow me on Instagram and you’ll see that I’m constantly capturing moments from my life and sharing them with the world. This allows people to connect with me in a way that my blog, podcast or other mediums have never allowed.

Most of us leave the house every day with a camera in our pocket (aka a phone) and yet businesses big and small seem to be ignoring or not fully realizing the power of photography when they plan out their marketing efforts.

Repeat after me: Photography MUST Be Part of Your Marketing Plans.

I’ve been saying it for years and yet not everyone was listening. We even dedicated a whole chapter to photography in Content Rules because Ann and I knew that no matter what business you were in, images are important.

This week we’ve seen the battle for photography heating up online as Instagram pulled their images from Twitter, Flickr unveiled a major update and Twitter added editing capabilities to their native app.

It is easier than ever to take a photo, post it online and get reactions to it. Take one minute to look at your social network of choice and you’ll see photos throughout.

Images are the most important content you can create to get attention online.

I’m not discounting other forms of content, but I am telling you that if you are not creating and sharing images as part of your marketing mix you are in trouble.

Humans enjoy looking at photos. They stand out and get attention from even the most click happy of web surfers.

During my session at NMX I’ll be discussing the importance of photography, but I’ll also be sharing tips on how anyone can find, take and share images that people will enjoy.

While I won’t have time to teach a full photography class, I do plan on sharing my personal workflow and plan on everyone leaving thinking and taking photos in a new light compared to when they walked in.

How to Find Free Images for Your Blog with Flickr

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I highly recommend you include at least one image with every blog post you write, in most cases. Using images has several advantages:

  • Your content can be pinned more easily if you include an image.
  • Derek Halpern taught me a great trick – psychologically, people are more likely to read shorter lines, so adding an image at the beginning of a post helps lead them into your content. (I featured a video from Derek here last week.)
  • Images can break up your content, making it easier to read.
  • Images can illustrate steps in a tutorial or complement reviews.
  • You can even monetize images.

Some blog themes also require images to work well, so while I won’t say that you have to use an image in every blog post, I do think you should have a compelling reason why you aren’t using an image if you choose to go this way.

One of the main challenges with images, however, is that most of us aren’t also photographers. You should NEVER simply do a Google search and save an image you find, as this does not uphold copyright laws. However, there are a few free sources for images online, including one of my favorites – Flickr.

In this video, one of our community members, Brankica from Online Income Star, shows you how to use Flickr to get free images for your blog, and she also shares some great tips about finding and working with photographers on this site:

I highly recommend checking out the rest of Brankica’s channel, which includes more great video tutorials for bloggers.

Using Flickr Groups For Engagement & Content

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Last October at BlogWorld & New Media Expo, Kris Krüg and I spoke about using photography to improve your blog. One of the suggestions I gave was to offer a way for your readers to submit photos that might become part of your blog’s community. While this won’t make sense for everyone, for some types of blogs it’s a natural fit. If your blog has a geographical focus, readers could offer photos of the city, neighborhood, or region that you cover. Perhaps you blog about a product or brand; I’m sure it would be great to see how folks would capture that in pictures.

The idea is great, but setting up and managing the infrastructure for reader-contributed photos could be a lot of work. Here’s an easy solution: use a Flickr group.

Netting under a trapeze at Emerald City Trapeze

The primary feature of a Flickr group is the photo gallery. You can configure it such that members can post photos and optionally set restrictions on the number of photos that a member may post in a given period of time. Flickr groups may optionally have a discussion board, or you might choose to direct your community to participate in discussions elsewhere if you’d rather have those conversations in your blog’s comments or forum. Anyone may join Flickr for free and you can configure your Flickr group to allow open membership or be moderated.

Your reader’s photos can provide a good source of material for your blog as long as you’re up front about using them. When I ran the Flickr group for OurPDX (a now-defunct group blog focused on the Portland area), we indicated to members that by posting photos posted to the group, they were granting OurPDX a license to use that photo on our website. One of the options in a Flickr group is to present a set of “rules” to a user upon joining; we included this in the rules as well as in the description of the Flickr group.

Once you have a set of photos from readers, use those as a point of engagement. You might pull photos from the Flickr group into your blog’s sidebar, or perhaps you’ll want to occasionally pull one of the photos in as the focus of an article on your site. Behind the scenes, you might find someone with some photo talent that might become a great resource for other contributions to the site.

