// Profit & Marketing Strategist

Ethical Image Sourcing Shortcuts for Bloggers

Unless you exclusively blog using your own photography, when a blogger chooses which images to post on their blog the decision can be… political. Lately I’ve been more and more interested in learning more about copyright for photographers, and how bloggers can help make life better for other creative types by being intentional about which images they circulate to their audience.

what's this all about?

The basic argument (as I understand it) is this: when you choose to post images that come in tact with their original sources, the chances go up that the artist who produced the image will benefit. When you choose to post images that aren’t associated with a source, you’re sending that image out to an exponential number of people who will have no chance of fall in love with the artist’s work and support them in creating more of it.

There are more nuances than that, but at it’s core that’s the kind of math that I can get behind.

The only problem is that while there’s lots written there about how to cite images properly, how to use an SOS image and why crediting sources is important there isn’t a lot out there about how everyday bloggers like you & I can reliably find images that come with their to use on our blogs. Since I’ve been making a big effort to only use images that I can trace back to original sources I wanted to share some of the sources I’ve been loving.

nifty alternative image sources

Pinterest Users You Love

Pinterest is steeping in inspiring images, and against all odds it somehow hasn’t been totally flooded with images orphaned by tumblr reblogs in the same way We Heart It has been. The best way to make sure an image that you’ve found is tied to its creator is to take a moment to view where the pin came from. You can do this by clicking through from browsing to view the pin on its own, and then seeing if where it was found.

image: nature boy by lizzie stewart on pinterest via Sarah Peracchino

Pinterest can be a little touch and go when image origin is what you’re focusing on, but it’s a great way to search through a high volume of images at once that have a better than average chance of being credited to their creators. And as with any online experience, a good thing to remember is that what you see all depends on who you follow. :)

Flickr Photos Resized with HTML To Fit Your Blog

I’m a perfectionist, and it really bothers me when I can’t display a photo to fit my blog properly. I love using Flickr to find great images, but when downloading is disabled you can’t re-size the images to fit the width of your content column! The horror… the horror… There are some great tools out there that let you search for unique and interesting Flickr content (compfight is my favourite) but if you can’t use the images you find without having your blog look lopsided, they become a lot less useful.

The easy solution is to roll your sleeves up and resize that image yourself! When you grab the embedding code, choose an image size that’s larger than your content column. Then look for the height and width controls in the code:

embedding code from First Snow by Terra Kate

If you change the height and width numbers you’ll be reducing the height and width of the image that displays. You need to do this in a way that maintains the proportion so the image doesn’t change shape, and a quick way to do this is by using an online proportion calculator. If you enter the image’s dimensions into the left side of the calculator, and enter your content column’s maximum width into the right side the calculator will tell you the correct height number to enter. Just remember to round up :)

It’s as easy as that- just make sure to paste it into the HTML section of your post editor, then flip back to see your results. There are a lot of great tools for finding out the maximum width of your content column, but a simple way is to great a square of colour that’s 500 px, 550 px or 600 px (etc) wide and loading it into an old post to see how it looks. Once you’ve found your perfect fit you’re set!

[Edit: Kaelah Bee left a great tip in the comments– if you only complete the width field your image will automatically adjust. Technology! Apparently it’s not just for playing Oregon Trail anymore.]

Etsy Treasuries

It’s almost always safe to use an image that’s advertising something for sale, and just because the photographs on Etsy are selling something doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own moods and styles! Etsy is a great source of incredibly styled vignettes, as well as amazing illustration.

vintage bumblebee skirt, three georges tumblers & 1950s metal picnic basket from Hello Yellow Treasury

I love etsy not just because of the quantity of images but also because of the amazing community around treasuries. Treasuries allow etsy users to create themed galleries of products (like I do in my Friday Finds posts), but they also allow the curators to tag their collections with words like “hope” and “autumn trends” which makes it easier to search for an image that fits a mood or an idea. Even better? Users who create treasuries want them to be beautiful so when you search them you’re already sifting through the best of the best product photos.


This is just a start, but it could be a good resource for other bloggers who want to do better with their photo choices but aren’t sure where to start. I’d love to hear what some of your tips and tricks are for sourcing images too.

There are 29 responses already, join in!
  1. I know that this is completely beside the point you are making (and, it’s a really good point, awesome post!) but, where do you find your fonts? I love the fun block font you used in this post!

  2. Kyla, this post is so helpful! As you know, I had a slight encounter with an image issue earlier this year which was hard because I really try to source my images as best as possible. What great tips!

  3. This is so helpful! It’s so frustrating when you come across something beautiful with no source. This google searchbar, Google Image Finder, is pretty useful for finding the original site too: http://images.google.com/imghp?hl=EN

  4. Great post! One thing to note though is that if your image isn’t square, then to resize it using the html you need to take the same proportion of each dimenstion, not the same number.

    I like the fact you can search Flickr for images with the right type of creative commons licensing, I use those sometimes.

    I used to use tineye.com to look for sources for images, but I’ve found it hasn’t worked in ages.

    • Thank you Anna! I proof read this post last night and knew that I had to address proportions, but because my example image was square this worked and I didn’t look into it further. I’ve edited the post to give correct instructions, and a link to an online proportion calculator that’s easy to use. Thank you so much for pointing it out!

      I’m also addicted to the Flickr creative commons search- and I’m glad that I’m not the only one that tineye.com isn’t working for! I love the idea and I’ve heard such great things about it, but I’ve never had it work for me. Hopefully there’s another tool that comes out soon that can help reunite orphaned images with their artists :)

  5. Great post! It’s so easy to forget that someone produced the image you’re using, especially in the days of pinterest and tumblr. This was really helpful!

