February 10, 2016

Tips for Using Your Own Photos on Your Freelance Writing Site

digital photography basics

Future freelance artist -- Sarah -- Galveston, Texas

We generally use stock photos to deepen the message woven in the words of the posts on Freelance Writing Dreams. But I’ve experimented with using my own photographs – not always with a professional-looking result — a few times (see examples here and here) and several times on the Medtopicwriter site.

My photography skills have a long way to go before they get to the place where I’d feel comfortable deleting my paid memberships to the two stock photo collections I use.

Further, I’m a busy freelance journalist and copywriter – not a freelance photographer – so taking the time to snap just the right photo for each of the articles on our sites would consume precious time I use to complete my regular feature stories and news assignments.

So Why Bother at All?

Using an interesting, funny, disturbing, or beautiful photo that you took can attract the eyes of new readers and add to your story in a way a stock photo simply cannot. You can take and use an image that perfectly fits the message you want your article to deliver. Stock photos, whether from a paid or free collection, often suffice as a “good enough” solution rather than the perfect image whispering itself into the sight of your third eye.

Tips for Taking Images You Can Use 

Fancy DSLR Camera Not Required – I don’t even know what DSLR really means, let alone costs, but it sounds expensive. My brother has one and it looks like it cost more than I spent on my high-heeled shoe collection over the past year. Yes, that’s a lot. Your little point-and-shoot can snap photos that sparkle like a diamond, if you just follow a few basic tips.

Close Enough to Kiss – People use photos with blog posts to emphasize a point, illustrate a concept, or to feature a product. So, when taking your picture, move in close to your subject; you won’t need to show any peripheral background images. Try to get close enough so the main image fills the entire frame.

Bare Naked Light – Use natural light, rather than your camera’s built-in flash. Try to take the photos in filtered natural light. A slightly overcast, yet bright, day provides great filtered light for this purpose. Arrange people or target objects next to a window, or even outdoors, if possible.

Snap Sister (or Brother), Snap – I heard one professional photographer say that he can snap as many as 400 shots and maybe find one or two that work. Don’t worry. You won’t need to take that many to get one that will fit your article perfectly. But, it might take 30 or so to get to that one sweet shot you’ve got nestled in your imagination. So, snap away.

Cut and Fix – Edit your photo from good to great. Crop out background images or blank space around your subject so viewers automatically focus on the main subject. You’ll want to adjust the light balance of the image, using your photo editor’s exposure level tool. Remove red eye other imperfections using your editor’s tools.

If you don’t own the Photoshop software, which can cost a pretty penny, use a free online editor, such as Photoshop Express Editor or Gimp. These free photo editors can handle any of the above suggestions and even a few more complex jobs.

Make Your Mark – Add a copyright notice to your website, so visitors know you’ve protected your work and what you allow and do not allow when it comes to using your work. Creative Commons licensing will work in most cases and gives readers a clear explanation of what they can and cannot do. You might want to add a transparent watermark to your images as well. For example, add something like ©freelancewritingdreams.com to the bottom corner of each image.

Find more great tips on editing your photos at the Digital Photography School website.

Do you use your own images for your website and blog posts? Share you experiences with us – what works, what doesn’t.

About Samantha Gluck

Not only am I the chief editor of this multi-author online magazine, I'm a content creator and social media marketing strategist with a background in journalism, finance, & healthcare. I began my content marketing agency, All Media Freelance, LLC, in 2010 and lead a well-rounded, talented team of multi-channel content strategists and niche writers. I've developed and managed print and digital content projects for health care, fitness, financial services, mental health, non-profit, and automotive publishers, as well as for biotechnology brands.


  1. Recently I had an editor ask me to take photos for a piece. She didn’t have a staff photographer and she did offer to pay extra for photos. So having that skill could lead to more gigs. I thought about making an investment into a decent camera and adding that skill to my resume. I haven’t done any “real” photography since high school, so taking a digital photography class might be in order.

    • Hi Wade,

      I’m not at all qualified to take photos for use in a large, or even medium-sized, publication. LOL! I don’t know what I would say if someone asked me to supply the images for my stories and articles. I wouldn’t mind doing it as a guest contributor on someone’s website, as long as they understood the amateur quality they’d be getting from me. ;-)

      I do have a decent camera and a plain old point and shoot one as well. Dragonslayer (husband) knows how to use the fancy one much better than I do — I just look at it and get confused. I think he’s the one who should take the digital photography class in my case. Thanks for stopping by! XO

  2. Magda Papas says:

    Precious and easy to remember tips!!! I knew of Gimp but not P.Express Editor. Everytime I try take a pic, the result is lousy. I couldn’t agree more on using your very own pics for your own writing.

