Monday 22 June 2009

Best Image Search Site

The best image search site in my opinion is Flickr. The point is this. When we do an image search we are not only looking for images to simply look at, a lot of the time we are looking for images to use for our own website. Faced with that objective the images that we are searching for must be useable in terms of copyright. We have no right to use any image on the internet unless we have the author’s permission or the image is in the public domain. We don’t know if an image is in the public domain very often and it can be difficult to contact people. It is not obvious a lot of the time whether a picture is copyright free or licensed. I talk about how copyright elapses with the passage of time on this page by the way:  Expired Copyright and made an attempt at a Definition of Copyright and more as well.

The good thing about Flickr (new window) is:

  • there are millions of images
  • Flickr members decide whether to share their photos under one of the 5 different creative commons licenses or reserve their rights (i.e. retain copyright). This information is tagged to each photo and..
  • you can search under any one of the creative commons licenses.
  • even if a license to use is not given by the photographer you can contact them and ask to  use the photograph and most times they will say, yes.
  • when you have found the image you can select the size that you like and download it by right clicking on the image. When you do that always rename the download with a proper and useful name for the image file.
  • Flickr is the best ranked image database. It has an Alexa ranking of 32. Other major players such as Photobucket (a close 39) and Webshots (in the 400s) are behind Flickr indicating that it is indeed the best image search site and image depository site.

Note: an important note. Always read and comply with the creative commons license and if the image is used on your site provide a link to the photographer. His or her name and a link to their Flickr home page is near the image so it is easy to copy. To recap. The beauty of Flickr is that you know:

  • you will probably find a suitable image and;
  • you know that it will be useable

You cannot beat that!

The other image search sites such as Webshots (new window) and Photobucket (new window) also have millions of images. I find the image quality less good on these sites and for Webshots you don’t get a straight download but code for an image that links back to Webshots. You can circumvent this by copying the entire page with the Prt Sc button on your computer and then editing in photo manipulation software but that is against the rules and it will almost certainly lead to problems and in any case it is wrong. As for Photobucket that is not the same as Webshots as images are shared with code provided by the site that links back to the site (see below) and there are many other ways to use the images, including straight downloads as for Flickr.

Sun sea and people playing
Photobucket image
A Perfect Father's Day ...near a lake
Webshots image

Sun sea and people playing

The image directly above was coded in by me using the image URL provided by Photobucket.

I could also mention Google image search (new window) as the best image search site for plain raw power of search and effectiveness but it will search from all the images on the internet and we must start from the premise that all are copyright protected unless otherwise stated or discovered. When we are looking for useable images this uncertainty and obstacle is not attractive. That brings back to Flickr.

One other site that could be regarded as a best image search site could be Wikimedia Commons (new window). Wikimedia is the image/media arm of Wikipedia and all the images in their database are available for use under their own brand of creative commons license. Always comply with licenses. It pays to spend time reading the rules. See Wikimedia license.

I use Flickr first, Wikimedia Commons as a reserve and then requested usage of copyrighted images that I have seen on any site but usually from a Flickr photographer as contacting the photographer is easy.

A word then about getting the most out of the images that you use. How do we maximise the prospects of getting an image found by Google image search or any of the other search engines?

For Bloggers sites I see far to many images without “alt” tags (you can find the alt tag by right clicking on the image and selecting “Properties”). All images should have a decent alt tag. This is needs to be entered manually at the moment as the Blogger upload facility does not automatically include an alt tag. That means going into the Edit Html window/page and finding the blank alt tag (it looks like this: alt=””) and then a short description of the image in between the inverted commas. I think both the file name and the alt tag should be the same. The alt tag is meant to be a written substitute for the image if it fails to load so it should be descriptive but not stuffed with keywords in an attempt to supercharge search engine optimization as Google will spot this. Play it straight.

The image file name should be descriptive too without being overly long. For example: “British Shorthair Cat Nox” sitting. As opposed to: “Brit SH1”.

One piece of software that is designed for Blogger writers is Windows Live Writer (I am writing this with the programme). I recommend this software. It will automatically add an alt tag, which you can amend and add to if you wish. See Write Blog with Windows Live Writer.

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