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Three Good Tools for Free Good Pictures

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Three Good Tools for Free Good Pictures

December 2012

by Joel Friedlander


A lot of the things we do online now involve images, videos, and other types of digital media that augment, amplify, or otherwise complement the written word, which is, after all, what we’re about.

For instance, publishers routinely include images in their emails and on their Web sites; and many bloggers not only include images with all their posts, they recommend that other bloggers do the same.

People just like pictures. Images exert a powerful attraction that makes people more likely to read what you want them to read.

Of course, you can tap lots of sources for photos to use in books and blogs, among other things. But three tools you may not know about can improve your work with photos and other kinds of illustrations.

Photopin.com can help you access the huge inventory of images on Flickr, the Internet’s largest image hosting site.

The site has a streamlined look—just a search bar on top of a pile of snapshots (which are live images, by the way, different every time you go there).

Photopin advertises its site as a source of “free photos for bloggers & creatives,” and it seems to have been designed very well. I’ve found that it has everything I want as a user, and nothing I don’t need. Also, its search results provide a chance to filter the images based on Creative Commons licensing, a necessity for anyone wanting to use someone else’s images legally and fairly.

When I searched for “Boston Terrier,” the results screen was beautiful and easy to use, with some great enhancements. You can hover over the generously sized thumbnails to get a better look at images.

If you want to download an image, you just click the “Get photo” button, and a beautiful “Select an image size” dialog pops up with all your choices for pixel sizes, along with the link code for the license in a box where you can highlight and copy it to place it where you want to use it. I love that.

So with three clicks you select, download, and get the licensing code for an image. That’s impressive, and the site runs quickly, too.

Photopin is now my default for searching images on Flickr, and it’s a joy to use.

Free Online Photoeditor

Although you can find free image editing software online, sometimes you just want a quick tool to do some basic image manipulation like sizing and cropping.

For instance, all the header images here have to be sized and then cropped to 530 pixels by 275 pixels. I can always use the tools that are built into WordPress, and sometimes when I’m traveling I’ve been forced to do that, but it’s not much fun. Does slow and tedious sound like fun?

What’s better is using a Web site where you can upload your image, edit it, and then download it again—for free.

That’s where freeonlinephotoeditor.com comes in. The site is easy to use and works the way it says it will. No irritating blinking ads; no controls that don’t do what you think they would and should.

You can see in the screenshot that after I downloaded a photo of a Boston terrier using Photopin, I uploaded it to freeonlinephotoeditor.com.

It was easy to scale and crop the photo for my needs, and I was done in a couple of minutes. Then I simply downloaded the edited file, and I was ready to place it in my blog. Nice.

Sure, millions of people use Google every day; not much new there. But the wizards at Google Labs are always coming up with cool new things.

Sometimes you find things you didn’t even know existed, like the awesome Google Image Search tool.

Go to any Google search screen and click “Images” in the top menu bar to bring up the Image Search screen.

Now you can type keywords—“Boston terrier,” for instance—into the search bar, as you’ve probably done countless times.

But notice that camera icon over on the right side of the search bar? Click that instead, and you get an image chooser.

Maybe you knew about this, but it amazed me. It means that you can search for images with other images, not just with keywords.

You can either paste in the URL of an image, or upload an image from your computer. I uploaded my little Boston terrier photo. Here’s what I got back:

This has lots of uses. For instance, I had a photo from Flickr I wanted to use, but I had lost track of the page where I’d found it. When I uploaded the image, Google Image Search found it in a moment.

This tool can also help you if the only image you have is one you don’t have permission to use. It leads you to other, similar images that may have different licensing requirements.

All three tools have made my work with images more fun and more efficient, and Google Image Search has opened up a whole new world for my searches from now on.


Joel Friedlander blogs about book design and the indie publishing life at TheBookDesigner.com. He is an award-winning book designer; the proprietor of Marin Bookworks, a publishing services company in San Rafael, CA; and the author of A Self-Publisher’s Companion.


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