I will need graphics – part 2

Previously on the CogitActive Saga:
Figuring out what graphics I will need is one thing, getting them is another story.

Let me first reiterate the importance of using graphics for your website. Images are useful beyond making your website visually appealing. As alluded in the previous post, they can highlight essential part of your content, bring user’s attention to call to action, supplement text in an effort to help understanding, or even supplant it altogether as exemplified by infographics. To sum up, there are very few instances, if any, where your content couldn’t benefit from graphics.

Images should be a main component of all your blog posts. They improve your readers’ experience, which leads to a more educated and satisfied audience that enjoys your content more and spends more time on your site.Quick Sprout

Importantly, you want to make sure your graphics are as relevant as possible and, whenever possible, personalized to your needs. Furthermore, different use cases demand different solutions; thus, it is best knowing when to use which one. In keeping with this idea, I have anticipated using photographs, screenshots, illustrations and charts for my website(s). Actually, I will also need graphics for my podcast (i.e. a cover art) and for my branding (i.e. a logo). Now, the problem lies in getting them since these different kinds of graphics will require different technologies and skills.

Of course, you cannot just download and use any image found online. This unauthorized use of images (i.e. without prior written authorization from their owners) will constitute an infringement of copyright and could result in prosecution and the payment of damages. So, how to get great custom graphics? As for many things, there are always two options: one costs you more money, the other costs you more time. Without spoiling (see The Who and the When), at the end of the day post, it will just be about deciding between Time vs. Money!

The paid options

Creating high-quality graphics involves special skills and equipment, in addition to requiring a creative mind. If this is not your occupation, the best way to obtain professional results is probably to trust an expert. Depending on your budget, you can either hire a professional to produce your custom graphics or buy existing stock images.

Hire a professional

Professionals will combine their artistic skills with their knowledge of technology to make high-quality imagery. In practice, they offer more than just that, though. Conceptualizing and creating original imagery is no easy task. A good sense of design, as well as communication, is important. Creative professionals are in the business of storytelling. Not only will they make your graphics unique and memorable, but they also deliver images specifically crafted to convey your message.

There are many reasons why you should hire a professional, but just one not to: it is the most expensive option. Besides, if I were to go that route, I would need a professional photographer, a professional graphic designer, and so on. While this may be unnecessary for just getting images for my blog, it would be probably wise to trust a talented designer for the development of my logo (for it not to look amateurish). Not in my budget, though!

Purchase stock images

A more affordable, hence very popular, option is stock imagery. Created by professionals, stock images are ready-to-use graphics (i.e. already created) made available for download (after acquiring the proper license1 to use). Their immediate availability and low cost make them a great resource to get high quality graphics. In addition, there are a growing number of online libraries offering2 these quality images (not limited to photography).

The mere size of stock libraries means that it can take a lot of time to search through and find images that will suit your needs. There are indeed thousands of images for you to choose from; yet, by definition, stock images fall short when it comes to custom graphics. Moreover, they have a bad reputation – the main issue being their lack of authenticity (e.g. perfect-world, air-brushed pictures). Worst, anyone can purchase and download the same ones. That same-ness will not set your site apart!

The free options

Finding relevant images can be difficult and time consuming. This is true for stock imagery, and even more so when searching free images that you can use legally. Worst still, there’s a very limited number of such pictures compared to those available on paid image sites, and the high quality pictures are used frequently by others3.

Public domain

By definition, no exclusive intellectual property rights apply to public domain graphics, meaning that anyone can use them without obtaining permission. These graphics are safe and free to use, i.e. without charge and without restriction.

Public domain
The state of belonging to the public as a whole, and therefore not being subject to copyright or other legal restrictions.

However, it is not straightforward to know if something is in the public domain – not to mention that rights vary by country and jurisdiction. Fortunately, in an effort to improve access to these works, Creative Commons (CC) has developed the Public Domain Mark.

Creative Commons Public Domain mark
Public Domain Mark

Creative Commons Zero
Public Domain Dedication Mark

While images fall in the public domain when their copyright expires (among other things), some creators can opt to forfeit their rights and release their work into the public space. To do so, they can apply a “No Copyright Reserved” license to their work, namely Creative Commons Zero (CC0 Public Domain Dedication).

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

Using their own word, Creative Commons is a global nonprofit organization that enables sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through the provision of free legal tools. They provide six Creative Commons licenses based on combinations of four conditions:

Attribution (BY): requires that users provide attribution to the creator.

ShareAlike (SA): requires adaptations of the material be released under the same license.

NonCommercial (NC): prohibits commercial use of the material.

NoDerivatives (ND): prohibits the sharing of adaptations of the material.

The six licenses are CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-ND, CC BY-NC, CC BY-NC-SA and CC BY-NC-ND. Of note, they all require that users provide attribution to the creator (BY). As long as you respect the conditions associated with the license, you can reuse and distribute the image free of charge and without asking permission.

Do It Yourself

As I mentioned at the beginning, in addition to a logo and a covert art, I will need photographs, screenshots, illustrations and charts. Admittedly, hiring professionals would be a better way to obtain professional looking graphics. However, budget-wise, this option is not an option. While I do not reject to resort to the free alternatives to get pictures that would otherwise be inaccessible (e.g. earthrise over the moon), I have chosen the DIY route. This approach will give me full control over the graphics allowing me to adapt them to my content and design.

If you want to get great custom images for your content and don’t have the budget for a professional designer, you have no other choice than to create them yourself.Quick Sprout

While making charts and screenshots is not problematic, creating stunning photographs and stylish graphics will definitively require more than a little practice. I am neither a photographer nor a graphic designer. Yet, this should not be an insurmountable obstacle. The biggest challenge, however, will be to design a professional looking logo on my own. Am I up to the task?

Coming next: how to create a logo?

1 As explained by Amos Struck in his What are Stock Images? article, most stock images are copyrighted: the photographer or designer who created them retains the ownership and intellectual property over the photo or illustration. Thus, When you buy a stock image, you’re only buying a license to use the image in certain allowed ways. The two most common licensing agreement are Right Managed and Royalty Free. ^
2 While most stock imagery websites charge the right to use the graphics (either per image or through a monthly subscription), many do allow access to free images as well. Some restrictions may apply, though. Needless to say that any good free image will be widely circulated! ^
3 See How to make custom images for your blog posts without hiring a designer. ^

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