When digital cameras became widely affordable, everyone became a photographer, and everywhere you looked online there were all these gorgeous photographs. No longer was it enough to have a well-thought-out blog post; now you were expected to have a well-thought-out blog post lavishly illustrated with stunning photos. At first, I kept wondering where these people found such perfect opportunities for shots. They’d be writing about their favorite coffee, and there in the post would be a marvelous photo of an elegant woman sipping a latte at an outdoor cafe table. Wow! How convenient to have such a perfect photo! They’d write about the Mississippi River, and voilá: a stunning photo of deep, lazy water rolling to the gulf. After a while I began to wonder if they maybe just had this amazing photo library and wrote only about the things for which they had the perfect photo. Then one day I realized–duh (yeah, it took me a while): they were using photos they’d found online, where you can find amazing photographs of everything, from a snowy egret to a newborn baby to The Perfect Pair of Shoes to artwork you love to–well, anything. Online, you can find anything.
OK, let me stop here and say that I know some people take all their own photos, and I know other people pay for the use of other people’s photos. But I also know (now, unlike what I thought years ago) that lots of people find photos online and snag them for use on their blogs and websites and Facebook posts. It’s not that they’re deliberately stealing; many people think that it’s OK to use these snagged photos if you add a caption giving credit to wherever you found it and linking back to the page. At one time I would have thought that, too–that as long as you gave credit and linked, you were doing The Right Thing.
Turns out that, no, you’re not. Someone in one of my yahoo groups sent a link to this post by a writer who, apparently, is very popular and has a widely-read blog and who *used to* use photos for various posts. Check out what Roni Loren has to say about her experience. The comments are enlightening, too.
I, personally, wish people didn’t expect gorgeous photos for every blog post. Many of mine don’t have photos at all–mostly because I can’t think of a photo that would appropriately illustrate what I’m writing about, but also because I’m too lazy/busy (take your pick) to get the camera and find something to photograph that would work. For this post, I guess I’d use a photo of a camera, as Loren did. But you know, you don’t always need pictures with your text. Remember books–you know, the ones with actual paper pages? Once you got out of elementary school, few of those had illustrations, and they worked just fine that way, didn’t they? But I digress.
Yes, photos are great. I love reading an excellently-illustrated post, and I’m not advocating a text-only online world. Yikes. But if Loren’s post sent shivers down your spine, as it did mine (did you stop, as I did, and mentally go back through past posts, trying to remember if you’d snagged any photos for any of them?), perhaps it’s time to re-think what we expect in our online landscape. Great photos are great, but if your choice is between a text-only post and a post illustrated with someone else’s photos, maybe you opt for the unillustrated post today and a collecting excursion with your camera tomorrow. If you look at it that way, it gives you a really great reason to take your camera out and spend the day getting photos of all the things that interest you: piles of books, happy dogs, cloud formations, coffee cups–anything you might want to write about. Save them in a file labeled so you can find them–Blog Photos, maybe–and you’ll never have to worry about getting one of those threatening email warnings.
Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.
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