The use of images in online news


Photography plays an important roll in online journalism. We’ve all heard the cliché that a picture can tell a thousand words, because it’s true.

That’s because a good picture can make a story come alive. Studies show that images of people’s faces make online readers more interested in story. As humans we can read a lot of information from people’s expression.

Ideally our photos are clear with sharp details, good contrast and colour, exposure. But sometimes you use whatever photo you have in news.

Uses of images online

Photos can actually serve several different purposes on webpage.

  • To illustrate a story – in this case the photo should always have a caption, which describes the content, and credits the source of the image.
  • As clickable links to a new page.
  • To illustrate the content of a video posting.
  • Generally captions and credits are not needed for linking images.

Photos appear in a wide range of sizes on web pages which are usually created either manually or by computer depending on the website.

Image sources

The main source of photos for stories in the course will be you. You’ll take most of the photos you need to illustrate your story yourself and post them on you story.

This is also the case in most newsrooms. Either the reporter on the story or the camera operator takes the photos. These days more reporters carry smartphones, so a picture can be snapped and instantly tweeted or emailed to the newsroom.

In our newsroom we prefer to have reporters tweet images, because they will pop up immediately in our live blog. We monitor their twitter accounts in Tweetdeck and can quickly pull photos off to illustrate stories we are writing.

Newsrooms get images from many sources

Copyright and other limitations

There are restrictions on what photos you can use, but the key on is copyright. You should not use a photo you do not own the copyright to unless you have permission, or if the photo has news value and you are using it for journalistic purposes.

Twitter has also become a great source of images from eyewitnesses on the scene of a story, but it is a legal grey area because you don’t necessarily have permission to use people’s photos from social media.

Understanding pixels

Digital images on computers are made of up a grid of tiny squares. Each square is called a pixel. Each pixel has a five digit value which assigns a colour.

Every image posted online has four key properties.

  • File type or format, such as jpg.
  • Size in bytes, kb or mb.
  • Dimensions  – width and height, measured in pixels.
  • A URL, created when you post it online.

Two ways to check an online image’s properties.

  • If it is online, you can right click to see the image information.
  • If you have the file you can open it with an editing program like Photoshop.

Images can come in a wide range of types or digital formats, but the most common and easiest to use are JPGs. Other types include:

  • TIF – higher resolution files that generally are not compressed.
  • GIF  – graphic files that generally not used for photographs.
  • RAW – uncompressed files from DSLR cameras.
  • PSD – Photoshop files that store various Photoshop edits and layers.

Most of these can be converted to jpgs when you edit them.

Digital images are measured several ways:

  • File size – how many MB or KB of memory the file takes up. Ideally less than 1 MB for most websites.
  • Inches or centimetres – how big it appears on standard screen – not commonly used.
  • DPI – means dots (or pixels) per inch. Online images have a DPI of 72., while images for printing on paper usually have DPI of 240 or 300.
  • Pixels – how many dots  make up the width and height of the image. This is the most common way images are measures on websites.

How to upload images in

The first step to posting an image on wordpress is generally downloading it to your computer somewhere.

  • Most images on websites can be downloaded by right clicking/ then save as.
  • Images from phones can be emailed to yourself. Send the size closest to 1 mb. Save them to your desktop if you intend to upload them soon.

Step two is upload the image to your blog post.

  • Open the post
  • Put your cursor where you want the image
  • Select insert media
  • Upload files from your computer
  • Add a caption
  • Select a  size (select full size)
  • Click insert into post

Step three once the file is inserted is to make it fit the page. Click right on the image to:

  • Change the size by pulling on the corners
  • Add a caption
  • Change the alignment
  • Remove it

To crop an image:

  • Open your media library tab and highlight the image
  • Click the ‘edit image’ in the right column
  • Click the crop tool
  • Drag it across the image
  • Click the crop tool again
  • Click save
  • Upload the cropped image where you need it.
  • You’ll see the size has shrunk

You can also rotate and flip images this way.

Uploading directly from a URL

You can upload an image directly from a website another way

  • Right click on the original image at the source
  • Copy the URL from the browser
  • Open the post in WordPress, pick a spot and select add media

WordPress does not allow you to crop images added this way. You need to download it first.

How to capture a screengrab

If you want to capture a whole webpage or a flash image, you have to use a screengrab like this:

  • Have the image you want to capture on your screen.
  • On  PC, click control+alt+print screen all at the same time.
  • Open the Paint program.
  • Select new image and paste it in.
  • Save it to your desktop.
  • On a Mac click shift+command+4
  • Click and drag to crop your image from the screen.
  • The image will now be on your desktop.
  • You can now open it and crop it in pixlr or wordpress.

Taking it too the next level

Most professionals use Adobe Photoshop to edit images, but it is expensive and takes time to learn.

If you don’t have Photoshop, is free software and does nearly the same things.

  • Open
  • Upload the image such as a portrait for your story.
  • To fix contrast select Adjustment/levels.
  • Adjust the colour balance.
  • Turn off saturation if you want to make a black and white.
  • To sharpen or focus an image use Filter/unmask sharp.
  • Save your image as a jpg about 1 mb in size.

About Mike Laanela

Mike Laanela is journalist, photographer and instructor based in Vancouver, B.C.
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