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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.

Facebook Buys Instagram: Should Users “Like” This Status Update?

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instagram facebook Today, Facebook overlord Mark Zuckerberg announced the company has acquired the user-friendly smartphone picture app Instagram, which made news last week when it (finally) came to Android. The purchase price? A whopping ONE BILLION DOLLARS. But all things considered, that might be a bargain for Facebook, depending on user reaction.

And I think users are still awe-struck by the news, which was kept pretty quiet until today’s announcement. But the question on their minds, is this: Should I like this change? Or should I run for my life?

As of writing this post, Zuckerberg’s status has been liked by 86,391 people, and it’s only been about an hour. Of course, there’s no dislike button on Facebook, which might tell another tale if it were available. But that made people liking a status so quickly means that the company does have some support – and I’m an optimist. Personally, there are several things about Facebook and their policies that I do not like, but I think this acquisition is going to be awesome for both companies.

Instagram and the Little Engine that Could

You all know the story about the little engine that could, right? Basically, it’s the kid’s tale of a engine who is faced with going up a huge mountain carrying a heavy load. He repeats, “I think I can, I think I can” over and over to stay motivated and make it to the peak, even when others find it an impossibly daunting task for such a small train. Instagram has been that little engine.

The company has…or, well, had…only 13 employees, and less funding from investors than you’d think, given their popularity. I’m assuming that one of the reasons it did take so long for them to come to Android was lack of resources. There’s such cool potential with Instagram, but being a small start-up isn’t easy.

Now, they’ve got no excuse. If I was CEO Kevin Systrom, I would be tempted to fill my office with money and roll around in it. More money allows you to give customers a better user experience, expand the project to be available to more people, get creative with your offerings, and more. Having an investor like Facebook makes it possible for Instagram to get even better – and that’s a good thing for users.

The Dark Shadow Cast by Facebook

Of course, the downside is that the person paying the bills pretty much gets to call the shots. Facebook has already said that they plan to keep the company as it’s own brand, rather than absorbing it into Facebook. I imagine that it will be similar to Google and YouTube – the companies will heavily work together, but Instagram isn’t going to just disappear before our eyes.

At least, that’s my hope. Again, I’m an optimist.

But I think Facebook is maturing as a company, and they realize that changing Instagram to be something exclusively for Facebook users is not a good direction for the company. In his announcement, Zuckerberg wrote:

We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience. We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.

In other words, Facebook has a cool new kickball, but they are going to share it on the playground with all the other kids so everyone can play kickball together. They just get to be pitcher.

Still, I think it’s something we need to keep an eye on as users. My hope is that Facebook will use this acquisition to make their own photo-sharing offerings stronger for Facebook users, but without mucking it up for current Instagram users who don’t want to be forced to use Facebook or change the way they use Instagram drastically. That might not be what happens in reality.

I do think, though, that we need to give Facebook and Instagram a chance.

And a final thought: What say you, Google+? For a network that has been competing with Facebook, this is a pretty big blow. I bet smaller networks like Pinterest and even Twitter have just gotten juicier-looking to Google!

Your turn to weigh in! What do you think of the Facebook-Instagram deal?

How to Quickly Watermark Every Photo for Your Blog

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One of the struggles for bloggers who like using their own photographs is that people aren’t afraid to steal them for use on their own blog. Watermarking your photos won’t stop everyone, of course, but it is a measure you can take to deter others as well as ensure that you’re still getting credit, even when your picture is taken without your consent.

I personally never watermarked pictures in the past because…well…it always seemed like such a hassle. Then, I found this video on how to set up a action in Photoshop to add a watermark quickly and to batches of photos, rather than going through the steps of doing each one individually. Genius! Hope it helps you guys too:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hI49P5D_n5s[/youtube]

Of course, it should go without saying, but don’t watermark images you don’t own. Also, if you want the picture without the watermark as well, make sure you also save a copy in another folder – once that image is on there, it can be difficult to remove.

Thanks to Bethany Gilbert from Capturing Your Market for posting this video on YouTube and making my life so much easier in less than four minutes.

Should You Block Pinterest on Your Blog?

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Pinterest recently released a new bit of code that you can add to your website which will block anyone who tries to pin your posts. It’s pretty simple. You just add a line of code to your header/footer and would-be pinners will receive a message when they attempt to pin anything from your site that says the site doesn’t allow pinning. Hear that? It’s the sound of Pinterest haters everywhere rejoicing.

But whether you use this social network or not, is blocking Pinterest a good idea? In my opinion, no.

At least, not for most bloggers. There are a few exceptions:

  • If your blog is photography-based, with posts containing little content beside your pictures, it might make sense to block Pinterest.
  • If your blog is about showcasing your artwork and, again, contains little written content, it might makes sense to block Pinterest.
  • If you hate traffic, it might makes sense to block Pinterest.

