It’s not essential for every blog post to have a featured image, but a relevant, eye-catching, and compelling image enriches the reader’s experience and helps to make a post more noticeable — and clickable — on social media.
I like to add an image to every blog post I publish. Sometimes they’re directly related to the content, sometimes the only relationship is a vague association between the subject of the post and the picture, and sometimes I include an image just because I think it looks cool.
I write a lot of blog posts, which means searching through hundreds of images on both free and paid stock image sites, and, if the post is for my personal blog, searching through my own image catalogue.
For the most part I use free image sites: those that make images available under a Creative Commons license or in the public domain. The quality of public domain and CC images has improved enormously over the last few years, largely thanks to sites like Unsplash, which list the work of professional photographers.
But it’s not enough to rely solely on Unsplash and its peers. Everyone knows about these sites, which means the same images appear on dozens of posts. If you want originality, it’s a good idea to create your own images or throw the net a little wider.
For a long time, my WordPress image workflow wasn’t well organized. I’d finish a post, open up five or six image hosting sites in tabs, and spend the next twenty minutes running searches and perusing the results until I found the perfect image.
Today, I use three WordPress plugins that let me integrate WordPress with my most frequently used image sources.
I use Adobe’s Lightroom to organize my personal image collection, and until recently there was no easy way to integrate my Lightroom collection and the WordPress Media Library.
I was very happy when Automattic released Lightroom To Adobe, a WordPress plugin that allows Lightroom users to choose and import images from within the WordPress dashboard.
If you want to use this plugin, you’ll need a WordPress.com account and have the Jetpack plugin installed.
I’ve already talked about how much I enjoy using Unsplash, and although I’m an admirer of the Unsplash interface, I prefer to be able to search for images from within WordPress.
Instant Images is a straightforward WordPress / Unsplash integration, allowing users to search the Unsplash catalogue and upload images to their Media Library.
This plugin is also great for WordPress developers who need filler or demo images.
When Unsplash doesn’t deliver or I want some variety, I use the Image Inject plugin, which performs a similar function to Instant Images, but includes both Flickr Creative Commons and images from Pixabay.
Neither source offers the same guaranteed high-quality images as Unsplash, but there are plenty of diamonds in the rough. Before Unsplash, Flickr CC search was my go-to source for blog images.
With these plugins, my image-searching workflow is more efficient, and I spend less time trawling through image hosting websites and more time writing.