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Picture This: Finding & Modifying Images for Blog Posts

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Throughout my career I’ve had the need to either generate or find images to communicate science, and I actually enjoy it quite a bit. I thought it might be useful to others to provide a summary of resources. Finding and creating expressive images often inspires my blog writing, and it may help you as well. Besides helping you to illustrate your point, images get your posts recognized more easily on Facebook and other third party applications, and some blog themes work best if each post has an image.

Image Sources. Surprisingly, there are several good sources for very affordable (as little as $1), high quality images, see the table below for a listing. The easiest images to use are those which are royalty free which means you just pay one price for the image and can use it indefinitely in accordance with the guidelines provided on the site. Another option is to download images from sites such as Flickr which offer users a Creative Commons (CC) license. This license allows you to use the image for free as long as you credit the account that it came from–here is a nice example using and crediting Flickr images under the CC license. Use the advanced search on Flickr to limit your results to images with CC, and don’t use images that are marked ‘© All Rights Reserved’ as it’s illegal and bad karma.

Modifying Images. You may notice that some of the images I use for blog posts are specific to the subject, and this is done by adding text or other modifications. I’ve been using a free program called Gimp for about 10 years, and even though we have licenses and use Adobe products, I still rely on Gimp daily. It is similar to Adobe Photoshop, allowing you to create and manipulate different layers individually, a very powerful way to make custom images. It does have a steep learning curve, but it’s free and in my opinion the time spent learning it is worth it, especially if you’re on a budget. There are myriad tutorials online, just do a Google search. You should also learn about the different file types to understand how to work with them. Note: you need to save image files in the native format for the program to be able to keep the layers and change later–for Gimp this is the .xcf file.

What types of images should you use? That’s up to you, but it’s a good idea to stay consistent to reinforce the brand of your blog. On the Comprendia blog, we use simple images which have a level of abstractness–a single item or person. If possible, try to be consistent in where you place the images in posts to reinforce branding as well. We’ve summarized the list of resources below, and feel free to give us more ideas and we’ll add them.

Image Resources
Resource Details
Dreamstime, iStockphoto, Fotolia Resources for inexpensive royalty free images.
Flickr Resource for free images under the Creative Commons license.
Gimp A free program similar in functionality to Adobe Photoshop. Runs on Linux, Windows, and Mac.

Thanks to Holly Barnes of Eton Biosciences for sending me some of the resources for this post.

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