Using Images In Blog Posts

Some of the common questions as people begin blogging are about images: how to credit them, what are the copyright regulations, and general proper blogging etiquette.

Images and the Fair Use Doctrine

First up, the legal stuff: images are copyright to the photographer. Unless you have received permission from the photographer, or they have licensed their work for creative commons, you are using any images you post under the US government’s doctrine of “fair use”.

You should read this short page for the complete information about fair use but to paraphrase, if you are using an image for the purposes of illustration or comment, are not using all or substantially all of the author’s work, and clearly notate the copyright owner of the work, you are falling under “fair use”.

As you can see on the copyright office’s page, the entire fair use area is gray. Here are a few things that are absolutes:

  • Getting approval from the owner means you are in the clear to use the image.
  • A creative commons license (which many bloggers who take their own photos provide in the terms and conditions of their site) means you are clear to use the image.
  • If the owner of an image asks you to take it down, take it down.  Period.
  • You should ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS credit the owner/photographer.  Even if you have permission.  Even if it’s creative commons.  Unless it’s something like a stock image you have purchased, this rule should be followed 100% of the time.
Blogging Etiquette

If you are a blogger yourself, it is a great idea to have a policies or terms page on your site, telling your readers whether or not they are free to use the photos (and content) that you have posted and in what manner.

When you post images that you do not own, I think it bears repeating that you should always credit the photographer.  You should also credit the source of the information (where you found it), and any sources that they have named.  For example, I posted an image last week on Elizabeth Anne Designs that I found through the blog Little White Book.  She found the image via the Ruby Press blog.  The original image was from the blog Matt Bites, who is the original owner of the photo.  So my full credit was: image by Matt Bites, via Ruby Press and Little White Book.

It doesn’t cost anything to be nice and give credit where credit is due, so pretty please be nice and link to everyone who helped you find the image!

Other bloggers and photographers, do you have tips to share on image etiquette or guidelines for usage?

Debits and Credits

As small business owners, even if you aren’t going to handle your own accounting, it’s important to understand the basics of your finances so that you can determine how your business is performing.  Let’s start with some accounting language and terminology.

Your accounting records are kept in what is called the general ledger. The general ledger is made up of several ledger accounts (also known as accounts or G/L accounts).  Each ledger account is populated by journal entries.  Each journal entry must balance to zero.

A journal entry is created for every transaction in your business, and each account is either debited (abbr: DR) or credited (abbr: CR).

Each ledger account is classified into one of five account types: Assets, Liabilities, Equities, Revenues, or Expenses.  These account types all have natural balances that are debits or credits. The total of all of your G/L accounts must balance to zero.

The natural balances of each account type are:

Assets: Debit
Liabilities: Credit
Equities: Credit
Revenues: Credit
Expenses: Debit

Debits are not Additions and Credits are not Subtractions

Don’t think of debits and credits as additions and subtractions.  Simply think of debits and credits as increases and decreases to the natural balance of an account.

A debit will always be a positive number.  A credit will always be a negative number.  The total of the debits and credits in a journal entry will always balance to zero.  This insures that you have recorded all aspects of the transaction appropriately.

Confused yet?  Let’s do some examples from our everyday lives.

Example 1: Buying groceries

You go to Whole Foods and spend entirely too much money on baked goods (oh wait, is that just me?!).  You pay cash.

Debit Groceries Expense +100
Credit Cash -100

Grocery expenses are increasing, because a debit increases the natural balance of an expense account, and cash is decreasing, because a credit decreases the natural balance of an asset account.

Example 2: Financing a home

You find your dream home and go to the bank for a loan. The home costs $150,000 and you pay a $20,000 cash downpayment.

Debit Real Estate +150,000
Credit Payable to Bank -130,000
Credit Cash -20,000

You are increasing an asset, your real estate account, by $150,000. But you now have a liability to the bank for $130,000 (remember, credits increase liabilities) and your cash balance decreased by $20,000.

Example 3: A customer pays you for an order

You sold someone a book for $20, they paid with cash.

Debit Cash +20
Credit Revenue -20

Assets, with a natural debit balance, and revenues, with a natural credit balance, are both increasing in this transaction.

So what do you think – are debits and credits starting to make sense? Next up in this series, we’re going to chat about financial statements (excited yet?).

WordPress.com API Keys

Getting a WordPress.com API key is helpful for two reasons:

  1. It allows you to utilize plugins like Akismet (spam comment filtering) and WordPress.com Stats
  2. It allows you to comment on blogs hosted by wordpress.com without having to fill in all of the required fields

To obtain your own WordPress.com API key, sign up here.

Then, since you know how to install plugins, install WP-Stats and Akismet (Akismet may already be installed with your WordPress package, so simply activate) and use your fun new API key to block spam and see your page views!

How To Install WordPress Plugins

We’ve talked a little bit about plugins, so you know what a plugin is, but let’s go over how to find and install them.

