3 Free Photo Tools for Author Bloggers

by | Sep 5, 2012

It seems like a lot of the things we do online now revolve around images, videos and other types of digital media that augment, amplify or otherwise complement the written word which is, after all, our stock in trade as writers.

For instance, if you want to take the advice of many bloggers, you’ll plan to include images with all your posts.

People just like pictures, they exert a powerful attraction which can help make sure your articles get read in the first place.

I’ve written here before about good sources for photos to use in your books or on your blog. Today I want to take a look at three tools you may not know about that can improve your work with photos and other kinds of illustrations.

And we might even have fun along the way.


Photopin.com is a tool that helps you access the huge inventory of images on Flickr, the internet’s largest image hosting site.

The site presents you with a very streamlined look, just a search bar on top of a pile of snapshots (which are live images, by the way, different every time you go there).

blog photos

They advertise the site as “free photos for bloggers & creatives,” and it seems to have been designed very well. They seem to have put everything you would want as a user into Photopin, and nothing you don’t need.

I searched on “Boston Terrier.” The search results will give you a chance to filter the images based on Creative Commons licensing, a necessity for anyone wanting to use someone else’s images legally and fairly.

The results screen is beautiful and easy to use, with some great enhancements. You can hover over the generously-sized thumbnails to get a better look at the image.


If you want to download the image, click the “Get photo” button and a beautiful “Select an image size” dialog pops up with all your choices for pixel sizes, along with the link code for the license in a box where you can highlight and copy it for placement in your blog article. I love that!

So, with three clicks you select, download, and get the licensing code for an image. That’s impressive, and the site runs quickly, too.

Photopin is now my default for searching images on Flickr, and it’s a joy to use.

Free Online Photoeditor

Although you can find free image editing software online, sometimes you just want a quick tool to do some basic image manipulation like sizing and cropping.

For instance, all the header images here have to be sized and then cropped to 530 pixels x 275 pixels. You can always use the tools that are built into WordPress, and sometimes when I’m traveling I’ve been forced to do so, but it’s not much fun. Does slow and tedious sound like fun?

Better is a website where you can upload your image, edit it and then download it again—for free, of course.

That’s where freeonlinephotoeditor.com comes in. This is a simple to use site that works the way it says it will. Missing are those irritating blinking ads, or controls that don’t do what you think they should.


You can see in the screenshot that I’ve downloaded a photo of a Boston Terrier using Photopin, then uploaded it to freeonlinephotoeditor.com.

It was easy to scale and crop the photo for my needs and pretty quick, also.


In a couple of minutes I was done. I simply downloaded the edited file and was ready to place it in my blog. Nice.

Google Image Search

Sure, everyone uses Google all day every day, not much new there. But the wizards at Google Labs are always coming up with cool new things. Sometimes you find things you didn’t even know existed.

That’s how I found out about the awesome Google Image Search tool.

Go to any Google search screen and click “Images” in the top menu bar, which will bring up the Image Search screen.

Google Image Search

Now you can type keywords, like “Boston Terrier” for instance, into the search bar like you always do.

But notice that camera icon over on the right side of the search bar? Click that instead, and you get an image chooser.

Google Image Search

Maybe you knew about this, but it amazed me. What this means is that you can search for images with other images, not just with keywords.

You can either paste in the URL of an image, or upload one from your computer. I uploaded my little Boston photo. Here’s what I got back:

Google Image Search

This has lots of uses. For instance, I had a photo from Flickr I wanted to use, but I had lost track of the page where I found the image. I just uploaded the image and Google Image Search found it in a moment.

It can also help if the only image you have for an illustration is one you don’t have permission to use. This way you can find other, similar images that may have different licensing requirements.

These the three tools have made my work with images more fun and more efficient. And in the case of Google Image Search, there’s a whole new world of image search waiting to be explored.

Do you have any free image tools you love? Let us know in the comments.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Liesa Malik

    Nice post! I was aware of Photopin, but your post encouraged me to go play in it. Amazing that the town I write about, Littleton, CO was not only there, but had multiple images of familiar landmarks. Very cool!

    • Joel Friedlander

      Glad you liked it, Liesa, I’ve been using it a lot. Keep in mind that Photopin is just a front-end search tool for Flickr, that’s where all the images are coming from. Since Photopin gives you the Flickr page URL I often check out the page to see what else is in that photographer’s photo stream, uncovering lots of things I wouldn’t have found otherwise. Have fun!

  2. Pam

    Thank you – written and explained clearly and helpfully!

  3. Elaine Baldwin

    This is by far the best piece of information I’ve received the whole summer! Photo Pin is fabulous! Thank you:)

    • Joel Friedlander

      Hey, that’s great Elaine. I’ve been using it just about every day and loving it. Thanks.

  4. Hillari Delgado

    Another super-informative post, Joel, thanks. Love PhotoPin and have shared it (and your site) to others.

  5. ~Tim

    If you use the Firefox or Chrome browsers there is an add-on/extension called ColorZilla that is useful for analyzing, selecting, and manipulating colors on a website. This isn’t specific to photos, but can be very useful for web design. For example, if you have selected a photo to use as a header or logo, you can make sure you are choosing compatible colors for the other elements on your page.

