Since most photographers I know want to spend as much time shooting as possible and as little time on everything else, I’ve put together this overview of some of the fastest and most beneficial ways to get your photos into your wordpress blog.
Images and flash media such as videos and slideshows can be embedded into wordpress blog posts several ways. Each method has it’s own benefits, pitfalls and implied workflow. Here the pros and cons of several different methods…
Method #1 – WordPress Upload/Insert
This method is the wordpress default. It allows you to re-size, caption, link and embed a single image file (jpeg, gif, png, etc.) into a post by uploading it directly to your website or by pasting the image url from another website.
What it’s Good For
The built in wordpress media upload is great for single “one off” images or videos. It’s easy to use and a very flexible method for posting low resolution images that don’t need to be cataloged or archived. All of the images in this post were inserted using this method.
What’s it’s Bad For
It’s bad for dealing with lots of images over time because you can’t control how the images are organized on the server. Worse yet, it doesn’t work well for high resolution files because they’re large in file size and will kill your bandwidth when someone downloads them.
Generally speaking images uploaded using this method should be resized to a web-friendly resolution and sharpened to taste before putting them on your server. This of course means that you might need to create a separate copy of the photos specifically to upload to wordpress. The more versions of a single photo you have to manage, the harder it is to stay organized.
Method #2 – Flickr
Flickr offers huge benefits over the wordpress default. This option requires an account with Flickr (free or the $25/yr pro version) and either a matching wordpress plugin like Flickr Manager or the know-how to copy the static image URL from flickr’s image pages (instructions below).
What it’s Good For
Unlike option #1, Flickr allows you to organize and import large groups of high resolution photos as sets of images or flash embedded slideshows. If you’ve taken the time to properly tag (keyword) your photos and organize them into sets, all of that hard work will carry over straight into wordpress.
The screenshot below shows that the photo title, tags and description that were attached to the image in Flickr have all carried over into wordpress. Having this text around your photo increases the likelihood of google indexing your photos which is in turn good for SEO.
In addition to being good for organization and SEO, flickr is also good for getting traffic from flickr’s huge community of photographers to your website. If you simply include a link to your site in the description of each image, there is a more-than-good chance that interested parties will click through for a look at your other work.
Flickr also automatically makes several web-friendly versions of your images from your original file (see screenshot below). So, if your blog can take one of the sizes they create, it means that you can skip that entire process in your workflow.
Unlike the wordpress default, hosting the images with flickr doesn’t use your website bandwith.
What’s it’s Bad For
Even though professional photographers can (and most certainly should) tap into Flickr for its vibrant community base, the service remains solidly consumer level.
Chief among its shortcomings for professional photographers are its lack of image licensing and file distribution systems – even though a portion of the Flickr archive is searchable by Getty, image buyers cannot go to flickr.com, find a photo and license it without contacting the photographer directly. Even if a license is agreed upon, Flickr doesn’t have a secure means of completing the sale.
Furthermore, I don’t see image buyers flocking to Flickr to license photos because searching for quality images is currently too difficult. For instance a search for “wedding dress” returns 130,664 results that contain mostly amateur snapshots from people’s weddings with a handful of professional grade stock photos buried like needles in a haystack. Many of the images don’t even contain a dress.
Flickr also has some systemic characteristics that make it difficult to use professionally:
- No licensing system
- No image delivery system
- No customization. By default, images link back to your flickr page therefore removing your branding
- No watermarking system. If you want to watermark the images on your blog, you need to watermark the high res file before uploading it to flickr, which completely negates using flickr as an off-site backup for your archive.
- The dimensions of the web-friendly versions of your photos are locked which, depending on your blog layout, may prevent you from having the ideal image size.
- Flickr renames your files. Yup, you read it correctly. A photo of a red tea rose with an seo-friendly file name of “red-tea-rose.jpg” would be renamed to something like this “4150384447_170b9a229b.jpg.”
Method #3 – PhotoShelter
Even though PhotoShelter has been around for years, the ability to pull photos from your PhotoShelter image archive directly into a wordpress post is brand new. The implementation is still a bit rough around the edges, but I think it’s currently the best way to connect your blog to your salable archive of images.
You’ll need a PhotoShelter account (free or paid) and a subscription to Graph Paper Press (to download the customized PhotoShelter plugin for wordpress). You can also copy and paste the links to the images directly into your blog, just like Flickr.
What it’s Good For
What you get by integrating PhotoShelter with your wordpress blog is a fast, professional-grade, and e-commerce enabled system that offers many efficiencies over importing your photos using the wordpress default, Flickr or any combination thereof.
