This is my December installment of a series I’m doing to commemorate my third blogoversary! Every month, I’ll take on a topic in which I’ve learned something about in my three years in the blogoverse. These all reflect my experiences so there are definitely other resources out there! This is just what I’ve found works for me. A list of linked previous topics are below for your convenience!
In this installment, I’ll be talking about images. They spice up your blog and make everything that much prettier! But how can you customize (or even make your own) images? And do you have to cite images you’ve borrowed from other people?
The main resource I use for creating images is Canva
). Canva is a mainly free service that you can use to create any kind of image you like. If you want to use more specialized features (like resizing (without changing the pixel count) or using fancier images) then you pay a small fee but I’ve been able to get by with just the free features. Let me give you a quick tour!
First, you have to make an account. It’s as simple as providing your email and making a password. After that, you can start! They have a couple of options for image creation. You can either start with one of their pre-made templates or you can start from scratch. Their most popular templates are below but they also have things like Pinterest graphics, book covers, blog banners, and more!
The second option is to use custom dimensions by clicking on that button in the upper right hand corner. You can specify your dimensions by pixels, mm, or inches (depending on what you prefer).
Second, once you’ve decided on your template/size, you’ll end up with a screen like this:
From here, you can do a number of things. On the top bar, you have options to share, download, or order prints of your design. You can also change the name by clicking on the text directly to the left of the share button. Primarily, though, you’ll want to create your image! Generally, it’s a good idea to start with a background. As you can see on the left, there are a number of different premade templates available. You can also simply choose a color from the background tab on the left. From there, you can add text or images.
And that’s the basics of Canva! Honestly, this is basically the only image creation software that I use mostly because it’s basically all free. I’m a university student and, like most of us, I don’t have money for a full version of photoshop or anything of the sort. I’ve made my header, button, and all the compilations and post headers that I’ve used in Canva (including the ones in this post) and it’s served me well over the years.
If you do have the money, Photoshop is an excellent program
(I did use it back in my public schooling days) and can be downloaded for as little as $9.99 /month (depending on how upgraded you want it).
Overall: Canva is a great start-from-scratch (or use a template) image creator that is something like a scaled down, simplified, and free version of Photoshop. If you do have the money and want to take your blog images to the next level though, Photoshop is a great investment.
This is somewhat obscure but I find that The Snipping Tool (in Windows) comes in handy as well! I used to always have to spend some time on Google if I wanted to do a screen capture so I thought I’d put it here for anyone who doesn’t know about this awesome tool yet.
The Snipping Tool is great if you want to capture a screen (or part of a screen) and save it as an image. I’m using it for this post, actually. Just search Snipping Tool in the search bar and a window will come up that allows you to drag a box around whatever you want to capture. As soon as you let go, it will capture whatever is inside the box and format it into .png.
This is really useful if you’re doing instructional posts (like this one) or you want to showcase your Goodreads shelf organization or whathaveyou.
Overall: While the snipping tool may get a bad rap, it’s really useful for screen capture which is useful in tutorials and anything that is only displayed on a screen that isn’t a whole image together. The snipping tool packages it up into one image for your use!
This is something I typically use for my yearly wrap ups. Excel is a great way to make some quality pie charts!
If you’re math/organizationally minded, this is one of the most satisfying things in the universe. I love setting up the spreadsheet just right and then customizing the chart based on the data. Here are a few examples of what I used last year:
I keep a spreadsheet of all of the books I’ve read throughout the year (with their page counts and such) and then I format it into these nice pie charts at the end of the year! I’m not going to get into too much detail, but if you want further instruction, this is an awesome article!
Overall: Excel is great for charts to be used in wrap ups!
Effectively using images is just as important as creating them. When placed correctly, images can create a welcome reading reprieve for your readers and can make your content more consumable. Who hasn’t gotten tired of reading endless text and just stopped reading? Just adding an image or two can really change the game. There are a couple of ways images can help you out:
As a data aid:
This can get really fun in your yearly wrap up. Mostly, I use Excel charts for this. It’s a great way to convey a bunch of statistics in an easily palatable way.
As a paragraph break:
If you find yourself writing a rather long discussion post or something of the sort, and you have more than four or five paragraphs of pure text in a row, consider slipping an image in there to break up the text and spice up your post. I generally use memes for this because memes are amazing but you can use any kind of image that relates to what you’re saying.
