Creating engaging images for free

Images are an incredibly important aspect of online content creation. This is fine for those who have access to good photo editing and manipulation software such as Adobe PhotoShop, but I know many don’t. So, I thought I’d write a blog post about two online photo-editing tools which can help you create engaging images for free.

It’s important to optimize images for the web

Before a photo can engage someone, it has to load. Slow loading times of pages are bad news for the user and bad news for the online owner of them too, for fairly obvious reasons!

Making sure your images are optimized for the web is an important first step in the process of creating engaging images.

Size matters, for images!

The actual size of an image is generally measured in something called pixels. When you take a photo with a digital camera the image can be very large, often up to and sometimes exceeding 3000 pixels in width (if you consider that in respect of a website width of 1200 – 1500 pixels, you should  understand the issue?)

Now, if you try to upload an image to your website, straight from your camera, it:

  • May take a long time to upload
  • Will take up a lot of storage on your hosting space, as the file size will be large (think of your website as a container and the images as boxes being loaded into it. You’ll fit far more small boxes in the container than large ones).
  • May slow down the rendering of your page for users if the user has a slow connection speed.

I’ve seen many a website that loaded so slowly that I almost lost the will to stay with it. The worst was a photographer’s website which took over 5 minutes due to huge images on the page which were really slowing down the page loading time.

I’ve listened to many a complaint about hosting companies, web developers, website platforms before I’ve pointed out that the issue being experienced, slow page loading, is more likely to be caused by images not having been optimized.

Good things come in small packages

Optimizing images is all about making them smaller, so they’ll load faster for the user who you want to see them.

You can optimize an image in two ways.

  1. Make it smaller, physically
  2. Make it smaller, file size

The first is easy, the second is too, but you just have to practice a bit to get the hang of not losing the quality of the image. Basically, you’ll be stripping out as many of the little dots (pixels) to a point where the image remains un-blurred. Less dots = smaller file size. Think, “good things come in small packages” and you’ll remember to optimize your images every time.

Two free tools for image manipulation

Pixlr.com

The first I’m going to introduce you to is one I work with for students on the courses I teach. Take a look at Pixlr.com and see what you think.

pixlr.com homepage screenshot

Start by choosing PIXLR EDITOR. Once that opens up choose ‘Open image from computer’ and your chosen image will open up inside the Pixlr dashboard.

There’s all kinds of wonderful effects you can create, but under IMAGE (top nag bar) you have the option to resize your photo. When you come to the point where you want to save your resized images FILE (top nag bar) then – SAVE, you’ll be given the option to reduce the file size, if you want/need to. Actually, by resizing the image in the first place from 2-3000 pixels to 500 or so pixels, you’ll have reduced the final image file size considerably.

PicMonkey.com

The second tool I’m going to feature is PicMonkey which came highly recommended by a student on  one of the courses I deliver about learning to work with WordPress.

pic monkey home page screenshot

 

I’ve certainly had some fun with this, very quickly uploading some photos to PicMonkey, which I was then able to drag’n’drop into the required places for a collage (see screenshot below)

collage creation screenshot of pic monkeySaving the collage to my desktop was very quick and easy, at which point I had the opportunity to reduce the size of the image from 2000 to 450 pixels.

The image below is that actual image I created and saved at 450 pixels wide, which also considerably reduced the file size, saving valuable space on my hosting server when uploaded for this website.

collage of 6 photos created on pic monkey

So, there you have two great tools to have a play around with. What’s your favourite photo-editing/image project creation tool? Do share.

What next?

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