Learn how to do photos if you intend to blog. Always be ready to liven up your blogs with illustration, but do not snag any photo you see. You can get sued, killed, eaten or ruined in the process. All of these things have happened to amateurs who called themselves "bloggers".
Hell, these things have happened to the most experienced journalists in history! So let's be careful out here.
The bottom line is this: You must have the permission of the artist to use their work in your web content. How would you like to see someone make a fortune by copying and pasting your writing without permission?
Well... come on. Get real.
Always be ready to be sued into oblivion. Always be ready to go viral. Always be ready to plead "mea culpa" and to arrange an appropriate settlement if you use another person's photo or art without some well documented permission.
Yeah, yeah it is easy to copy and paste. It is not as easy when we are sued in haste.
Go over everything you ever did and get those pirated photos out of there. Otherwise, be ready for a costly surprise that could go back for years! I know of a person who claimed to be hit with such a bill. She used a photo without permission and was billed for 19 months of use.
Here are the fundamentals:
First, use every bit of imagination, your smart phone, your scanner and a Photobucket account to create your own illustrations, charts, artwork/text combos and photos.
If a particular illustrations is brilliant and you did the art yourself, then watermark it right away. More on that later. It is very easy.
Second, look at the great studio photos and set up your own studio. You need two backdrops: white and black. You need lights. The top photo is a bathroom mirror photo. The bottom photo was lit by a regular house lamp!
That's it. If you need a good product photo or a dramatic effect, these two backdrops, the object, and some decent lighting will take care of most of your illustration needs. Your smartphone camera can take care of the rest once you learn how to adjust the lighting settings.
Third, learn your smart phone so you can catch action and other quick images wherever you go. Those photos can be cropped and edited for a very good photo library that will accent your blog. The photos below should drive the point home!
BUT, remember the rule: in public, cool. In private, you are a fool. Get permission before publishing people's visages.
Fourth, don't even think about using Instagram. No one wants to look at the instagram effect in a professional photoblog unless the blog is about how awful the instagram effect is to look at.
Fifth: Learn about creative commons photos or take the risk of being de-indexed, sued or othewise suffer damnation and hell. Just as you have no right to plagiarize text, you have no right on this planet to plagiarize art!
In the photo below, notice how I used Flickr Photos, credited the photographer, and put a backlink to his photo stream. He made his photo available for anyone to use and only asks for a credit and a link.
Sixth: It is not rocket science! Go to Flicker Photos and go to "advanced search". Bookmark that page right away.
Scroll down and look for the creative commons check boxes. Check the boxes you need.
Scroll back up and enter your search topic.
Click for search results.
Read the license limitations EVERY time. Never take that for granted.
Most licensing requires that you link back to the photographer and give a credit. Do it. Don't cheat.
Remember that ANY creative commons or "free" "open stock" photo license can change at any time.
Flickr Photos may not give you what you need, so let's try a little more advanced work.
First: Think of cropping, photo editing and other tricks you can use on one great photo. I have used a single photo to illustrate a lot of content, from web pages to book covers to business cards.
Use your own work and own your own rights. Trust your own eye.
Second: When there is no other option and you find a brilliant photo on the web, try to contact the owner and negotiate free or paid permission. Never do this with out email evidence and records.
Government photos are generally the property of the people. We paid taxes for them, but do check for rights before copying and using them.
Third: Learn the rules about taking pictures of people. Learn about model's releases, how not to get killed or arrested, especially when taking picture of children or crimes in progress.
Do not take if for granted that you or anyone else wants to become an internet meme. Respect the web. Respect people.
Watermark your best photos and art. Just use a photo editor or Photobucket to add identifying text and make the text transparent.
So, enjoy! Do some photo safaris. Take a look at your existing photos, at magazine photos and at book illustrations to get ideas for illustrating your blog with correctly obtained artwork.