To create a Flickr group, head over to the Flickr groups page and click the “Create your own group” link in the upper right. It doesn’t take long to set up a group, seed it with a few photos, and then announce it to your audience!

Creative Commons 101: Using Images on Your Blog

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… by Aaron Hockley

It’s widely accepted that including images with blog posts is a great way to draw and retain attention; finding relevant images that can be used while respecting the artist’s copyright can sometimes be a challenge. One good source for images are the millions of images licensed under Creative Commons licenses.

What is Creative Commons

In many countries (including the United States), copyright laws automatically protect a piece of work at the time it is created. You own the copyright to your photos as soon as you press the shutter button. With some limited exceptions, using a photograph or other material requires permission from the copyright holder. Creative Commons consists of a set of content licenses in which the creator retains some rights to the material but makes the material available for a given set of usages without requiring specific permission for each use.

A Creative Commons license can be interpreted as “This photo (or other material) can be used for _____ and in exchange I ask for _____.”

Common Creative Commons Terms

Most Creative Commons licenses require Attribution, which means that credit needs to be given to the creator of the work. While the license technically says the creator can specify the form of attribution, the convention online is to include a line of text that says something like “Photo by Steve Stevenson” with the text being a link back to the photographer (either their main website or the location where they posted the photo).

Some Creative Commons licenses specify No Derivatives which means that the photo may be used as-is but cannot be “remixed”, edited, or used as part of another work. Some licenses specify that the image is Share Alike which means that it can be remixed/edited but that the resulting work must also be licensed under the same Creative Commons license.

The other term to be aware of is that some licenses specify the image may only be used for Non Commercial usage. This can be a bit of a gray area for bloggers – is it commercial use if you accept advertising and make money from your blog? I generally play it safe and if I’m going to use Creative Commons images I only use ones licensed for commercial use. After all, my blog is a business.

Finding Creative Commons Images

You can use Flickr’s Advanced Search to find images for free use on your blog. Head over there, put in the term you’d like to search for, then scroll down and check the box to indicate you want to find only Creative Commons-licensed content. As I mentioned above, I also tick the box for content to be used commercially.

Creative Commons images can be a great way to add interesting images to your blog at no cost. As long as you respect the license (commercial vs. non-commercial) and include a link back with attribution you shouldn’t run into any hassles.

What experiences have you had with Creative Commons images? Do you find them to be helpful?

Aaron Hockley is a Portland-area photographer who also blogs about the photography industry and speaks about the intersection of social media and photography. Follow Aaron on Twitter.

Tag You’re It! – Why Tagging Your Content Is Important

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Tag You're It

If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times, “We live in a Google world.”  It is true, we don’t order Chinese food, find directions to the store, or stalk old girlfriends without using Google.  Being findable in this world is important if you are trying to be found.  Businesses especially must pay attention to how their customers can find them.  Keywords and key phrases are how that is accomplished through the use of meta tags or just tags.

Tags are a keyword associated with content attached to it.  If you want people to read your latest blog post on how to wash a cat, you have to determine how they would look for that content and attach that key word or phrase to it.

The same rule applies to your content as a publisher whether it be a blog, a podcast, video or even your photos.  We often put pictures into our posts that we find which we feel are relevant to our content, the title or completely off the wall for that matter.  We find those pictures at places like flickr, istockphoto, and yes, Google image search.  We enter a keyword into the search function of those sites to find a picture for the content.

In addition to being searchable or findable, it also has the effect of increasing traffic to your content and makes the content watched, seen and readable.  One of the things that I do on a regular basis is to search out and find anyone that mentions BlogWorld & New Media Expo.  You can imagine all the different variations of that and the number of tags used to describe our event.  This is also why we like people that use a common tag.  The most used tag last year was of course “BWE09” and this year we are urging everyone to use “BWE10”.  This allows us a quick reference to your blog post, your picture on your photo sharing site, your podcast and your YouTube (owned of course by Google) or other videos. A YouTube search with “blog world” returns 234,000 results.  We all know it may be difficult for me to look at that many videos.  Using a tag like BWE10 focuses the searcher into your content. A similar search with BWE09 allows me the benefit of watching less that 150 videos.

If your content is well done and is something we need to share with our community, we find and share it.  This in turn increases the readers, listeners, or viewers of your content.  We are still pouring over the content generated as a result of the 2009 event in October, I am finding new content daily and still trying to read all of it.  As we grow and get bigger and have more content generated it is going to be tougher to find your content and thereby making it even more important for you to tag appropriately.

