Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Managing photos for your blog

The internet is a great medium for photos. Blogging visually creates posts with greater impact and sticking power.

Beatrice Murch photo
Uploading a photo to Blogger will create at least two, and sometimes three, separate copies.

Should you keep track of them? And how?

Here's how I do it.

First, though: Do you usually just upload your photos straight to Blogger? I always use a copy that has been stepped down to a lower resolution, and here's why.

Low-resolution images are perfect for Blogger, and won't use up your free photo allotment on Picasaweb.

But as you've probably realized, that makes another copy of each photo--a low-res version.

You don't want to lose or confuse these copies. Here's how I keep it all straight.

Copies copies copies
So far you should be making three copies of every photo that you blog:
  1. Your original full-resolution photo, stored on your computer
  2. A low-res version, also on your computer
  3. The copy of the low-res version hosted at Picasaweb that your blog will actually use.
Blogger will also insert yet another copy of the Picasaweb version into your blog post that may be further scaled down. However, this is not something you need to track.

For me, the process starts when my computer sucks the photos from my camera. I use iPhoto, which comes bundled with my Macintosh, but other photo-management software does the same things. (Google's Picasa is another photo-album program (free download).)

The key photo-management features that you need are as follows:
  1. Downloads photographs from your camera
  2. Organizes the photos (so that you can group all blog photos together)
  3. Exports photos at a resolution and file name that you specify.
Photo-album programs typically do much more than the above. Many let you crop and retouch the photos and are integrated with various social-networking programs.

This blog post is not a short course in using all those features or in how to use any particular software application. It's just an inventory of what to do with whatever program you've got.

Download from camera to computer
If I've taken multiple shots I pick the best one and delete the ones I am sure not to use. I often edit the photo, at least to the extent of cropping it.

Organize the photo in photo-album program
Then I (1) give it a descriptive name and (2) tag it as a blog photo. iPhoto lets me do that with a keyword, but I could also put it in an iPhoto album for blog photos.

Both methods are common. The point is to give this treatment to every photo that I actually use, and only to those photos.

(My other blog, which uses a good number of photos, is about apples. So I tag every photo that I use with "apples," which puts them in an "apples" smart folder.)

Export photo to hard drive
Then I export the photo from the photo album to my hard drive, with the name I have given it and at a resolution of 800 pixels or less. I keep my photos in a blog folder in my photos folder.

The original photo file might have a name like IMC_2879.jpg and a size of 3 or 10 MB. The new one will have a descriptive name such as McIntosh.jpg and might be 500 kb or so.

The original will be squirreled away in a set of directories used only by my photo-album program. The smaller copy will be in a user-friendly directory named "apple blog" with all my other blog photos.

Upload photo to blog (and Picasaweb)
The last step is to upload the photo--the low-res version--from my computer to my blog, using Blogger's post-editing window.

If you do this, over time you will have triple redundant backup of all your blog photos, as follows:
  1. All your low-res photos in a single album online at Picasaweb, each with the descriptive names you have selected.
  2. The same on your computer in the folder you set up
  3. The original, high-resolution versions in your photo-album program, should you ever need to print a copy of an image or do anything else with it.
This is important to do because backing up your blog (which you should do regularly) does not include your photos.

Speaking of backup copies: My regular computer backups include these photos. Whew!


  1. Nice post: I've tried writing this up once, but got horribly confused. I usually try to upload photos to Picasaweb manually, so that I control the resolution they're uploaded at rather than having Blogger make them smaller yet again.

  2. Perhaps the new flickr policy could help? Also I have to resize each time the Flickr image inside the blogger, they never exactly much. But now Flickr gives 'unlimited access' I hope yahoo will not change that again.

    1. I have an inbred bias in favor of using the organic services that are integrated with Blogger, such as Picasaweb, if that is feasible.

      However, there are many ways to host and manage photos, and I am glad you have found a way that works for you.

      One might not want to use Picasaweb to host very large photos. However, as I explain, there is not much of an advantage to doing so solely to display those photos on a blog, where resolution is stepped down anyway.