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Driving traffic to your website depends on creating good content that people will want to view. A common way of doing this is through blogging and social media interaction. So, let's assume that you have your strategy in place to blog consistently, promote your articles, and post to your social media. You've come up with some nifty headlines that will bait the stingiest users into clicking, but what's missing? Photos! You're always scrambling to find good photos to include in your posts. So, does this mean you have to pay premiums for stock photography that looks generic and uninspired? Nope. There are some free online resources to access photos. Here's one of my favourites. 

 Most people are familiar with the various sites you can use to search for imagery, but did you know there's a search engine that you can use to search specific sites for files that have been licensed for commercial use? It's calle the Creative Commons search. It searches for files that have been tagged with Creative Commons licenses. It actually provides access to more than just images, but I'll let learn about that on your own. For now, let's just focus on image search. 

  • Start by going to the Creative Commons search page
  • Next, type in your search criteria into the search field. 
  • Make sure that the two checkboxes underneath are highlighted (use for commercial purposes; modify, adapt, or build upon.)
  • Then click on the big square that says "Flickr" down below.

This will search all the images uploaded to Flickr based on your criteria.

Things to be aware of

There are cases where Flickr users have clearly uploaded photos that they intended to retain intellectual property on, but for some reason, they've published them with open source licenses (free to use). This may just be a mistake on their part, but the big giveaway is when there's a copyright notice watermarked onto the photo, I'm guessing they didn't intend to make it free for you to use. Keep an eye out for that. 

The other thing to be aware of is that just because a photo is free to use, doesn't mean that a person in a photo has given you permission to use their likeness. Usually you need something like a model release or an expression of consent from a person in a photo before you can use it in your marketing material. After all, who among us wants to appear in risqué advertising?

Bonus - Formatting your images

More often than not, finding a photo to use is only half the battle. Many clients get stuck with the prospect of formatting that photo for their particular use. A common example is that photos intended for online use (like a blog) should be compressed or downsized so that they don't take up too much bandwidth or disk space which can slow down your website. Web designers will use software like Adobe Photoshop, but most clients don't have access to this kind of software, so where should they turn? There's a nice web app called Pixlr that anyone can use through their web browser to edit their photos. Here's a step by step to resize a photo. 

  • Go to the online editor app here
  • Click on "open image from computer" and then find the image you want to use. 
  • Once open, click on "Image" in the top menu and then "Image Size". 
  • A dialogue box will open up giving you the ability to change the width and height of your image. I'd recommend sizing the width down to a maximum of 900 pixels but be sure to consult any documentation you have for your site or your editor to make sure that you conform to whatever guidelines might already exist for your publication. 

You can also crop the image if you don't like the orientation or if you want to leave something out of your image. 

  • Use the marquee tool which is second from the top on the left hand side of the tool bar (looks like a blue dotted square). 
  • Click and drag a square selection from corner to corner for the area that you want to crop your picture to. 
  • Once you have your selection the way you want it, select "Image" from the top menu and then "Crop". 

Once you have your image the way you want it, go ahead and save it by clicking "File" and then "Save".