    • Joel Friedlander


      Thanks for the tip, just installed the Chrome version. I love tools like this one because they can save me a bunch of time trying to track down something like the Hex # of a specific color.

  6. Terry Dassow

    I’ve been using MorgueFile since my sister, who is a Graphic Designer, recommended it. Unfortunately, that was some years ago. Thanks for writing about ‘Creative Commons Photos via Flickr’. I’ll definitely be using it.

  7. Christina

    I will definitely have to try out PhotoPin. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Ilana Waters

    Yes–what Chris said! Although the other tools sound great, randomly pulling images from Google can get you in a heap of trouble, so use with extreme caution!

  9. Carla

    Joel thanks for the info. I know everyone probably knows about paint.net for photo editing software, but I just downloaded it recently and it’s pretty powerful. Great post.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks, Carla, I’m sure some people haven’t tried it yet.

      • jennifer

        I really love the pixlr editor, But since that was taken by autodesk hence they have now started hiding there some great feature under there paid version. The people who are using pixlr know very well. I would like to add one more to the list known as http://www.toolpic.com which is same like pixlr but had all paid version of pixlr under there free version. Hope it helps your user.

  10. Tracy R. Atkins

    That Photopin site is excellent! I have been leery of adding anything that was not originally produced by me to my blog. Anything that I wanted/needed, I have been buying at places like Fotolia. But this will add a great option for me, personally. Getting images under creative commons is something that I hadn’t really considered. (It’s the worry wart in me)

    That said, Fotolia has some excellent professional imagery too, (I don’t figure that is much of a secret..). Their standard XS and S sized images run $0.75 to $2.25. If you only blog once or twice a week, it’s pretty cheap to stock up on credits and buy what you need.

    Of course.. Free is always better when you are on a budget. (Aren’t we all??)

    Speaking of free, I have been using Irfanview to crop, convert and do basic photo manipulation for several years. It’s a free app and is very fast. https://www.irfanview.com Of course, it doesn’t take the place of Photoshop. One nice thing though is “batch convert”, where I can queue up a ton of files and let it go. Great for resizing a ton of images that will go out in an email or similar.

  11. Jon Clayton

    Joel, really useful tools especially Photo Pin. Very nice. Thank you!!!

  12. Pamela

    Good info. When I use an image from Google image in my blog, am I supposed to site it somewhere, are get permission? :+0

    • chris

      While it’s easy to yank photos from Google search, know that it’s rarely going to be legal to do so. For example, if I take a photo and place it on my web site, google might add it to their image search. That doesn’t mean anyone can use it.

      Check out the creative commons licensing for an idea of how to site attributions when you legally re-use an image;

    • Joel Friedlander

      Pamela, you cannot use images from Google or anywhere else unless you have permission from the owner of the photo, or the photo has been published with a Creative Commons license that allows for reproduction, and even then you need to make sure the license allows the specific use you plan.

      Even then you have to be careful especially with photos that show recognizable people. Although the photographer may have published the image with a license that allows re-use, they may not have asked the people in the photo to sign a model release, and you could get in trouble there.

      For commercial projects I usually prefer to buy stock images from a vendor like istockphoto.com or use images from a site like Wikimedia Commons.

      Here’s a link to an article that explains Creative Commons, that should help.

      Creative Commons: What Every Self-Publisher Ought to Know

      • Tracy R. Atkins

        Fotolia’s photos are pretty nice, i find. They have great “blog sized” images you can license from $0.75 to $2.25 each, which is great if you are on a budget. However, free is always nice. :)

        • Joel Friedlander

          I had a free pass to Fotolia for a month, and found the image quality outstanding. If you have to pay, it’s a great resource.

  13. Mario

    Good info on this, Joel. Thanks for passing it along!

  14. Christopher Wills

    I’ve always used Picasa for my photos. It’s free and has some great but simple photo editing tools; ideal for family and holiday type photos.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks for reminding me about my neglected Picasa account, I’ll have to check their editing tools.

  15. Diane Lynn Tibert McGyver

    I’ve been using the same photo program since 1998–Ulead. It came free with our first computer. It does everything, but it’s a manual one. It’s the best I’ve ever had.

    When I want to play around with my photos or see what else I can do, I use Fotoflex: https://fotoflexer.com/

    It’s free and has some nice features.

  16. Rinelle Grey

    I love google image search. I too only found it recently, but have used it several times. Great tool.

  17. R. L. Copple

    Good info. I also use two free programs you load and install on a computer, for editing. For quick resizing, cropping, and basic editing, I use Faststone image viewer/editor. Also good for scanning with. For more complex editing, I use Inkscape. There is also Gimp for really digging into complex editing, but I find Inkscape much easier to use.

    But you provided some useful info I didn’t know. I’ll have to check out some of those sites. Thanks!

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks for the tips, R.L. I hadn’t heard of Faststone before, will check it out.

  18. bowerbird

    very useful information. thanks joel! :+)




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