Stock Photos for Writers and Bloggers

If you already know the basics of using royalty free stock images, you can scroll down to skip the rhetoric and go straight to the recommended resources links. 😉

Why Writers and Bloggers Need Quality Images

visualizePictures may or may not be worth a thousand words, but using images is absolutely required for the modern writer.

  • Images draw attention.
  • Images enhance the words.
  • Images pull link juice

Though writers may prefer words, we write for our readers, and most readers prefer images and visual formatting for comfortable reading on multiple forms of media.  This is why writers must also consider fonts, font size, and white space.

Most forms of modern writing also need images either to support or enhance points or to give the eye an expected break.

For the online writer, images are also important for SEO and social networking.  (Make sure images are properly named, tagged, and formatted to generate visual appeal and link juice.)

The bottom line is that Writers and bloggers need good (and affordable) resources for quality royalty free images.

What Are Royalty Free Stock Photos?

Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder by Sherry Snider

One of my own images where the shot and text were more important than artistic quality

Ideally, we can create the required screenshots and photos ourselves, but in the real world, most of us are not professional photographers or illustrators.  At some point, we’ll have to defer to online resources to get appropriate and quality images for our work.

Royalty Free means you don’t have to keep paying royalties to the artist every time an image is used or accessed.

It’s important to make sure the photos are royalty free unless you or your company has the capability of paying royalties.

pencil pusher by Zsuzsanna Kilian on Stock.xchng

Pencil Pusher by Zsuzsanna Kilian on Stock.xchng

No Cost?

Royalty Free does NOT necessarily mean “free” to use.  There ARE many free images available for writers and bloggers – either totally free to use as needed, or free to use under creative commons or license agreements – usually with the agreement to credit the photographer or illustrator.

Flickr’s Creative Commons collection briefly describes most of the standard license agreements.

Just as many writers offer blog posts or sample chapters free to readers, many artists offer free images to boost links, name recognition, and to attract other work opportunities.


Kickin Back in the Redneck Recliner WheelbarrowThe price of paying for stock images usually removes the need to credit sources.  You’re paying for the right to use the image as needed.

In my experience, the best quality images are usually on paid/paying sites.  With that said, however, I DO need quality images.  I may NOT need the BEST quality images.

Depending on the specific need or use, I may still choose a quality image I can get for free over a super high quality image that will cost me.   It depends on the project.  If it’s a high profile / high return project, I don’t mind investing a few dollars on a great image by a professional photographer or artist.

Some of the really high quality images can be expensive – beyond the comfortable budget of most writers and bloggers, but most are reasonably priced.  With pay-as-you-go and credit purchasing systems, high quality royalty free images can be purchased between $1-5

Where to Get Stock Photos

There are LOTS of online resources for royalty-free stock photos, both free and purchased.  I’ve experimented and tried multiple stock photo and stock image sites over the years.  As friends and colleagues recommend new resources, I also try those, so the resources listed here may change as I find new options.

I won’t even attempt to list ALL the resources I’ve tried.  Instead, since folks frequently ask me about my favorite online resources for images, I’ll list just those…the ones I still use and recommend.  Then, since we all have different favorites, I’ll list a few links that recommend even more sites.

As with all paid, but especially FREE royalty-free images, DO verify the terms of service and license conditions.  Make sure you ONLY use the images as allowed.

Paid Sources:

To Purchase Royalty Free Images

Always check the specific terms of use for purchased images.

Free Sources:

Under License Agreements, Royalty Free Images

Always double-check for no known copyright restrictions.

Public Domain Clipart Sites

Other Tips and Resources:

When You Still Can’t Find An Image

If you still can’t find an appropriate image or photo, you can use one of the online services to commission a photo or illustration.  Colleagues and I have all had varying levels of success with the following:

I also like to hire local photographers when I need exceptionally good quality photos.  If I need a very specific photo of a very specific item – in a very high quality image, it’s best to defer to the professionals who already have all the proper equipment ready to shoot.

Your Favorites?

How about you?  Do you use the same resources I listed, or do you have other favorites I should try?  How about freelancers on Elance, ODesk, or Fiverr?  Do you have any favorites to refer?

Embedding YouTube Videos into WordPress Using the Free Smart Youtube PRO Plugin

Using the free Smart Youtube PRO plugin, you can easily embed YouTube videos into WordPress.  (Note:  A PDF version of the following instructions is available through this link.)

