April 11, 2012

Wanna have a great photoblog?

This and the next two posts are on the special features of photoblogs, their design aspects and tips on maintaining them. Just to refresh some basic fundas, you may like to see the ITB series on images on blogs posted earlier.

What are photoblogs?

Photoblogs are blogs [or websites maintained as blogs] that have photographs as their main content. Generally these don't have much written matter.
All blogs with photos or those maintained by photographers need not be photoblogs. Similarly, travel blogs with a large number of photos are also not photoblogs by the definition that we are using in these posts.

What text should accompany a photo in a photoblog?

You can have all or some of the following types of text in your photoblog. Blogger and Wordpress give options to add title, caption, alt text, and a brief description at the time of uploading the image or later. 

  • Title
  • Caption
  • Alt text
  • Technical information
  • Description
  • Attribution [if not own photos]
  • Terms of use / commercial information
  • Watermark

Title of a photo is like title of an article: it describes the photo in a few words, giving limelight to the best aspect(s) of the photo. 
Caption is a brief description of the photo. It should be catchy but not so witty that it confuses or leads to irrelevant inferences. Usually placed at the bottom of the photo.
Alt text is the hidden text that identifies the image to the web browsers and search engines. It is part of the html/xhtml that goes with the image tag. A relevant alt text helps in better search visibility for the image and the blog. It also identifies the photo when image display is disabled on the browser and is read out by screen readers for the visually challenged.
Technical information would include camera, shutter speed, light conditions, f-aperture, zoom, date of shoot,  etc.
Description can be a small phrase or a para accompanying a single photo or a series of them. 

A description bigger than that is likely to take away the special charm of the photoblog. The description can be used to create a mood around the photo / series; describe the locale or event; tell things about the photo or its constituents that the photo cannot tell; and so on.
You must attribute photos if your blog contains ones that are not yours. You must seek permission from the original owner of the photo and write below the photo ‘courtesy: <name of the owner>’. Even when you use royalty-free photo from the web, you must attribute the photo to the website or as instructed there. Creative Commons terms must be followed if a photo with CC licence is used from the web.
You may not give terms of use of a photo in a general blog, but you must not miss it in a photoblog. If you sell photos, do write your quote or give a link to a page where you have the commercial details.

Watermark is the identification that is superimposed on the photo so that others do not copy it without authorisation. If you have placed very high quality photos on the blog and you don’t want others to use them free of cost, you can do so in many ways. For example, post clean photos [=without watermark] but use low resolution on the main page and link them to high quality watermarked photos when somebody clicks on them. Or, directly post high quality but watermarked photos on the main page. You must, at some stage, give the terms of use so that a prospective buyer knows how to get that photo.
Title, caption and alt text might look the same, but they are not – both in functionality and display. Caption is visible along the photo while title shows up when you hover cursor over the photo. In absence of other identifiers, search engines will use the title. Alt text, as described above, shows up when the image display is off for any reason. Since search engines are reported to give high weightage to alt text, it should have key words that will give the image a high search visibility. On the other hand, caption should add value to the photo when it is read while viewing the photo. Title should describe the photo in brief. A lengthy description attached to photo is not always desirable. 
In this series:
1.Photoblog defined; use of text with photos (this post)
2.Designs for photo websites and photoblogs
3.Placement of photos in blogs; blog-layout, categories, etc