Sunday 23 January 2011

Build Your Own Website: The Trouble With Pictures

I created this for my Twitter profile
after an author friend reminded me
how important it was to keep your
book cover on people's minds.
I now use it on Facebook and other
online profiles such as my profile
image when comment on blogs.
By Candy Gourlay

We're almost at the end of our Build Your Own Website series ... there is of course plenty of stuff we haven't covered, but what we have will pretty much get you up and running.

We've talked about audience, we've debated the pros and cons of blogging,we've learned what platforms are out there, and we've learned about bananas and websites. Now here is one of the biggest headaches of running a website: images.

Every website needs eye-candy - images help draw the eye to the important things, images make people stop and stare, images draw people in.
New New New!
Free videos and motion graphics on Videvo

Since my book came out, I find myself constantly creating graphics for my website -  buttons to celebrate shortlistings and nominations, a profile pic that isn't just the front cover of my book.

I don't know how other authors (who aren't graphic designers like me) can cope. It surprises me that most (?) publishers don't have a dedicated designer tasked with churning out graphics for their authors' websites, blogs and marketing activities.

But we can't just download images anywhere online. Of all people, we authors  have to be scrupulous about respecting intellectual property.

How do we keep our blogs, websites supplied with images if we aren't illustrators, photographers or designers who can create our own images?

New! Three sources of free images

Three sources for public domain and Creative Commons licensed images | screencast tutorial from School Library Journal on Vimeo.

Added 20 May 2013

What you need to know about images on the web
  • You don't need high resolution images online. The printed page uses accumulations of dots to display images - which means you need high resolution images for anything that will see print. Computer screens use light to show images. So you don't need high res images - in fact, you need to AVOID using them otherwise your web page loads like treacle.
  • Blogs and web-builders reduce the resolution of images you upload online. That's why it takes so long when you upload photos to Facebook. 
  • Yes, you can embed an image on your website from anywhere else if you know the url. But don't. Someone else is paying for the bandwidth. Everytime someone views the picture, they download it from that someone else's server which costs. It's stealing. And very bad manners.

 Where to get images (if you're not making your own)

A graphic I made
when my book
got listed in a
Sunday Times list
  • Your publisher. A little bit of foresight and negotiation could save an author so much aggravation. You need your book cover of course - but if your publisher has an inhouse graphic artist, you could also negotiate a bookcover graphic with the words 'Out in February' or whatever useful announcement you need. Make a list of possible graphics you could use on your website (Out soon buttons, In the shops now buttons, Award-winning buttons, etc.). Then ask. They might even say yes.
Clicking on 'Actions' gave me the option to see 'All Sizes' so I could pick the right size for my blog. The license is 'Some Rights Reserved' and clicking on those words gives me the specifics - that I am free to copy it but I must give the author credit. Here's the credit (I've linked to the photographer's Flickr photostream to show that I respected his wishes) : Photo by Passion of Bilwa
  • Paid for photo stock sites like Fotolia, Shutterstock, iStockPhoto -shop around - the prices vary widely ... and remember, you don't need high resolution files or even big files. 

How to create graphics like logos and headers

Having obtained an image, how do you create the header, button, blog graphic that you need? You might want to add text on top or crop it or turn it into a particular shape.

Well, what you need is image manipulation software. The best ones allow you to layer text and other images on top of your chosen image. You can add shadows and effects. You can resize, crop, retune an image.

Here are some options:

  • Photoshop - well, yeah, that's the best there is. But it's taken ME years to master it. That's because it's an essential tool for my day job. So if you have no interest in becoming a web and graphic designer, and the prospect of shelling out for Photoshop (about £600plus on Amazon) makes you want to slash your wrists, there are cheaper possibilities. Download a free trial
  • Photoshop Elements - it's a cut down version of Photoshop. I've got a very old version so I can't tell you what Version 9 currently retailing on Amazon is like. You don't need all the whizz bang of Photoshop, so why not download a free trial and find out if you like it.
  • Photoplus - my friend Paolo Romeo recommended Photoplus as a very able and probably easier to use Photoshop replacement for people who just want to do basic things. It actually uses layers like Photoshop, AND it can read Photoshop files (do correct me if I'm wrong ... I haven't got a copy). I've seen what Paolo can do with it which is impressive.There is a free starter version (here's a review) - download it here. If you like it, you might consider buying the full version.
  • If you're using a PC, Windows has a free photo editor Windows Live Photo Gallery that comes packaged with Windows Live Essentials. Download it here. It's not hugely complicated to use if you're just cropping, improving a dark photo, making colours brighter. I use it on my netbook when I'm on the road. 
  • If you're using a Mac, you can use iPhoto which comes with your computer to do basic edits like cropping and improving. I didn't find it as intuitive as the Windows Photo Gallery but that might just be me ... besides one gets the hang of it quickly - it also has a neat trick of making it easy and quick to upload images to an album on Facebook or Flickr. Be aware though that you have to import existing images into iPhoto and if you need them say, as a jpg, you need to export. It uses up hard drive like there's no tomorrow.
I'd love to hear from anyone who can suggest easy, affordable ways to edit images (oh, before someone mentions it, there's Gimp, it's free but it gave me a headache so I'm not recommending it here) - leave your suggestions in the comments please!

That's it!

I was going to give tips on how not to look like an amateur but I thought that might put people off.  Just remember that these are not tools for their own sake but for COMMUNICATING your message.

It's the message, not the medium.


  1. Great information given in this post Candy :o)
    Here are a couple more photo editing options.
    All done online by uploading your image and adjusting it on site.

    Picnik makes your photos fabulous with easy to use yet powerful editing tools. Tweak to your heart’s content, then get creative with oodles of effects, fonts, shapes, and frames.
    It's fast, easy, and fun.
    (For WINDOWS)
    Freeware software for downloading. Easy to use. Allows manipulation and editing of images in many file types. Also allows you to compress the file size for websites with a plug-in.
    If required for commercial use, a very small fee is payable to use the software. I use Irfanview daily to view images without bothering to open Photoshop!

    IrfanView is a very fast, small, compact and innovative FREEWARE (for non-commercial use) graphic viewer for Windows 9x, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 2003 , 2008, Vista, Windows 7.

  2. There's Picasa too ... anyone want to share info on Picasa?

    I was going to talk about the two ways to display images but it seemed like too much code.


Comments are the heart and soul of the Slushpile community, thank you! We may periodically turn on comments approval when trolls appear.

Share buttons bottom