For the upcoming show in 2010 we are asking everyone to tag your content “BWE10”  If you Tweet that hashtag, put that in your post, attach it to your videos, photos and podcasts, I’ll be there to say hello.  If it is something that needs to be shared with the thousands of people in our community, we’ll do so and increase your traffic and readership.  If I miss something because I couldn’t find it, your content may never get discovered and broadcast further.  We are listening and we are paying attention to what is being said. Tag your content!

Photo Via SD_Kirk

Tag You're It! – Why Tagging Your Content Is Important

Author:

Tag You're It

If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times, “We live in a Google world.”  It is true, we don’t order Chinese food, find directions to the store, or stalk old girlfriends without using Google.  Being findable in this world is important if you are trying to be found.  Businesses especially must pay attention to how their customers can find them.  Keywords and key phrases are how that is accomplished through the use of meta tags or just tags.

Tags are a keyword associated with content attached to it.  If you want people to read your latest blog post on how to wash a cat, you have to determine how they would look for that content and attach that key word or phrase to it.

The same rule applies to your content as a publisher whether it be a blog, a podcast, video or even your photos.  We often put pictures into our posts that we find which we feel are relevant to our content, the title or completely off the wall for that matter.  We find those pictures at places like flickr, istockphoto, and yes, Google image search.  We enter a keyword into the search function of those sites to find a picture for the content.

In addition to being searchable or findable, it also has the effect of increasing traffic to your content and makes the content watched, seen and readable.  One of the things that I do on a regular basis is to search out and find anyone that mentions BlogWorld & New Media Expo.  You can imagine all the different variations of that and the number of tags used to describe our event.  This is also why we like people that use a common tag.  The most used tag last year was of course “BWE09” and this year we are urging everyone to use “BWE10”.  This allows us a quick reference to your blog post, your picture on your photo sharing site, your podcast and your YouTube (owned of course by Google) or other videos. A YouTube search with “blog world” returns 234,000 results.  We all know it may be difficult for me to look at that many videos.  Using a tag like BWE10 focuses the searcher into your content. A similar search with BWE09 allows me the benefit of watching less that 150 videos.

If your content is well done and is something we need to share with our community, we find and share it.  This in turn increases the readers, listeners, or viewers of your content.  We are still pouring over the content generated as a result of the 2009 event in October, I am finding new content daily and still trying to read all of it.  As we grow and get bigger and have more content generated it is going to be tougher to find your content and thereby making it even more important for you to tag appropriately.

For the upcoming show in 2010 we are asking everyone to tag your content “BWE10”  If you Tweet that hashtag, put that in your post, attach it to your videos, photos and podcasts, I’ll be there to say hello.  If it is something that needs to be shared with the thousands of people in our community, we’ll do so and increase your traffic and readership.  If I miss something because I couldn’t find it, your content may never get discovered and broadcast further.  We are listening and we are paying attention to what is being said. Tag your content!

Photo Via SD_Kirk

Army Lifts Social Media Ban

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army-logo Chalk this one up as a victory for the brave men and women around the country that are helping to keep our country completely safe and sound.  Up until this point, due to security concerns and privacy worries by ol’ Uncle Sam, the U.S. Army had blocked the vast majority of all social media and Web 2.0 sites on all of their bases.  That meant, for our soldiers, they had no access to Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace or Vimeo…the sites that, if we’re honest, steal a great deal of our time on a daily basis.

The good news is that now that the U.S. Army has re-evaluated their stance on it, they’ve decided to lift the social media ban at certain U.S. bases that have most likely passed through the checklists and red tape to make it happen.  According to reports:

“The order was made to “leverage social media sites as a medium to allow soldiers to ‘tell the Army story’ and to facilitate the dissemination of strategic, unclassified information,” the order states. Even before this order, a number of official U.S. Army social media pages were set up on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, intended to promote soldiers’ stories to civilians…”

Great news for all the men and women that have been wanting to actually continue their online lives while serving our country.  Apparently this order is not going to work on all Army bases, as some have classified information that they can’t risk getting out, but eventually they have plans to allow this type of thing on all bases.  We’ll see when and if that happens, but the bigger news is just that social media has had this kind of impact, on this broad of a scale.  10 years ago, would anyone have believed the U.S. Army would have a Facebook page?  Nope.

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