Okay, I think the last point probably doesn’t apply to anyone here…but the first two certainly might.

Pinterest has been getting heat lately because the platform basically makes it easy to repost any picture you find online. Pinterest does abide by DMCA rules and will remove pins when asked to do so by anyone who owns the picture in question, but this new opt-out code will make it even easier for bloggers to just say no to Pinterest.

Only…why would you want to?

I’m not arguing that artists and photographers should share their work for free. I believe everyone deserves to get paid for the work they do. However, Pinterest isn’t about stealing your work to use for some kind of personal gain. It’s about sharing your work so that others can find it. Curation is the theme here. Pinners are trying to help drive traffic to your site, not hoping to get away with not paying you for your work.

When someone steals a picture from Google images and publishes it on their blog without buying it (or crediting it properly/getting your permission if that’s what is required by the license), they’re using your work in a way that robs you of the money or traffic you’re supposed to get as the picture’s creator. They’re doing so because they don’t want to spend the money to pay you for your time. It’s the same as copy/pasting my words and posting on your own blog without permission – it’s wrong.

For example, let’s say that I am blogging about cake. Mmmm cake. Instead of taking a picture of a cake myself, buying a picture of a cake, or finding a free image to use, I steal a picture of cake you took for your own blog. It’s wrong. I’m using that picture for my own gain because I’m too lazy/cheap to do the right thing. You get no benefit.

Pinners, however, aren’t using your pictures without permission for their own gain. They don’t own their pin boards any more than we own our Facebook profiles. They’re using your picture as a preview in order to encourage others to be fans of the posts you create. It’s a recommendation, the same way it would be for someone to share a link on Twitter or Facebook. Pinterest just happens to create visual links, like a little preview of your site to encourage people to click through.

And because most people are visual learners, I think as Pinterest grows, this could lead to more traffic for any visual-based site (food, crafts, fashion, etc) than any social media site where just links are shared. Think about it. You’re more likely to be interested in a recipe if there’s a picture of the finished product to entice you, right? Allowing pinners the ability to pin your posts can lead to a LOT more traffic than places where people just share the title/URL.

Of course, like with every social media site, some users are jerks. They pin pictures without linking to the original source. They copy/paste the entire blog post into the description so people aren’t encouraged to click through to your blog. They change the pin URL to lead to their own site. They download your pictures and then upload them as if they own them.

But these users are a VERY SMALL percentage of users, at least in my experience. Don’t let a few bad apples ruin the bunch for you. Pinterest is working to make the platform better (for example, there are plans to limit the characters in a description to avoid c/p of the entire post). You should definitely contact Pinterest if some users are pinning your work incorrectly…but don’t give the middle finger to the entire platform! You’ll be missing out on the potential for lots of new traffic if you do.

Now, like I said, the opt-out code could make sense for some people. If your website or blog is all about your artwork (photography or otherwise), it might make sense for you to say “thanks but no thanks.” Personally, I would want as many people as possible sharing previews of my work, but I can also understand how you’d want to limit the way people share. For the typical blogger, though, blocking Pinterest just doesn’t make sense in my opinion. This platform is such a cool new traffic source, and unlike some other recent networks *cough*Google+*cough* it seems to have attracted the attention of the general public, not just people who blog and use social media. For most people, blocking Pinterest is cutting off your nose to spite you face. Before you make this decision, I recommend you at least spend a few weeks giving the network a try first-hand.

Feel free to disagree with me in the comments! Will you block Pinterest on your blog now that this option is available? Why or why not?

Remembering 9/11 and Steve Jobs Photos Make Flickr’s Year in Photos 2011

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2011 is coming to a close in just 2 weeks and people are busy posting their year end lists. We did our Best Viral Videos of 2011 and there are hundreds of others posted across the web.

What tells the story of the year more than just about anything are pictures. Pictures capture emotion, events as they’re happening and are memories we can look back on for years to come.

I love how powerful Flickr’s Year in Photos 2011 gallery is. It shows some of the most important moments over the year. Some are sad, some inspiring and some are even entertaining.

A few photos that made their Year in Photos 2011 include:

  • The March 11th earthquake and tsunami in Sendai, Japan [Picture]
  • The Royal Wedding [Picture]
  • President Obama and staff huddled in the White House Situation Room during the capture of Osama bin Laden [Picture]
  • The Devastating Tornado in Joplin, Missouri [Picture]
  • Remembering 9/11 10 Years Later [Picture]
  • Apple fans mourning the loss of Steve Jobs [Picture]

Take a look at the entire Flickr Year in Photos 2011 gallery here. Which event or moment of 2011 sticks out to you the most?

New Lightbox App Feature – Your Photo Journal

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The social photo app for Android, Lightbox, unveiled a new app today with a new feature – The Photo Journal – which allows others to follow your updates, as well as like, comment and share. The fantastic thing about this new photo journal is it requires no extra work on your part. Just update the app and you’re good to go.

