Some of the most common questions people encounter as they begin blogging revolve around images: how to credit them, what the copyright regulations are, and general, proper blog image etiquette.
Images and the Fair Use Doctrine
First up, the legalities: images are copyright to the photographer. Unless you are the photographer, 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, there are four factors at play:
- The purpose and character of the use (commercial? non-profit?)
- The nature of the work itself
- The amount used of the work as a whole
- The effect of your use upon the market value of the work
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 credit the owner/photographer. Even if you have permission. Even if it’s creative commons. Unless it’s your image, or a stock image that does not require crediting (aka “attribution”), this rule should be followed 100% of the time. For example, the image above is a no attribution required stock image.
- Pinterest is never the source of an image. I repeat – your image credit should never be to Pinterest. There is a photographer/blogger behind that pin who brought the amazing content to light.
Tips for Bloggers
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. If you found the image on a blog other than the photographer’s, you should also credit the source of the information and any sources that they have named. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice and give credit where credit is due!
Bloggers and photographers, do you have tips to share on image etiquette or guidelines for usage?
Although there are several blogging platforms available to you, we’re mainly going to discuss the technology and coding behind just one of them here on Edit and Post, and that is WordPress. WordPress is currently the most flexible and powerful option out there and it’s the platform I use for Edit and Post, Entouriste and Elizabeth Anne Designs.
What is WordPress, anyway?
WordPress is an open-source content management system. Open-source means that the code for the software is freely provided and can be altered and built upon by anyone. Why is this cool? Because that means there are thousands upon thousands of people working every day to enhance WordPress functionality by creating themes and plugins to be used with the basic code (we’ll chat more about themes and plugins soon!).
WordPress requires a MySQL database to run, along with a web server. Your WordPress database is made up of several tables. Each table holds a specific element of data, such as your posts, comments, and settings. Your web server holds your image files, theme files, plugins, and WordPress admin files. You can think about things this way: if you upload it, it goes on your web server. If you write it or input it, it goes into your database.
How do the web server and database talk?
They use a language called PHP. Every time WordPress needs to “get” something from the database, a PHP script is run. There are several default PHP functions in WordPress, and you can also create your own.
|PHP = “get”
|Want to get the post title?
||<?php the_title(); ?>
|Want to get the content?
||<?php the_content(); ?>
|Want to get the author?
||<?php the_author(); ?>
Depending on the data you are gathering, the WordPress PHP function may default to “get and display” or simply “get”. Both are useful! We’ll talk about PHP a lot more in the future, but for now, just remember that PHP is how WordPress gets data from the database.
How does the PHP function turn into results?
After the web server has received data from the database, it turns it into HTML. HTML is the language that your browser uses to display a website. An example:
In WordPress, I have a PHP function that says: <?php the_title(); ?>
Once my web server has processed that script for the post you’re currently reading, the database will return: What Is WordPress Anyway?
The web server then displays to you: What Is WordPress Anyway?
You never see the PHP script and neither does Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE or whatever other browser you are using!
How do I style those results?
You make HTML look pretty using a language called CSS, which stands for cascading style sheets.
CSS tells your browser how to format things (fonts, colors, margins, spacing, etc). CSS is very flexible, and you can style different elements of your page with different CSS markup.
Where do I put my PHP and CSS code?
Your PHP and CSS code goes inside your WordPress theme. Simply put, your theme is how you want your WordPress data displayed to the world. Several themes are installed with WordPress, and customizing your own theme is something that we’ll talk about in detail.
In the upcoming series of posts, we’re going to cover server needs, hosting basics, and the installation and basic configuration of WordPress.
I am a huge believer in the fact that there are learning opportunities to be found in all aspects of everyday life. So to pay homage to my past career on the ice, today we’re going to take a closer look at the sport of figure skating, and the lessons that we can learn by paying close attention and listening to the swish of the blades.
Lesson 1: Determination and perseverance pay off
By far the most heartwarming figure skating story of the Vancouver Olympics was that of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao. Married since 2007, Shen and Zhao returned from retirement to compete in their fourth Olympics at the ages of 31 and 36 (unheard of for modern figure skating). They broke through to win the Olympic gold medal.
From Xue and Hongbo, we learn that things get better with time. The couple had been skating together since 1992, but only fell in love in the last few years of their partnership, and only reached Olympic gold in 2010, after eighteen years of working towards their goal.
While hopefully it won’t take you eighteen years to reach your business goals, it’s important to know that you will continue to grow and define yourself over time. Your business and your industry will evolve and you must be willing to stick with it, work hard and work smart, and trust that the solid foundation you lay will help catapult you to success when the time is right.
Lesson 2: Healthy competition only makes you better
What do the ice dancing teams of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have in common? It used to be their coaches – Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband. Then Belbin and Agosto left Michigan and began training with Linichuk and Karponosov. Only two of these couples went on to become Olympic champions.
So why did the teams of Virtue and Moir and Davis and White (who are good friends in addition to being training partners) rise to success so quickly and ascend to the highest level in their sport? Aside from their phenomenal talent, the fact is that training together pushed them to raise their game each and every day.
Although competition might seem scary at first, it’s something you should welcome. It will raise the stakes, but that is what allows you to challenge yourself and become even better tomorrow than you were yesterday.