1.  From your WordPress Dashboard, open the Plugins, then click Add New.

2.  Search for Smart Youtube PRO.  When it appears in the results, click Install Now.

3.  After installation completes, make sure you activate the plugin.

4.  With the Smart Youtube PRO plugin installed and activated, you just need to go to the YouTube video you’d like to embed and click Share.  Copy the link code to share.

5.  Pick a spot where you’d like to embed the video, then click the HTML tab.


6.  Paste the link code into the appropriate spot, then add the letter v after http

Back under the Visual tab, the link code looks the same as you pasted and modified it under the HTML tab.

7.  When you preview the post, you can see where the YouTube video was embedded.



Change the Heading and Navigation Button Font Colors in the SimpleFolio Theme

Since I am a technical writer – not a coder, this one took me a while to figure out.  With some help from search engines, forums, and some awesome blogging friends, we found all the spots to change in the Simplefolio WordPress theme to change the colors of the Heading and Navigation Button fonts.

With the instructions below, you should be able to change the heading and nav button font colors in minutes.

The default in the Simplefolio theme is a very cool steele blue-ish color that I actually really like, but for my new site, I needed the headings and nav buttons to be a red color to match the logo and banner images.

(I used Paint Shop Pro to select the red color from the images and get the hex code, #ef2123.  You can also use several free tools online to select a color and get the corresponding hex code.  I kind of like the Hex Color Code Generator on  They have a color wheel tool at the bottom that also provides complimentary colors.)

Change the Heading and Nav Button Font Colors in the Simplefolio Theme

In WordPress, go to the Dashboard and select Appearance>Editor.  The Stylesheet (style.css) usually displays by default.  If not, select it from the column on the right.

Find the following 4 pieces of code in style.css and change the hex code for the text colors.  In the example below, I’ve changed the code to ef2123 for a red color that matches my logo and banner images.

1.        ……..near the top………………………………………………..
a:link,a:visited,a:active {


2.       …….about 35 lines lower………………………………………..
#header #pagenav {
/* Superfish – Menu Styles */
.sf-menu, .sf-menu * {z-index: 9999999 !important;}
.sf-menu, .sf-menu * {margin:0;padding:0;list-style:none;}
.sf-menu { margin-top:20px;}
.sf-menu ul {position:absolute;top:-999em;width:10em; /* left offset of submenus need to match (see below) */}
.sf-menu ul li {width:100%;}
.sf-menu li:hover {visibility:inherit; /* fixes IE7 ‘sticky bug’ */}
.sf-menu li {float:left;position:relative;}
.sf-menu a {display:block;position:relative;}
.sf-menu li:hover ul,.sf-menu li.sfHover ul {left:0;top:2.2em; /* match top ul list item height */z-index:99;}
ul.sf-menu li:hover li ul,ul.sf-menu li.sfHover li ul {top:-999em;}
ul.sf-menu li li:hover ul,ul.sf-menu li li.sfHover ul {left:12.8em; /* match ul width */top:0;}
ul.sf-menu li li:hover li ul,ul.sf-menu li li.sfHover li ul {top:-999em;}
ul.sf-menu li li li:hover ul,ul.sf-menu li li li.sfHover ul {left:10em; /* match ul width */top:0;}
.sf-menu {float:left;margin-bottom:1em;}
.sf-menu a {padding: 10px;text-decoration:none;}
.sf-menu a, .sf-menu a:visited,.sf-menu a, .sf-menu a:link  { color: #ef2123; }
.sf-menu li {font-size:18px;}
.sf-menu li a:hover {border-bottom:1px solid #d2d2cf;outline:0;}
.sf-menu li ul {background:#d2d2cf;border:1px solid #bbbbb8;opacity: .85;filter: alpha(opacity=85);    -ms-filter: “alpha(opacity=85)”;-khtml-opacity: .85;-moz-opacity: .85;}
.sf-menu li ul li {font-size:14px;}
.sf-menu li ul li a:link,.sf-menu li ul li a:visited { color:#454545;}
.sf-menu li ul li a:hover {border:0;background:#fff;}
.sf-menu li ul li ul { background-color:#e2e2e2; border:1px solid #d1d1cc;opacity: .85;filter: alpha(opacity=85);    -ms-filter: “alpha(opacity=85)”;-khtml-opacity: .85;-moz-opacity: .85;}
.sf-menu li ul li ul li a:link,.sf-menu li ul li ul li a:visited { color:#000;}
.sf-sub-indicator { padding:0; margin:0;}


3.       …….and a little less than half way down………………………
#main .container .content .title {


4.        ……..a couple of lines lower……………………………………………………………….
#main .container .content h1,#main .container .content h2,#main .container .content h3,#main .container .content h4 {


Make sure you click Update File to retain the changes.