  6. Great tips Kyla!! I have been trying to use as much of my own photography on my blog as possible lately but it’s definitely important to source properly. I’m starring this post in my google reader for future reference!

  7. I find myself using tineye quite a bit, but I have also spent countless hours googling to try and find a source.

    Great tips!

  8. Kyla, you are a girl after my own heart :) With my new wide format on my blog, I am going that extra mile to source images as best to my ability to their original location/creator that are also big enough to fit my wide format – original images that are smaller just get distorted/pixellated when enlarged. I try to use my own images whenever possible as I don’t want to be just another blog regurgitating what’s already out there, but sometimes I do use them to highlight a mood/theme, and of course there are always artist profiles, which obviously require their imagery ;) Needless to say, many, many hours can be spent hunting down just the right image (via pinterest/flickr/etsy/google)…

  9. I really love Pinterest but I agree it does take a little effort to get back to the source. I don’t use We Heart It or most of the other sites because it’s just too sketchy. I am a photographer and would be upset if there was no credit given so I do my best to do the same.


  10. What a great article Ky :) I admire how much care you put into crediting sources and finding shortcuts for doing things easier, thanks for sharing your tips! xoxo

  11. Such a resourceful post. And just so you know, you actually don’t have to have the “height” attribute in the tag. As long as you make note of the width, the height will automatically resize proportionally! that way you don’t have to use a calculator to figure it out.

    • That’s an awesome tip, Kaelah! Killer time saver- I’m editing the post to link to your comment :)

      • I just wanted to chime and say that kaelah is right about this working MOST of the time but there are still browsers out there (possibly IE? and older versions of safari and firefox) that this won’t work with. so if you don’t put both height and width, the image may not appear at all.

        p.s. i love your blog and get excited to read it everyday:)

  12. Great post Kyla, super helpful info. I often just google what I’m looking for and do a copy & paste of the URL to my blog and resize from there- I’ve never put much more thought into it then that, especially if the images are rather generic. I’ll definitely try to source myself more from now on though… You’re right, the people who take the pics definitely deserve more credit!

  13. Kyla, thanks for the informative post. I usually do the pinterest alternative. The link at the top left of the photo usually takes me to the right source.

  14. Hi Kyla! Thank you for all the information in this post! I am new to blogging and have been really curious about posting pictures that I haven’t taken. So in general, is the guideline that it’s okay as long as you link to the original source? Thanks!

  15. Great post, Kyla! I also think it is very important to ask permission first before posting an image, even if the source is linked. It was required of me to do this when posting on Apartment Therapy, unless the image had a “Creative Commons” license, most commonly found on Flickr. Creative Commons allows for people to repost, with a link, without the permission of the owner.

    Waiting for permission first is very difficult as far as patience is concerned, because a lot of times it’s not super fast that the owner of the image replies- if ever. But this is something I’ve been making more of an effort to do. And I’ve found that a lot of the people I contacted didn’t know my blog existed, and have since become readers. Win, win!

    It’s true that a lot of people don’t really care if you post their images without asking first, as long as you give them credit with a link. But I have seen my images posted before without permission, and while I appreciated the hits to my Flickr account, I would have preferred a link to my blog. Also, it just plain rubbed me the wrong way that any of my images could be out there on the interwebs (or ANYWWHERE- once my father-in-law found one of my photos inside an Ohio State chain/forward e-mail!) without me knowing about it.

    So… yeah. Just something else to consider. This sort of effort will give us bloggers more credibility as our own editors in internet media.

    • I definitely agree with you- asking for photo release is something I always try to do. Personally I’m not comfortable posting photos from Flickr that don’t have creative common’s licences, because unless permission is specifically given I don’t think it’s fair to assume it’s implied. Maybe some photo release template emails would be a good idea for a follow up post :)

  16. I LOVE Pinterest, especially for this reason. ^_^ One I could suggest is deviantART.com! Almost all of the drawings, paintings, photographs, etc. there are posted by the creator and if not, are linked TO the creator!

  17. LOVE that bubble font you used for the headers!

  18. mel

    Thank you for posting this. It’s a really important topic to me, as a photographer, especially after seeing one of my photos on a tumbler and having to go backwards 40+ steps before I could find someone crediting me. I’ve debated again and again if I should watermark everything, even though I’m not a fan of it.
    Thanks again and have a wonderful weekend!

  19. This is a great post, Kyla! :) Quick question for you about the Etsy treasuries you share: Do you use another site to create the clickable image mosaic, or do you do that yourself? Also, are you familiar with Link With Love? It’s a great resource for bloggers: http://linkwithlove.typepad.com/linkwithlove/



  20. Hi, this is my first time reading your blog and this is an interesting post! I just have a quick question. Do you always need to write and ask for permission to use someone else’s image (and link back to them). I have gotten conflicting info on this…..

  21. […] Great stuff – Kyla talks image sourcing for bloggers. […]

  22. thanks for sharing this and teaching us how to source things in a way that is more respectful to the artists/sellers. I went back to my blog after reading this and immediately fixed the post I had just written so that I sourced in the best way possible :)

  23. […] terug te vinden, iets wat ook vaak een probleem is voor bloggers. ‘k Heb al veel gelezen over image sourcing en hoe belangrijk het wel is dat je altijd aan bronvermelding doet, maar het internet is a big […]

  24. […] Add an image We all like pretty pictures.  Kyla Roma has a great post about  ethical image sourcing shortcuts for bloggers.  Because you do not want to tangle with an angry wedding […]

  25. Liz

    This may be a bit outdated, but! You can always add in your CSS the following: “img{max-width: 100%;}”. That way, you needn’t resize them via HTML, and you can use bigger pictures if you use them from Flickr, have an image you don’t want to resize, etc.

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