Improving Your Website With Pictures

January 3, 2010
'NeXTstation Turbo Color 33MHz' by blakespot (via Flickr). CC BY licence.

'NeXTstation Turbo Color 33MHz' by blakespot (via Flickr). CC BY licence.

One of the things I’ve been trying to do lately is improve my web design skills and keep my eyes open for sites that I like or that do things in an interesting way.

One observation I’ve made is that most of the blogs that I prefer always use some sort of stock image for each of their entries.

One of my concerns about doing this myself has been the licensing ramifications of using pictures from the Internet. I’m certainly not in a position to take pictures of a relevant item for each topic myself. This is where a site like Sprixi.com is most useful. Sprixi is a relatively new search engine (they are still in beta) for images that generally have a simple-to-use license. The neat thing about it is that in addition to having links explaining the licenses in a very simple way. They can also add a credit to the bottom of the image, as you can see here.

I’ve decided to double credit the image just to stay on the safe side and as an experiment for how the image will look. They have a wide variety of images. There is a legal warning for a variety of types of images.The part that caught my eye though was:

We warn you to be careful using images of people and children, especially for commercial purposes. You will most likely need to get a “model release” from the people in the image otherwise you could be infringing on a right of privacy or publicity. Do not assume the subjects of photos have consented to have their image used for anything. The same goes for images of private property, events, landmarks, attractions, artworks and copyrighted material.

So this is not a cure-all for all the legal obligations that you could be put under, so be careful before using the site. However, this site is much better than using Google Images and stealing something from there without attribution.

I’m still a bit torn about how this picture looks with the current WordPress system I’m using, so I still haven’t decided if I’ll keep doing them. It is a nice experiment to try.

Do you have any favorite sites for images or other types of content? How about other cool design tips? Let me know in the comments.


Was That Photoshopped? (For the true techs)

December 14, 2008

I hesitated posting this because a lot of the surrounding information is technical, so technical that even I didn’t understand all of it. However, I think this information is so interesting it is worth putting out there and letting you decide what it is worth to you.

As I understand it, here’s one method some of the experts use for figuring out if a picture has been digitally offered. This PDF written by Neal Krawetz describes the process of analyzing JPGs in a couple of different ‘spectra.’  These spectra are actually an analysis of the error level of an image.

When you save a file in the JPG format you are losing some of the data. Different quality JPGs mean that more or less data from the original image has been saved from the file. During the process of making edits to an image, the material that is inserted is almost always at a different error rate than the orignal file that existed.

This, however, is not something that would be readily recognizable to the naked eye. There is a program that will allow you to analyze the different levels of error by implementing it on a heat map. Take a look at the link for an example. This program is pretty simple to operate simply open the program. Click on file –> open. Select your picture, and then adjust the bottom bar to a few different locations. It may take a couple of different settings to be able to find the right setting to get the best view of it. Finally, concentrations of unusual color will be suspicious, and are the most likely areas to be altered.

I should mention that I did have some stability problems with this program on Windows Vista, so I’m not sure if that’s a problem with the operating system or the program. It is something to keep in mind.

Wired also has an excellent post and was able to speak to Neal Krawetz about his method.

So beware when you alter that image, most likely someone out there can call you out on it, and now so can you.


Historic Times Call for Historic Measures

November 5, 2008

On this day following the election of the first African-American President, it somehow seemed appropriate to discuss a couple of interesting online ways that you can preserve some of your thoughts and content for release many years from now.

The first and most interesting is something called Keo. This is a project to send a container into space for 50,000 years with vast amounts of data are etched onto glass disks. Now, the cool thing about this project is that you can include up to 4 pages of content to be sent up. They have a very interesting FAQ on how this will actually work. Right now the deadline to have your content included is December 31, 2009, so you have a little bit of time to get your content uploaded on to the site.

Some people might argue that an election be a minor point to consider 50,000 years from now, but I think it might be interesting to see the transfer of governmental power was done.

For something with a bit shorter time frame to be aware of is an internet time capsule that was done by Yahoo that is set to be open in 2025. It is already closed, so more data can be added to it, but if you added to it originally and forgot about it (like I did), you can see the countdown running down.

Even shorter than that is a service offered by PhotoJojo called aptly Time Capsule. While I have not used it myself, it says that they will send you two pictures from your Flickr account to your e-mail that you have taken over a year ago. If you have a large collection of pictures that you don’t get to look at often, this is a good way to remember some of the great (or not so great shots) that you have taken. Flickr, but the way, it is a highly regarded photo hosting service where you can keep an impressive number of pictures online for free, and even more for a fee. They have a number of good features that may be worth checking out for you.

If you have any ideas for other ways to preserve your historic thoughts, let me know in the comments.