The WordPress site has a comprehensive list of every plugin available.  From here, you can search for the functionality you’re looking for and see reviews of the plugins, number of downloads, installation notes, etc.  Chances are, if you want to do it, there is a plugin for it.

We’ll start by installing a plugin that saves some real estate on your WordPress dashboard, the Ozh’ Admin Drop Down Menu plugin.  By default, the WordPress dashboard menu is on your left.

When you install and activate Ozh’ Admin Drop Down Menu, the menu moves to the top, eliminating the need for lots of vertical scrolling.

There are two ways to install a plugin, through your WordPress dashboard, or through FTP.

How to install a plugin through your WordPress dashboard
  1. Navigate to Plugins → Add New
  2. In the search field, type in the plugin you want to install, in this case we’ll search for “Ozh Admin”
  3. When the search results appear, locate the plugin and click “Install” then “Install Now”
  4. Click “Activate Plugin”

If you have a zipped file of your plugin, you can also install it through the WordPress dashboard.

How to install a plugin using FTP

By now, you know that I love FTP and do the majority of my work in Core FTP (if you need a refresher on FTP, read this post).  To install a plugin using FTP:

  1. Download the plugin that you want to install from the WordPress plugin repository
  2. Unzip it to a folder on your computer
  3. Sign into Core FTP, or your chosen tool
  4. Navigate to www.yoursite.com/wp-content/plugins
  5. FTP the plugin folder from your computer to your server
  6. In your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Plugins → Installed → Inactive and activate your new plugin

Plugins are addictive.  Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

You Need a Test Site

Big red flashing word of warning!

Be super-careful when you are following these instructions and be very sure not to edit the web server or database for your actual website!  Always be sure that you have backed up your database and web server before doing this, just in case.

We’re going a little out of order here, but this topic has come up several times already and is so important that I thought we should cover it immediately.

You need a test site.

So how do you set up a test site for your WordPress blog?  First, purchase a separate domain name (anything works) and set it up for hosting.  Then, take the following steps to copy your production site (the techie term for your user-visited website) to your test site.

Let’s say your production site is www.mycookingsite.com/blog and your test site is www.mytestsite.com/blog.

Step 1: Copy your web server
  1. FTP the following files and folders from www.mycookingsite.com/blog/ to your computer or hard drive:
    • wp-admin
    • wp-content/themes
    • wp-content/plugins
    • wp-content/upgrade
    • wp-content/index.php
    • wp-includes
  2. On your computer or hard drive, delete the plugin folder for wp-stats if you have it enabled.  This is to insure that you do not confuse WordPress’s dashboard when you create your test site.
  3. FTP all of the individual files that are at the same level as the wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-includes folder to your computer or hard drive.
  4. FTP all of the files from your computer or hard drive into www.mytestsite.com/blog/.

You’ve now made a copy of everything on your web server except your images (no need to have these on your test site).

Step 2: Copy your database
  1. You have already downloaded the nifty WordPress Database Backup plugin.  If you have yesterday’s backup handy, great, otherwise go to Tools → Backup and run a backup of your entire database.
  2. Create a new SQL database through your web hosting company.
  3. Through your web hosting company, there should be a service called phpMyAdmin.  Log into phpMyAdmin using the username and password for your database.
  4. Select your newly-created database in phpMyAdmin and click on the “Import” tab.
  5. Browse for your backup file, be sure that the SQL button is checked, and click Go.

Step 3: Update your test database’s WordPress options
  1. In phpMyAdmin, click on your test database, and the table wp_options (or wp_xxxxxx_options).  BE SURE YOU ARE IN YOUR TEST DATABASE.
  2. Find the option name “siteurl”.
  3. Click the pencil on the siteurl line to edit the information.
  4. Change the siteurl to your test site.
Step 4: Update your wp-config file
  1. In FTP, navigate to the root of your TEST wordpress installation.  In our example this would be www.mytestsite.com/blog.
  2. Open the file called wp-config.php
  3. Change the values for DB_NAME, DB_USER, and DB_PASSWORD to your test database information.
Step 5: Validate
  1. Visit www.mytestsite.com/blog/wp-admin and log into your test site.  You will log in with the same username and password as your production site.
  2. Verify that your test site is visible at www.mytestsite.com/blog.

Voila! A perfect copy of your blog.  Use your test site to edit your theme, install new plugins to play with, develop new functionality, test upgrades of WordPress or plugins, etc before applying the changes in production.

PS – If you aren’t on WordPress, but instead have an HTML website, you should still have a test site.  Simply FTP the files from your web server to your computer, and then FTP back up to your new domain.

PPS – Your web hosting provider should also allow you to easily password-protect your test site’s domain.

PPPS – You should also read the WordPress Codex articles about Restoring Your Database From Backup and phpMyAdmin.

Edited To Add: PPPPS – See comments below for some reasons why you need a test site – this can include changes to your WP theme, or testing out plugins and new functionality, and creating new page templates – and also a shortcut method that doesn’t involve a whole backup of your production site.