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. Since you seem to know a lot about Blogger and Picasa, maybe you can help with something lots of people seems to be talking about, but for which I have yet to hear what I'd consider a good solution.

    A lot of people have been getting this message lately: "Whoops! You're out of space. You are currently using 100% of your 1 GB quota for photos." These folks are not able to upload photos in to their blogs.

    Google PIcasa support and the discussion forums, at least what I've seen, do not help enough! I have yet to see a solution that makes sense.


    Some folks are storing their images at Flickr or Photobucket, but that seems like a time consuming nuisance. Some say they are deleting photos, but still can't add any more. Still others are paying to upgrade their storage space.

    Something doesn't make sense. I thought that once you reached your quota, Blogger automatically resized photos for you, and that you could just keep adding smaller images for free. I thought we could upload smaller photos for free with no limits.

    Any idea of what is really going on here? Can't you just keep adding photos and they automatically resize? Or at the very least, wouldn't resizing photos to less than 800 pixels before uploading do the job? (Very few bloggers need larger photos than that.) I read your July post, and it seems like if we reduce the size before uploading, we should never run into trouble, right?

    Any thoughts or recommendations for those who are getting that message?

    1. Mary, I have noticed a lot of these cropping up all of a sudden on the help forum, which is a sign that something has probably broken or changed. But, what exactly?

      People are not terribly clear when they report this problem. Are they on Google+ (which has a more-generous photo policy) and if so, with the right account?

      When they say they deleted photos, did they do so from their Picasaweb account (which ought to clear space) or just from their blog?

      This is the point at which someone from Blogger, or one of the Top Contributors, should start a rollup thread that asks people to be very specific about these and other details. I'm not sure if Blogger is even aware that this is a problem yet.

      I'd say you have a pretty good grasp of how things are supposed to work. What I can't tell you is what is going wrong.

      A few urgent posts at "something is broken" might attract the attention of the great & powerful.

    2. Thanks, Adam. Your clarity is very helpful.

      One of the bloggers I follow is having this problem, but I don't know enough about his problem to know what the source of it is. I'm going to guess that for many, it's probably a matter of not really understanding how Blogger/Picassa Web works.

      If you see anything from Blogger or Picasaweb that helps could you add a link to your blog? I have found it difficult to find clear answers on their help pages. They don't really address the specific barrage of "Whoops" messages that so many have gotten lately. Perhaps you can get a paid job writing for them?

    3. Turns out that the blogger I know who got that "Whoops" message, was able to get reliable and helpful guidance from


    4. Mary, the link you provide is full of good advice.

      Still I am not seeing anything there about the current problem that people are reporting at the help forum.

    5. Update 2: Blogger has finally opened a discussion thread on this issue.

  2. 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.

    1. Thank you, Mary! This is just how I go about things, and I am sure that other methods can work equally well.

      In my case I control the resolution when I export the image from the photo-album file.

  3. 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.