Finding photos to include in your blog posts can be a major headache.
Not only do you have to find images that are both appropriate for your site content wise and license-wise, but, depending on the license, you may have to attribute the photo in a certain way to avoid unwittingly infringing the rights of the photographer.
Though some sites, such as Morguefile (previous coverage) and Stock.xchng (previous coverage) offer free stock photos that you can use without concern, the libraries are generally limited and it may be difficult to find the photo you want or need.
Fortunately, there are millions of Creative Commons and other openly-licensed or public domain photos out there you can use. However, finding those photos and putting them into your blog legally can be a challenge. This is why a slew of services have cropped up over the years to make such licensing easier including Wylio, Xpert, OpenAttribute and, most relevant to WordPress bloggers, PhotoDropper (to name just a few).
It’s in that crowded field that Foter enters, hoping to carve out a niche. But can the service hope to compete and what can it provide that others can’t? I gave Foter a try to see if I could find out.
How to Use Foter
There are two ways to use Foter, the first is through the site itself and the second is through the WordPress plugin.
The site itself functions like most other stock photo sites. However, instead of searching an internal library of images, Foter looks through a variety of sites with open-licensed creations including Flickr, Wikimedia commons and more.
On the site you can select to look at images available for commercial or non-commercial use and choose how to sort the image results. Once you’ve found an image that you’re interested in, you can then click it and you’re presented with a variety of ways to get the image into your blog.
The easiest way is to simply click the “Add to Blog” Button and copy and, there, select the image size that you want and its alignment. From there, you just copy the code and paste it into your blog.
However, using this method means that the image will be hosted on Foter’s server, not yours. Should something happen to Foter, all of the image URLs will break. Most bloggers will want to host the image themselves and, using their server. The easiest way to do that is to download the image of the correct size and copy the HTML code to paste it either below the image, at the end of the post or, for WordPress users, in the “Caption” field in your media manager (which is what I did with the image at the top of this article).
WordPress users, hwoever, will likely want to check out the Foter plugin, which functions much like the Foter site but automatically hosts and creates the HTML for the images, including attribution information.
Unfortunately, the plugin has three limitations when compared to the site:
- Licensing: Foter doesn’t allow you to select images for commercial use, forcing you to read the license for every image.
- Sorting: There’s no way to adjust the sorting of images in the plugin, unlike with the site version.
- Resizing: Foter’s plugin doesn’t allow unlimited resizing of images, instead, limiting you to the pre-defined sizes you designated in WordPress.
In short, the WordPress plugin is likely much more convinient than the site for WordPress users, but it’s also less powerful, making it a decision every user has to weigh on an a case-by-case basis.
Still, the question remains, should Foter become your source for images?
Is Foter Worthwhile?
For what Foter is, it performs its tasks very well. It’s a good tool for finding available images and importing them into your blog, with proper attribution.
For me personally, the lack of commercial use filtering makes the plugin a non-starter. It simply takes too much time to find images I like only to learn that they are not licensed in a way that I’m comfortable using.
The site, however, remains easy to use and does a decent job helping me find the images I want and attributing them correctly. I’ve been dabbling with it off and on for the site when my traditional sources of images have failed and, during those tests, I’ve found it to be worthwhile.
But this doesn’t mean I’m going to rush to make Foter my default source of images. Morguefile, for example, makes it easy to find free stock photos that don’t require attribution or extra HTML and also helps resize them for me.
It’s simply faster, cleaner and easier to use other sources. However, this isn’t a limitation with Foter, but with Creative Commons and any attribution-required license.
Foter could alleviate this some by helping to find public domain images and then not adding attribution lines to those images, but given that the plugin doesn’t even help discriminate between commercial and non-commercial images, it’s tough to see that happening.
In the end, the best audience for Foter is people who currently use Photodropper and are having trouble with the plugin, which hasn’t been updated to work with version 3.5 of WordPress, an update that drastically changed the media manager.
Otherwise, Foter is a capable service entering a crowded marketplace without a great deal to distinguish it from its alternatives or offer something better than other approaches.
To be clear, I like Creative Commons and I like Foter. I think CC licenses are great and that Foter is a solid way to find CC-licensed images.
However, I feel that Foter is entering into a crowded marketplace without bringing something truly new and the marketplace it’s entering may already be beaten by another marketplace that offers a better deal for bloggers.
What Foter, or any other company entering this field, needs to be thinking about is exceptional ways to use CC-licensed images, integreate them into blogging and create something that even stock photo sites can’t create. While finding images and helping users attribute them correctly is great, it’s only part of the equation.
There’s room for new and big ideas here and I want to see them, whether it comes from Foter, Photodropper or someone else.