It can be problematic finding photographs online that you are allowed to use for your blog or in your books. The terms of licences are not always clear and you are reliant upon the honesty of those who upload their work to these sites. I personally prefer to use my own images wherever possible.
I am not a photographer, but I do take a lot of photographs… especially when we are allowed to ‘play out’ in the landscape. I don’t use fancy equipment and I have never really bothered with many settings. In the garden, I mostly take pictures on my phone, when we go out, I use an elderly bridge camera, bought second-hand. Its best feature is a great optical zoom.
When we first started documenting our travels, it was a simple case of point and shoot, framing a decent shot being the only consideration. I soon learned that there is more involved in taking pictures for publication than that…
We started writing The Initiate to tell the story of our adventures. The pages of a book are not really designed for landscape shots, but we did the best we could with what we had, publishing in colour at the lowest price that Amazon would allow.
With the ninth and final book in the series underway, we decided to address that. We would re-edit, redesign in monochrome and republish at a much lower price. Which meant trawling through the archives for new and more suitable photos. In doing so, I realised we had learned a lot over the years about taking photos for blog and book…
If you are writing about a family get-together, you want pictures of people. If you are writing about architecture, landscapes and historical sites, most images look better without people, or with just the occasional figure for scale. Be conscious of how you might wish to use the images you are taking.
I always keep the original of each photo. To make any changes or edits, I make a copy of the image, rename it (so I don’t overwrite the original by accident) and work with that… you never know what you might need a picture for in the future and once altered or resized, it may be of little use. I learned that the hard way.
Label your folders
I lost count of how many photos are stored on my computer and external drive somewhere after the first hundred thousand. Even though, these days, I am strict about deleting spoiled photos as soon as I upload them, there are still far too many to keep track of easily, no matter how carefully I label their folders. Mostly, I rely on memory… the computer needs to be told exactly what to look for in words it recognises. The human mind can make other connections through memory, emotion and association. Don’t just rely on putting folders in date order… label them with words that mean something to you, or with a string of words that reflect the content. The dates still remain associated with each image.
Photos for print will need to be kept at their original size and are best taken at the highest resolution your camera can manage. Unless you are running a dedicated photography blog, you can make a copy and resize images before uploading to your blog’s media library, thus saving your storage space and making it last much longer. Delete the resized image and keep the original.
There are many image editing programmes online, but even something as simple as Paint will let you resize… 650 pixels on the longest side is about as big as WordPress allows within a standard post, compared to the 4000+ pixels of the originals.
Landscape or portrait?
If you are going to design your own covers, a landscape shot is best for a wrap-around cover, portrait for a front cover. Standard sized books tend to look better with portrait shots on their pages, unless you plan on inserting a montage of smaller photos.
Portrait shots can fill a whole page on a blog post, which is fine if you are showcasing the photo itself… but landscape shots work well for illustrating an article. In this case, portrait shots often need to be scaled down.
Colour or monochrome?
For online and ebook purposes, go with whatever feels best to you. Experiment. What works in colour may look amazing or simply look bland in black and white. The vagaries of printing, though, mean that dramatic monochrome shots may come out too dark or show insufficient detail… either way, unless chosen carefully, the images may be unclear. Take images in colour, copy the original, and play with editing software to see what works best.
As always, make a copy and keep the original. Then play to your heart’s content with whatever editing software you have. You can make an arty montage or keep it simple. I seldom do more than adjusting the lightness and clarity for blog photos, preferring to give an accurate portrayal of the places we visit. When I make a book cover though, I can use half a dozen programmes and tend to work in layers.
Taking photos should be fun. It should neither be a chore nor take away from your enjoyment of where you are. Looking through the camera lens may even help you see in more detail and with more clarity than with eyes alone. But, whether the complexity of ‘real’ photography is your thing, or whether you prefer to simply snap away, your photographs should capture not only your subject, but something of you too. It is your love for your subject, your passion and your vision that makes every photograph unique.