As a visual expression of your thoughts when words refuse to cooperate:
Sometimes, you just can’t accurately describe a book and your reaction to it with words and you need some sort of image or gif that will accurately display just how you’re feeling. Gif’s and memes are great for this purpose.
Keeping in mind these purposes can really help if you’re debating whether or not to use an image. A good rule of thumb is to have at least one image in each post whether it’s a header or a meme or a something else. The exception I can think of is if you want to emphasis the seriousness of a personal post and don’t want to risk cheapening your message with images from the internet. Using images makes a post more fun and readable and if you want to focus on something really serious and personal for a minute, it can sometimes be better to omit more images than you normally would.
Overall: Use images to break your text into manageable chunks and to bring a hint of personal touch to your posts (your type of humor, etc) but be mindful to keep your image type consistent with the type of post.
I’m going to say this first and foremost: when in doubt, cite your images! The general guideline is if you didn’t make it yourself (you got it from some outside source), you should give credit to whomever created it.
Here in the U.S. there is a Copyright law that is perfectly summed up in this infographic. However, if you live in another country, I would suggest checking up on those laws although most cover the same basic principles. Copyright laws’ purpose is to prevent other people from taking your images and making money from them. So printing someone else’s copyrighted image on merchandise, for example, and making money from that would be illegal. However, most of what images are used for on blogs don’t involve the making of money so you shouldn’t worry too much about it unless you’re planning on developing your own merch (like an Etsy or Society6 store). As for the infographic, the most relevant part is the section on the far right in the blue bubble.
Here are some examples:
You created an image on Canva or Excel and use it in a post. This, you don’t need to cite because you created the image yourself. So if other people (primarily bloggers) use your image, they should cite you although this isn’t necessarily protected under copyright because you didn’t copyright your image and by using on your blog, you are inviting use for public consumption.
You found an amazing meme on the internet somewhere. This you should definitely cite. Someone created that meme and giving credit where credit is due is the respectful thing to do (and it’s not too difficult either!).
You take part in some TTT or are tagged so you use the header image in your post. This, you also definitely cite. Someone else made the image so you should give them credit. I’ll go through different ways to cite in the next section.
You want to use a book cover in your review from Goodreads or another site. This is a really common image use among book bloggers and generally, you don’t need to cite this because it falls under the Fair Use Provision (only used one time for an educational purpose that you aren’t making money off of). If you’re unsure, though, just mentioning that the image came from Goodreads or Amazon will be enough.
If you come across a somewhat specialized image that you want to use and you’re unsure of whether you can use it, this is a helpful article
that goes through how you can see if the image if copyrighted or not.
If you want to be sure to avoid any of this and need some common stock photos for your posts, there are some great websites out there that provide stock photos (free to use and although they are copyrighted, their copyright allows for limited use on blogs and websites without attribution). Some websites I use are listed below.
Overall: If you didn’t create the image, cite it! Most images you encounter during your time as a blogger will be images that are created for public consumption which means they fall under the Fair Use Provision so you can use them in your posts with (at most) respectful citation.
As I said above, most (if not all) of the images you’ll need to use fall under the Fair Use Provision so you’ll basically just need to do respectful citing which isn’t difficult at all! There are several ways you can give credit to people for their images although the basic gist of it is to link back to wherever it is that you found the image (be it another blog, a meme generator website, or something else).
One: Use a caption. I use this method quite a bit for memes and images I use in the middle of my posts. Blogger has an option for images to add a caption (just select the image and along with the options to change it’s size, there will be an option for adding a caption and that’s where you can put the URL (and the name of the image creator if it’s available).
Two: Mention it in the body of the text. This is the best option when you’re participating in a tag or award or a weekly event (like TTT). People will use the image of the award or the tag or the event as a header and as an introduction to your post, simple state where you got the image from and link back to that blog or YouTube page or whatever it happens to be. For example, for people participating in Top Ten Tuesday, they often have an introduction that goes something like this:
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. Every week, The Broke and Bookish post a new topic that that week’s top ten lists are based on! This week’s topic is: (with the topic listed here)
This includes the name of the blog and the link which is all that needs to be there!
Overall: Link back to the creator of the image and include their blog name or actual name if it’s available. Place this information in your introduction (or body text) or in the caption of the image.
That’s all for now! Let me know if you have any additional advice about the use of images that I may have missed! Are image use laws different in other countries? What types of images are your favorites to use in your blog posts? How do you create images? Let me know in the comments!