PhotoShelter will automatically resize, watermark and sharpen your images for the web; add your copyright and contact information to the file, and embed “click-to-purchase” functionality into every image on your blog. The kicker is that it does all this without so much as touching your original high res.
To put it another way…
PhotoShelter allows viewers to license your photos or buy prints simply by clicking on an image. Better yet, the buyer sees your brand identity throughout the entire purchase process.
To put it yet another way…
I think it’s the mutt’s nuts.
- Visitors can licensing photos or buy prints by clicking on single images or slideshows
- Ever improving SEO Optimization.
- Fairly fast for single images. Very fast for gallery slideshows
- Photos retain your branding from click to purchase
- Single upload. No additional copies of files
- Resulting image retains copyright and contact information when download (also see cons)
- Photos can be resized to any dimension.
- Watermarking is automatic
- Sharpening is automatic
- Conversion to sRGB is automatic (?)
- Does not use website bandwidth
- Name of original file not changed
- Photos and slideshows create rich backlinks to PhotoShelter archive, helping SEO
What’s it’s Bad For
Right now the PhotoShelter plugin for wordpress isn’t so much bad as it is unrefined. If beautiful plugins like Flickr Manager did not exist, I might not think the current version of the PhotoShelter plugin (v1.5) was an ugly clunker. But they do and it is.
I should also mention that installing the plugin reminded me of my childhood when I would read the system requirements on the bottom of the hottest new video game only to find out that my PC didn’t have enough memory.
If you’re like me, you don’t go shopping for a new web host every year to make sure you’re getting the most up to date features for the best price. Thus, since version 1.5 of the PhotoShelter plugin requires PHP5, CURL, WordPress 2.8.6 and CHMOD server access you’ll need to make absolutely sure your website host supports those features.
Despite getting low marks for looks, the plugin actually works really well.
- Plugin works, but it’s not pretty (as of version 1.5)
- Resulting image does not contain original title or description
- Plugin requirements are very specific.
- When looking for a specific image in your archive, the plugin currently only searches the filenames of your photos.
What’s the bottom line?
If you need to add seamless e-commerce to your blog images, the PhotoShelter + WordPress integration is a good way to go. I would even go so far as to say that you should consider switching webhosts if your current host does not meet the rather specific requirements of the plugin. Chances are, the profit made from your first blog sale will be more than enough to justify the time and effort.
Although I primarily switched to PhotoShelter for the e-commerce and SEO juice. The simple workflow has also saved me a boatload of time.
My Old Workflow
- Create a separate 600px copy of the image in Photoshop
- Sharpen the image with unsharp mask
- Watermark the image with a prerecorded action
- Save a copy of the new low res image to my hard drive
- Repeat steps 1-5 for each image using a batch action in Adobe Bridge
- Open Flickr Uploader. Upload batch of images to Flickr.
- Insert images into a new wordpress post using the Flickr Manager plugin
My New Workflow
After following the instructions to customize my PhotoShelter archive and installing the plugin, my workflow looks like this:
- Log into PhotoShelter account in Firefox. Upload images to Photoshelter
- Create a new Gallery from the upload
- Insert images into a new wordpress post using the PhotoShelter plugin
Head-to-Head Taste Test
One of the images below was lovingly sharpened and watermarked by hand before it was uploaded using my labor intensive Flickr workflow. The other image was resized and sharpened by some automatic process on the PhotoShelter server. Can you tell the difference?
Click on the images for the answer.
Best Practices for Photographers
In an ideal world there would be one service for photographers that securely archived our images, was huge with social media, and made selling photos as easy as clicking a button. Of course, this service would also have to be free.
Since we work in the real world, a more diverse and strategic approach is needed to reap the same rewards.
Since it’s very clear that blogging is good for business, I currently recommend using a service like PhotoShelter to host your image archive, sell photos and provide the low resolution versions for your blog. Since the social media life of your photos needs to be tapped into as well, I would also recommend posting your a selection of your best images to flickr.
In the end, both your blog and your flickr photos should point to your image archive – this will be good for SEO and image sales.
The PhotoShelter Plugin
The screenshot below shows the results of an image search within version 1.5 of the PhotoShelter WordPress plugin. There are four image sizes to choose from. The default size is 500px wide. The other three image sizes are completely customizable (see PhotoShelter Plugin Options screenshot).
The PhotoShelter Plugin Options Panel
Have a better way of posting photos or linking to your image archive? I’d love to hear it!