If you write very well, with imaginative prose that can draw the reader in so they can create images in their mind (like a book perhaps) then you may not view images in a blog post as a necessity. The truth however, is that most people who read blogs, need some form of imagery. It breaks the monotony of text and helps visualise things. Even more so if you have a beauty blog, or a food blog, or a travel blog… or any blog really. Except perhaps for money blogs or blogging blogs 😛
You can easily host your images online for free, if you are so inclined. There are benefits to that – if you are on a selfhosted domain, you save space (images take up LOTS of space) and if people steal your images by hotlinking them (which a responsible blogger will NEVER do) you do not suffer unnecessary loss of bandwidth.
You can quite easily host images at sites like Flickr, Photobucket and Imageshack for free. I have done so before this. However, I’m here to plead my case for hosting images on your own blog or server.
Free image hosts have limits
Ever heard of the saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”? Well, there’s no such thing as a free image host with no restrictions. Flickr accounts allow you to host images for free, but after 200 images, you can’t view your older uploads in the dashboard. If you want to, you’d have to pay to upgrade. There are also restrictions on the method of using those photos i.e. you have to include the link back to the Flickr website. However, if you don’t mind not being able to view old images, then Flickr is by far the most reliable host I’ve used.
Photobucket doesn’t have a viewing restriction but they have a bandwidth restriction. So, once the images in your account are viewed above a certain number of times in a month, you get presented with a “Bandwidth exceeded” image. This lasts until your monthly cut off date comes around and will continue so long as you do not upgrade i.e. pay. Incidentally, Photobucket has been reducing their free monthly bandwidth quite substantially since I first signed up with them. These days, its basically all about payment.
Imageshack is something I never quite understood but I’ve been seeing a lot of blogs with ugly images of a frog where the image should be, and that’s not only ugly, its unsettling and frustrating, especially when the background image of the blog is hosted on Imageshack. Well, unless your background is that of frogs perhaps 😛
Dependancy on free hosts can result in an ugly blog
As I’ve noted, Flickr does not restrict bandwidth, so you do not end up with any ugly notices on your blog, unless you delete your photo and forget to delete the image link on your blog. Then, you end up with a big empty box.
In the case of Photobucket, if you exceed your monthly bandwidth restriction, you end up with an ugly placeholder image until the next month comes around and your image is restored. I notice this and the Imageshack frog on blogs where people use these sites to host their blog background images. It can look really awful. I’ve experienced this myself with Photobucket hence I’m allowed to talk about this and complain about its ugliness 😛 I have to say, I realised in a hurry that it was time I self host my images.
Why you should host your own blog images
Simple really, control. On Blogger, you may host them directly on Blogger – its free anyway, so you have nothing to worry about. The only thing you might want to consider is whether you plan to stay with Blogger on a long term basis or if you will decide to move in future, because it can get messy if you move and don’t move your photos along with you. But that’s another story 🙂
On WordPress.com, for now, you get 3G of space, which is quite a lot, but if you host a lot of images, may not be sufficient. They offer a paid upgrade option which isn’t terribly pricey.
On self-hosted wordpress blogs, space is as big as you get from your host. But if you are smart about sizing and compressing photos, it doesn’t really take up that much space. Your bandwidth may be affected if you have a lot of images of large sizes on your blog, but again, if you are smart about compressing images, its not that bad.
Hosting images on your own blog or server also means you will not end up with ugly “Bandwidth exceeded” place boxes or strange looking frogs on your blog. If the free host server is down, it won’t affect how your blog looks. You choose which images to show, and you can even block people from hotlinking to your images so they don’t steal bandwidth (on self-hosted wordpress). Hotlinking is where people link directly to the image and can be very costly for the blog owner in terms of bandwidth usage. Blocking hotlinking involves code and technical bits in htaccess files… eh, don’t fall asleep back there! 😛 If anyone is interested, I’ll blog about this some time 🙂
If you opt to free host, check your blog and stats periodically
Nothing irks me more than going to a blog and seeing that terrible looking frog from Imageshack or the “Bandwidth Exceeded” box from Photobucket. If you use an image by someone else on Flickr and they remove their image, you will also end up with an empty Flickr box. Its ugly and if you ask me, bad for your image.
It also tells me that the blogger doesn’t take the trouble to check their blog for broken images. Broken images in a post can be irksome, but broken images in a blog theme tells me that the blogger just didn’t bother to check on how their blog looks and that also means you may not care for your blog as much as you think you do.
So, if you opt to use a free host, do load up your blog and check how it looks periodically. When you start seeing frogs that shouldn’t be there, its time to look at why its happening and how you can remedy it.
Do you host your blog images on a free image host? Do you host them at your blog host, whether it be a free blog platform or your own server? Do you have a reason either way? I’d love to hear what you think about this 🙂