Lesson 3: How you handle controversy defines you
It wouldn’t be an Olympics without a figure skating controversy and Vancouver was no different. Evan Lysacek and Evgeny Plushenko were 1-2 after the short program, with the slimmest of margins separating them. In the free skate, Evan’s all around skating skills were enough to vault him to the gold medal, and Plushenko settled for silver.
The battle didn’t end on the ice. And while we won’t debate the ins and outs of the code of points here (suffice it to say that I think they both have nuggets of truth in their arguments), what we can take away from this experience is that your poise and grace under pressure – your ability to handle controversy – can define you in business.
- Do you crack under stress?
- Do you write or speak without thinking?
- How do you respond when someone lashes out at you?
As a small business, you are your own public relations, so be cognizant of your actions and their impact on your image, and on your business results.
Lesson 4: Costumes can make all of the difference
Notice, if you will, the difference between the costume on the left and the costume on the right.
Same couple, my friends.
So what can we learn from Domnina and Shabalin? Well, it’s simple. No matter how great your skills are, branding is important.
- How do you differentiate yourself?
- Is your website design consistent and pleasing to the eye?
- Do others see you as you want to be seen?
Your design, and not your talent, is the first thing that someone sees when they visit your website. And you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
So there you have it, four lessons that figure skating can teach us about business. What other life and business lessons can you find from my favorite sport?
You’ve read my previous post about deciding whether you’re ready to start a blog and the green light has appeared. Now what?
Step One: Name Your Blog
(If you are a vendor with an existing company name (and you plan to add a blog with your existing company name on your site) move on along to Step 2.)
It sounds quite obvious but naming your blog is not as easy as it sounds. After brainstorming blog names, you will first need to verify in the US Trademark Database (TESS) that your chosen name is not taken. You will also want to verify with Whois that the .com of your chosen name is available for purchase.
Step Two: Branding
I cannot stress enough how important cohesive visual branding is to your new blog. This includes color schemes, fonts, and most importantly your blog logo and header. You want your blog to be a reflection of you, your company, and your content.
Think of brands you use on an everyday basis. What makes you choose Tide vs. Cheer? Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi? A generic granola bar may taste almost exactly like Quaker, but how likely are you to choose generic? What makes you lean towards brands that you trust? It isn’t always taste, usefulness or tradition – in some cases it’s as simple as the overall appearance and packaging of the product on the shelf.
The web is the same. You may have the best content in the world but if your blog/site is poorly designed and difficult to navigate, you’re not going to generate the readership you want. So when you’re branding, as difficult as it may be, you’re in Field of Dreams land. “If you build it (and have excellent content, and market yourself, and make sure you SEO your site properly, all of which we’ll discuss soon!), they will come”.
Step Three: Sketch Your Layout
In Photoshop, Powerpoint, or with stick figures (my preferred method), begin sketching out your blog’s look and feel. Do you want a 2-column or 3-column layout? How do you want your front page to appear? Do you want to immediately display excerpts or full-text posts? What information do you want to display in your sidebar? What information do you want included in your posts’ headers? Their footers? What navigation elements are essential?
This is a daunting task but before any technology is implemented you need to have a vision! Review as many blogs as possible for elements you want to incorporate into your preliminary design. This is also the time to work with your graphic designer on any special illustrations for your site, or to gather the best photos of your work to display.
Now that you have a good idea of the look and feel of your new blog, it’s time to get technical! Next up: a series of posts on Building Your WordPress Blog!
As small business owners, entrepreneurs, or hobbyists, if you are considering adding a blog to your business the first question that you should ask yourself is:
“Why am I blogging and what do I hope to gain?”
- Social media managers
- Intellectual property experts
- Graphic designers
- Advertising execs
- Marketing gurus
Blogging offers lots of amazing rewards but comes with a great deal of responsibility, and each time you put a post, a tweet, or an email out into the blogiverse you are representing yourself or your business… that’s a lot of pressure!
Sit down to think for a moment about the blog you hope to create, the audience you want to reach, and the true reason you want to start a blog. Make a pro/con list. Consult your business plan. Read other people’s blogs to get an idea of the audience you may want to reach and the network you want to join. Then ask yourself…
“Am I qualified to blog about _____?”
Whatever your chosen topic, you should be a subject matter expert in that field. Your field may be yourself. It may be your business. It may be your own taste. Clearly you are an expert in all of those! But let’s say you want to start a blog about gardening. What can you add to the gardening blog industry? Do you personally garden? What do you know about growing specific plants, vegetables, or flowers? Are you prepared to answer questions from readers and advise them on making their garden grow? If the answer to these questions is no, stop here. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and do not start a gardening blog. But if you’re a bona fide gardening pro, then the last and most important question is…
“Do I have time for this?”
For many of us, blogging is a full-time job (on top of our full-time job). It’s a huge commitment. You must take the time to realistically assess whether or not you will have the time and energy to devote to your site.
If you’re a brave soul and are ready to jump in feet first, I’m going to be doing a series of posts to help you get started building your WordPress blog. I remember vividly how it feels to be brand-new to the blog world and tackle the setup of a website, so we will go back to basics, answer all of your burning questions, and you will be blogging in no time.
If you’re on the fence, well, that’s OK, too. Starting a blog is not a decision to be made lightly, and we’ll have much more discussion on the realities and benefits of blogging, and why it may or may not be for you.
For all of you experienced bloggers reading, what other factors should those who are thinking about creating a blog take under consideration?