where can I find an images for your blog to do the job? A carefully selected image can amplify the pulling power of a good post. In a page otherwise filled with text an interesting image draws the attention of the reader and can help re-enforce your words. That’s all well and good.

For many bloggers Google Images can be a tempting choice but it’s one I strongly advise against. It’s often difficult to work out whether a specific image is copyrighted or requires royalties for its use. You don’t want your site to get popular only to have someone discover you’re using a copyrighted image and slap you with a bill for hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in royalties. Unfortunately, I’ve heard of this occurring on several occasions.

Other alternatives bloggers sometimes use are royalty-free stock photo services (such as iStockPhoto). While it’s good to know that you’re not taking a legal risk with these images, the unfortunate truth is that most stock images are bland and contrived. People are so used to seeing stock images that your readers’ eyes will slide right over them. After all, there are only so many tropical beaches and pensive business-women behind laptops we can encounter before the effect begins to wear off.

Obviously, stock images are not what we’re looking for.

Flickr to the rescue

Flickr is an image hosting service favored by people who take photography seriously. It’s home to thousands of remarkable photos captured by both amateurs and professionals.

Best of all there are thousands of searchable Flickr images you can use to accompany your postings. It’s simply a matter of finding them.

You can do so quickly and easily via the Flickr Advanced Search form. Here you can select several options which will ensure you’re legally in the clear when using images from Flickr.

Select ‘Only search within Creative Commons-licensed photos’
This will ensure that you can republish images on your own site without risk of violating anyone’s copyright and paying for it later — as long as you are not making any money from your site. However, most bloggers are making a little bit of advertising income and will also need to…

Select ‘Find content to use commercially’
This means the search results will only turn up images you can use on a site which displays advertising.

If you want to change the images in any way…
By resizing them, cropping them, placing text on them, and so on, you’ll also need to select ‘Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon’. This ensures your search doesn’t return any images which can’t be altered.

Start searching

Once you’ve selected the options you need it’s time to start searching. The default setting is to search within the titles of images and I find this works well for me, but you can also search the tags authors have applied to their images.

Sometimes you’ll have an idea of the kind of image you want and can describe it via keywords in the search form. Other times it can be interesting to search abstract keywords and see what Flickr comes up with. You can also search for images of a specific color if you want to make sure the image matches your color scheme.

Most of the images are quite large and will need to be resized so as not to over-shadow your content. You can use a free image editor such as GIMP to do this (if you don’t already have one you like to use).

Using the images you find

When you click on a search result to view it full size and decide you’d like to use the image, be sure to click on the ‘some rights reserved’ link on the side bar. This will take you to the specific Creative Commons license for that image. Check that the way you intend to use the image complies with the license. If it does, you’re ready to go.

Attribute

Every image you find on Flickr requires attribution. Luckily, this is easy to do. The format should be #title by #author, with the title linking to the image’s individual Flickr page, and the author linking to the author’s Flickr profile. Put the attribution as close to the image as possible.