Better Blogging: Storytelling Through Images (Part 1)

Photography copyright restrictions

You must understand the photograph owner's rights before using an image in your blog.

Blogging is all about storytelling. With each post, you add a chapter to the story of your life, your event, your business, or your favorite project–your blog subject. Each blog post reveals a new facet of your story. By crafting your words, you engage your readers and build an enthusiastic audience that can’t wait for the next installment.

As a long time blogger, I’m always looking out for new and better ways to tell my stories. Some of the bloggers I read are truly gifted storytellers, and I learn from them how to improve my own blog. In the past, I’ve mostly kept blogs filled with words and have only included pictures when they were relevant to the story. But over the last year, I’ve come to realize the value of including images in all of my blog posts.

Adding images presents three challenges for the blogger. First, how do I select a good image for my post? How do I find an image that helps me to tell my story and not distract my reader? Second, where do I find images I can use without spending a lot of money (or even for free)? And third, what about copyrights and how do I know if I’m allowed to use an image I find?

These are big issues, and I’ll give you some quick and simple answers here and in the following posts. I’ll also point you in the direction for getting detailed answers.

Image Copyright Basics

If you are not used to dealing with photography and copyrights, here is a brief overview of the important terms you need to understand.

  • Copyright is a legal protection given to anyone who creates a work of art (like a photograph) so they can earn a living from their art. You need to develop a good understanding of copyright basics as a blogger, not just for photographs, but for written works as well.
  • Royalties are fees paid per use of some copyrighted materials. Royalty-free images allow you to use the same image more than once without paying a per-use fee (royalty).
  • License is permission to use a copyrighted image. The license spells out what you can and cannot do with the image. Often, you pay more for a license with greater freedom of use.
  • Creative Commons is an organization that encourages artists to provide their works in ways that are easier for people to use. The owner of the work can assign one of six Creative Commons licenses to a work that allow you to use it within the license limitations.
  • Public Domain refers to any work that is not protected by a copyright. This includes items after their copyright expires, or works that the creator gave up his copyright.

Evaluating Photography Copyrights

In the next post, I’m going to cover where to find photographs. When reviewing photographs for use in your blog, it is your job to evaluate the copyright status of each photo or image before you use it. The paid image sites include detailed information about the license you purchase, and may charge a different fee based on how you want to use the photograph. You must understand what you can and cannot do with each photograph license, or you can face legal action.

Many people mistakenly believe that any image you find on the Internet is in the public domain. That is not true. The person using the image may own the copyright, or may have purchased a license that allows her to use it. You may not take an image and use it without permission.

Up next: Where to find photographs for your blog, and how to choose a great image for your post in part 2.

About author:

Charlene is the information strategist behind Crow Information Design.

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