    • Hi Magda,

      I like Photo Express Editor because it just seems easier for me. As far as always using my own pictures for my websites, that’s just not feasible, due to the amount of time it would take to get the perfect shot for each post, edit it, and everything else. But I do think it’s nice to use them sometimes — for certain posts, or in certain situations. At any rate, knowing the basics required to take a decent picture helps a lot. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. XO


  3. Photos can tell a story too – I love using photos but sometimes time limits don’t make it possible and I love playing in Photoshop but again it’s a time factor. A professional photographer on staff would be awesome but the cost – not in the budget yet. The newer smart phones really do take nice pics too – I love taking nature shots and playing with them. Now with Pinterest photos are becoming more important too. Nothing like pinning an awesome pic! I should pin your photo on my how adorable board today!
    Lisa recently posted..Can You Answer These Burning Technology Questions Today?My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Lisa and you’re right, pictures can tell a story. Like the saying goes — one picture is worth 1,000 words. Time limits definitely hold me back from using my own photos. I think the same is true for most journalists, writers, bloggers, and the like, but it’s good to know a few ways to edit photos for use online just in case you happen to snap a fantastic one that’s perfect for a certain story or article. For the most part, I think we all stick to the paid and free stockphoto collections available. But I do think it’s cool when I can use one of my own once in a while. Yes, that pic of little Sarah is really nice, isn’t it? XO

  4. Most smart phones today take incredible photos. I’m always snapping photos and then about once a week I dump them into big big bulk folder on my computer. When it’s time to find an image I just browse that folder before I go elsewhere. I get to use one of my images about 10% of the time but as that folder grows, so should the percentage.

    I also use those same images to build links back to my blog by allowing others to use them as long as they provide a clickable, do-follow backlink for image credit.
    Brian D. Hawkins recently posted..20 Exercises That Will Help You To Write More In Less TimeMy Profile

    • Hi Brian,

      You’re right about smartphones; they’ve come a long way baby. I’ve seen the clip on telephoto lenses available for smartphones too. One of my journalist friends uses one of those along with Instagram to produce amazing photo-journalistic stories for her assignments.

      What a great idea — using those same images to build back links by allowing others to use them. Do you put images that you haven’t even used yourself out for others to use? (i.e. on Flickr or elsewhere) I think that’s a fantastic idea. So you just require that they credit you with a clickable link –> http://www.hotblogtips.com, rather than something like: hotblogtips dot com.

  5. Good grief. So you are a photographer, too! I’m sure your brain surgery is better than most as well.

    My son makes wedding videos, and the happy couple often asks for “their” song to be included. Unfortunately, “their” song is copyright protected and would cost a fortune to use. Since my son is also a musician, he has started doing all the music for the videos – that way he never has to worry about releases! Helps to be a double threat.
    Nellie recently posted..The Different Social Media ExplainedMy Profile

    • Oh, no ma’am, Ms. Nellie! I’m not a photographer…said so clearly in my post…G-d made me a freelance journalist, not a freelance photo-journalist! ;-) But, that said, I’m also not a singer, yet I love to sing — I do it often, loud and proud, to the dismay of many humans around me (save for my little ones who still think I hung the moon) and several animals as well. Brain surgery — now that I can do!

      Sounds like you son will have to be our official photog when Dragonslayer and I restate our vows in year seven (7). We plan to celebrate 7 years of bliss and untold wealth (of the the non-financial variety) with our friends and loved ones. I’d seriously love to have him participate in what promises to be the bash of the decade! Seriously. So many people will attend and hopefully have the time of their lives, it’ll make the Drudge Report and Daily Kos together! (What an unlikely alliance that will be!)


  6. Yes we can use our own clicked images rather than using others uploaded images. that’s really nice tips…
    thanks for sharing it………..
    Prakash recently posted..Games for Snapdragon Android Devices for IndiaMy Profile

    • Thanks, Prakash! I agree. It’s satisfying to use your own images and it’s really helpful to, at least, know the basics of how to edit and protect your photos. I’ve just found it too time consuming to do it very often. We have memberships in a couple of good stock photo sites and time constraints force us to use those the majority of the time. I appreciate your stopping by and taking the time to share.

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