The previous URL Lightbox users were given has now been turned into their very own photo blog, where the photos are automatically organized. Here’s a description of The Photo Journal from the Lightbox app page:

YOUR PHOTO JOURNAL:Lightbox is a place to capture, enhance, and share your moments. Photos you post are automatically organized into a timeline of postcards on Lightbox.com. Keep them private or selectively share them with friends, family, or the entire Lightbox community.

MANAGE YOUR PHOTOS ONLINE:
All the photos you take with the Lightbox app are automatically uploaded to Lightbox.com for safe storage. So if you lose your phone, you won’t lose your memories.

As you can see in the screenshots of the app above, each user is given a follow button. When you hover over their photo, you’re given the opportunity to “like” that particular photo. And just like the blogs we are all familiar with, you can comment, Tweet, Facebook or add to Google+ each individual photo page.

The Lightbox app update was already added to the Android market this morning.

So Android users, what do you think of the new photo journal feature to Lightbox?

Google+ Launches the Google Photography Prize

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During the Google+ for Business session at BlogWorld LA, Guy Kawasaki made a comment about passionate people using the social network, which I highlighted. He said “For me, Facebook is for friends and family and Google+ is for people who share your passion that you don’t know yet.

One group of passionate people whom he mentioned were on Google+ are photographers. Google+ agrees. So much so they’ve launched a contest looking for the photography stars of the future.

Not only are there quite a few amazing photographers hanging out on Google+, but a staggering number of photos have been posted.

Google+ is only a few months old, but the photography community is already thriving on it. Take a look at the profiles of Scott Jarvie, Thomas Hawk, Colby Brown or Claire Grigaut to see just a few of the inspiring photographers on Google+. More than 3.4 billion photos have been uploaded to the platform in the first 100 days.

Google is teaming up with Saatchi Gallery, London for the Google Photography Prize. This will give students around the world a chance to showcase their photos on Google+, as well as have their work exhibited on the world wide stage. It sounds like an amazing opportunity.

For more information on the contest, visit the Google Photography Prize page. For those of you who would like to see all of the great work being submitted, Saatchi Gallery, London will share updates on their page, so be sure to add them to your Google+ Circles.

Image Source: SXC

A New Way to Share Images with mrror.com

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A super easy new way to share photos from your webcam was released today. It’s called mrror and I’ve been playing around with it a little this morning.

Mrror gives you a quick way to posts photos to your blog or social media streams. You can also send a quick photo via email or IM. They say you’re only two clicks away from sharing a photo from your webcam and they aren’t kidding. Here’s a picture of me and my dog D’art that I took.


Just click the camera to take your picture and down at the bottom, there are several buttons to click on. You can choose from Twitter, Facebook, tumblr and the download button for quick saving to your computer. There’s also a link button which allows you to share links to your webcam photos.

After snapping the photo above, I shared it on Twitter with one click, as well as downloaded it to my computer.

Mrror also allows your webcam to be used as a mirror, a handy tool when time-crunched between meetings or video calls.

Can you think of ways you would use mrror.com either for blogging or social media?

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!

A Must-Have Gadget for your Camera Bag and Blog

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During the month of March I decided that I would finally use all the gadgets that I had purchased over the years to enhance my photography. I have gadgets for geotagging, gadgets for taking pinhole shots with my DSLR and a variety of lenses. I noticed that there was good reason why I didn’t carry all that stuff in my bag every day. It was extremely heavy. I have a lot of stuff, however I noticed a gadget that I could use easily every day and it took up so little space in the camera bag.

I decided that I could easily carry around a set of close up lens filters to attach to my existing lenses. These lens filters were very inexpensive. I think they were twelve bucks or something for 4 of them. The filters can be stacked so that if one is good and gets you closer then two are better and when you get to all four stacked you are talking super macro shots. The lens filters I got came in a small package that folds up to be even smaller. Attaching the lens filters to my lenses was super quick too.

With my new lens filters a whole new world of possibilities opened up for me. Macro photography allows you to see the world in a different way. Suddenly a photo of a flower can become even more compelling when you get up close and personal with petals and leaves making them the subject instead of part of it.

What do close up lens filters have to do with blogging? Well, for photo bloggers like me they are great tools to take new and exciting photos. But if you think of what the close up lens filters do then you can see how this would help your blogging. The close up filters get close to the subject and focus on a very specific area. When you tighten up your posts to focus on a specific area of a general topic you can write a compelling post.

There are tons of posts about Facebook privacy in general but what about focusing on something very specific in that general topic. What about writing a post on how to prevent specific groups of people from seeing specific posts. For example maybe you play Farmville and as we know the social media work shuns people harvesting digital sheep. You could write a post about how to prevent all of your friends from seeing your Farmville status updates except for those friends who play the game.

That is how you use the close lens up gadget to write better blog posts.

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