While most of the posts on Rising Voices cover the latest achievements of our grantee projects, we also want to offer readers hands-on tips to make citizen media easier to create in the developing world. As the saying goes, a photo can speak a thousands words. In this post we'll review some new online tools that make editing images and sharing them online easy and fun.
As a citizen journalist you will be using a lot of photos for your reports, blogs and photo blogs.
What I will discuss here today is specially targeted for the citizen journalists who work on computers with low bandwidth internet connections. Large and high resolution images eat up a lot of bandwidth, which means it will take longer both to upload your images to the internet and longer for your local readers to load the webpage. It only takes a second to download a 100KB image using T1 connection but for the same image it can take more than a minute with a 14.4k dial-up connection.
By optimizing your pictures, you can save both your own time and that of your readers while still publishing attractive and compelling photographs. The JPEG (Joint Photographic Expert Group, pronounced “jay-peg”) format is the standard for working with compressed photographs online.
The megapixel myth
Digital cameras have become much more affordable in recent times, and many mobile phones also have cameras that allow photographs to be saved and uploaded to the web via USB cable or MMS (similar SMS, but with photo or video).
Some new cameras often charge more because they have more megapixels, but what actually does that actually mean?
Ken Rockwell says:
It's all a myth because the number of megapixels (MP) a camera has, has very little to do with how the image looks. Even worse, plenty of lower MP cameras can make better images than poorer cameras with more MP.
(Image courtesy: Logan S.)
The most important thing about shooting photographs is the use of light and composition. A three megapixel camera is enough if you do not want to print a large version of your photo. A five megapixel camera has little difference with a three megapixel camera in quality but a lot in price.
And most importantly the more megapixels an image has, the more space it takes up, and the longer it takes to upload to the web. A three megapixel image takes up an average of 500KB space in JPG format whereas a five megapixel image will take up an average of three times more (1500KB). So use lower megapixel settings in your camera if you have to upload photos with a slow net speed. Or, alternatively, you can optimize your photos so that they are smaller in file size before you upload them to the internet.
The best way to get your images ready for the internet is by optimizing them. There are many online and offline image editing tools available. While online image editors like Picnik and Photoshop Express offer many of the same features as expensive software you have to install on your computer, the web pages take a long time to load on slow internet connections. If you are able to install software on your computer, Picasa is a great free image editor and organizer by Google which easily allows you to upload photos to Picasa Web Albums, a free photo-sharing service. Picopti offers some tips on how to improve your photographs using Picasa.
The best way to reduce the size of your photos is to resize them. A three megapixel photo will have 2048 X 1536 pixels and will take a space of about 500KBs. If you reduce that to 500 X 375 pixels you will see that the size has reduced to almost 100KB and with tools like Adobe Photoshop or Picasa you can even reduce it futher to 20Kbs or less, though this can affect the quality of the image.
(Image courtesy: Oso)
If you don’t have the software on the PC in a cyber cafe, don’t worry. You can even do it with MS paint, which is included for free on Windows. Try image-> stretch/skew-> 25% – horizontal / 25%- vertical (or other attributes) and save the result. See how the image size is reduced.
Now while posting the picture in your blog you can adjust the length and width with the tools in your blogging platform. If you want to do it manually according to your need you can use this tutorial about adjusting height and width and using the align=”left” “right” or “center” tags. You can also directly link to the source of the photo from another website (or your photo archive in Flickr). It is advisable to only use the same or a smaller version of the image when using these adjustments. Remember if you make the photos look bigger than their actual size, the image quality will be very poor.
If you have multiple photos in a page you can use the tools of blogging platforms like WordPress or Blogger to upload the picture and posting thumbnails. By posting “thumbnails” (smaller versions of the original photograph), you can let your readers load your web page faster and then click on the images that interest them to see them in larger sizes.
It is important to use the ALT tag to describe each image so that it shows up in search returns as well as make your blog more accessible to blind users who depend on programs that read the text of a web page aloud.
Postings other’s images and copyright issues
If you want to post others’ pictures in your blog, you can use photo sharing sites like Flickr to search for a suitable image. But one thing you need to be aware of is that those pictures are the property of others. So before using them you need to get their permission.
Increasingly, people are assigning creative commons licenses to reserve their rights while also letting people use the photos for free under some conditions. The most important of these conditions is the attribution policy. That means you have to give the creator of the image credit in the manner specified by the license. Another important condition is to mention whether the photos can be used for non-commercial purposes.
Usually personal blogs are non-commercial initiatives so crediting the photo owner saves you a lot of trouble if you are not sure of the license or can’t contact the author. The author will contact you if he/she feels you are violating his/her right and the photo can be taken down. But it is always important to give credit where credit is due.
You can upload, organize, and share your photographs using Picasa Web, Flickr, and Photobucket. All three websites allow you to easily publish the photos you upload onto your blog. A list of more photo sharing websites is available on Wikipedia.