How to Share Multiple (but not all) LastPass Sites and Login Info

lastpass vault iconWhat to do when you want to share specific sites and login info, but not ALL the records you keep in LastPass

You can, of course, go to your LastPass Vault and one-by-one click SHARE to allow your partners or VAs to access those sites with your login information.  If you have hundreds of sites you’d like to share, but a few you DON’T want to share (like your bank account login), you can select multiple sites with a check box to share all at once.

Bulk Share Specific Items

Instructions are listed below, or you can access the PDF version here which includes larger images in a standard page size.

1.  From your LastPass Vault, click the Account Settings link near the top right corner.

vault account settings

2.  Technically, you don’t need to open your account settings, but it also opens the sites with the checkbox option.  Go ahead and close the actual Edit Settings box.

close Edit Settngs box

3.  With the Sites tab already open, just check the boxes for the sites you’d like to share…then click the Share Selected action link.

Share Selected

4.  Enter the following:

  • Email addresses of those with whom you’d like to share.  Separate multiple email addresses with a comma or semicolon.
  • Modify the default “shared” message if you’d like.
  • Select the Share or Give mode.
  • Select the data you’d like to share.
  • Click the SHARE button to send a notification email to those with whom you’ve just shared information.

share lastpass

Limiting Who Can See Your Posts on Google Plus

Limited view options on Google Plus are very appealing to those of us with multiple social and professional circles.  But, let’s face it.  My disc golf friends won’t care at all about geeky link I post for my tech writing friends, but I can limit each post to specific people or circles.  This way, I can target individual shares to the people who are interested and avoid flooding everyone else’s stream with junk.

The ability to share on Google+ with a limited view / group of people (rather than to all your followers, circles, or the public at large) is fantastic.   Instructions on how to use features generally stink on social media platforms.  Since folks have been asking about limited view sharing on Google+, I thought I’d share what I know thus far.

There are two ways that I know of to limit who can see a Google+ post…sharing with a circle and/or sharing with individuals.  Click here for a pdf version of the instructions below.

Sharing with a Circle

First, you can create a circle with just the folks who’d be interested in the topic …and share with that circle of people.

Create a Circle

1.  Once you’ve logged in to Google+, click on Circles (in the row of buttons across the top) and either click the Create Circle button or hover over the Drop Here to Create a Circle / Create Circle option below.


2.  Name the circle with something descriptive like Disc Golf Buddies, then start dragging the people you want (who fit the description) into that circle.

 Sharing with a Circle

1.  With the circle created, go back to your stream (the home looking icon in the row across the top).

2.  Click in the box that prompts you to “Share what’s new…” so you can type or paste whatever you’d like to share.

3.  If you want to share a Google+ post with just the members of on specific circle,  first click the Xs on the default folks you share with …to get rid of the defaults like Public, Your circles (all of them), and Extended circles.


 4.  From there, you can click the +Add more people or +Add names, circles, or email addresses link to add a circle or individual people.

Sharing with Individuals

Adding individuals rather than a “circle” is the second way to identify who can see the post.

1.  If you want to add individuals as well as a group to the limited visibility to the post, click the +Add more people link and start typing the name.


2.  As the name starts to appear in the drop down menu, you can select the person you want to add.

For Notification Purposes

I actually add individuals even if I already have them included in the group.

At the time of this writing, I think if the individual name is added, that person will get a notification from Google+ about the post.  I don’t think members of a circle get a notification.

The post is visible to the group I added …if they go looking through the stream for anything I’ve made visible to them, but adding individuals seems to work much better if I want to make sure someone in particular on Google+ sees it.

You can also add individuals within the post…like tagging in other social networks.  Start typing the plus symbol and the name like I started tagging my friend, Cathy…  +Ca

I do this if I’m posting on Google+ and really want the folks in that circle to see it.

When I add the tagged names in the post, it automatically adds the individual names to the visibility box.

I haven’t been able to tell a difference between adding an individual in the post/tagging and just adding an individual in the Add Circles, People, etc. box, but either way you limit the view, when you click Share, the only people who’ll be able to see the post are the ones you specified…individually or in the circle.