If you like to use images in your blogs but don’t have the time to create your own, Creative Commons has likely been a huge help to you. The fact that there are thousands of artists willing to share their millions of photos, paintings and drawings with you and your site, for free, is an overwhelming thought.
But using Creative Commons is not a simple task. You have to first find the work you want to use, resize it so that it fits in your blog and then provide proper attribution, something that is rarely done correctly.
By the time all of this is done, many prefer to use the stock.xchng or similar sites to avoid these issues. However, a new WordPress plugin, Photo Dropper, seeks to make life easier for those wanting to use Creative Commons images. The plugin automates the entire process of using a CC-licensed image, including the scaling and attribution.
The process is so simple that it is even easier than using WordPress’ built-in media uploader and takes only a few seconds to complete. It could easily be the best thing to happen to image-hungry bloggers and to CC-loving artists in a very long time.
How it Works
The first step is using Photo Dropper is to install the WordPress plugin. This is a process that every WordPress user should be familiar with, save those using a free WordPress.com account, but directions are also provided on the Photo Dropper site if needed.
Once the plugin is installed and activated, you first have to edit the options for the plugin. The options themselves are very straightforward, consisting of only five things, setting the number of images displayed, selecting whether to only search for ones available for commercial use, sorting by “most interesting” and adding HTML code before and after the insert.
Once you’ve set your options, the interface appears on your write screen below your editor.
As shown above, it allows you to search for a keyword you are interested in, such as “pirate” in this case.You hit search and it pulls up a thumbnail gallery of applicable images.
Below each image is a series of options. The first pops the image out full size in a new window, making it easier to view. The other letters represent “small”, “medium” and “large” and generate the code to insert the image into your post.
For example, if you click “Medium” on one of the images, you get a new image in your post that looks like this:
As you can see, the image is sized correctly for the blog and contains the attribution directly below the image, rather than at the footer of the post. The attribution is formatted well and is compliant with both Flickr and Creative Commons requirements.
All totaled, Photo Dropper makes it possible, with just two clicks of the mouse, to put in legal free images into any of your blog posts or pages. All by working with the well-documented Flickr API.
Why this is Great
The beauty behind this service goes well beyond just bloggers obtaining free images for their site. Rather, this also helps content creators, specifically photographers that post their work on Flickr and license it under a Creative Commons License.
As I’ve talked about before, one of the biggest issues with Creative Commons is that the license is very rarely followed to the letter. This plugin, however, ensures that the photo is attributed correctly and in the proper manner, including links back to the creator and the image itself, all of which are search-engine friendly.
By making it easy for bloggers to do not just the right thing, but also the legal one, the plugin encourages the behavior and will cause more bloggers to follow the letter of the license. This, in turn, should result in more bloggers taking advantage of CC-licensed images and in more links and recognition for CC artists.
Though the plugin, overall, is a great tool, it has its share of limitations as well.
- Only Supports Flickr: Though Flickr is a great repository of CC-licensed artwork, it is not the only one on the Web. Though Flickr was a great choice to start with, it would be nice to see other sites added in the future.
- Limited Control: Outside of adding HTML before and after the image, you have very little control over how it displays. This can make it difficult to fit into your site without some effort.
- Difficult Searching: The search feature is great if you find what you’re looking for almost immediately. Otherwise, going through a large number of images can be a pain. You practically are forced to change the number of thumbnails before use and more advanced search tools would make a big difference.
- WordPress-Only: Currently Photo Dropper exists only as a WordPress plugin, meaning those that use other platforms, or even WordPress.com, are not able to take advantage of it. Plugins for other platforms as well as a Web-based version that generates the code for easy copy/paste for those who can’t use plugins would also be a huge help.
- Slowness: This is an issue with Flickr, not Photo Dropper, but sometimes search can be very sluggish. The Flickr API is not very quick and, when combined with the searching issues, can make for a long search time.
However, the negative aspects, for the most part, are significantly outweighed by the positive aspects. Since the plugin is free, it makes sense to install it and see if it works for you. If it doesn’t, simply deactivate the plugin and move on; if it does, you may have easy access to a large number of images that are free for you to license.
I try to cover legal alternatives because the more that are available and the easier they are to use, the fewer excuses that plagiarists and scrapers have. Every legal alternative is another weapon against content theft and a way for people to support and help content creators.
Personally, I am very excited about this service. Though it has flaws, it solves at least two of the major problems with Creative Commons, namely the issues with providing proper attribution and formatting, and it makes great headway into solving the issue of finding good work to use.
Most likely, if you watch this site, you’ll see a couple of Photo Dropper images in various articles as time goes on. Though I favor my own screenshots to illustrate the articles I write, in cases where that is not appropriate, I may use Photo Dropper to add images in as fitting.
All in all, Photo Dropper is a great tool that I look forward to using as needed. It may not make regular appearances on the site, but I do have a feeling you will see it again…