Wednesday, 23 May 2012

NBI: Managing Screenshots

Today on the Newbie Blogger Initiative forums Rhalinur asked about managing screenshots, so I thought I'd share the methods I use to run my screenshot-heavy blog. It's been something I've wanted to write about earlier, but just never got around to actually doing it (I'm only lazy because playing MMOs is so much fun and it's taking all my free time!).

As I wrote earlier, I want things to be as easy access, low-maintenance as possible. Since I'm using Blogger, I have the option to upload all my blog's images directly into the service so they're kept on the same server as my blog. However, I'm also a heavy forum-user, Twitterer and IRC sloth, so I often need to post the same image to other medias as well. My solution is to use an external image hosting site, and now for the past 2 years or so I've been a happy user of Imgur. There are many other similar services out there, I used Photobucket for years, but switched to Imgur because Photobucket was becoming very slow and bloated with ads and unnecessary stuff.

With Imgur, it's very easy to upload a batch of images and then copy their urls over to blogs, chats and forums - and the premade BBCode forum tags also help. I'm not a fan of how external hosts like to add their name and links to the premade HTML links, so I just prefer to write the actual IMG tags in my posts by hand and add my own ALT texts for SEO reasons. Most image hosts also scramble your file names, so they're next to impossible to memorize - theoretically having descriptive file names helps with SEO so that's something to keep in mind if it's important to you.

My ideal of easy access extends to reading the blog as well - no unnecessary clicks for you, dear reader! I don't like showing just a tiny thumbnail in a blog post that then has to be clicked to reveal (after 10 seconds of loading) a full-sized, unedited 3MB large screenshot. I want to show all images in their original size, which means some editing needs to be done before my screenshots make it to the blog.

In the lower right corner of my main PC's desktop I keep a few important shortcuts - links to the screenshot folders of all my current MMOs and the folder where I save my edited screenshots. To edit a screenshot for my blog, I open the original, high-resolution image using my default image viewer, Irfanview. It's a lightweight program that's good for really quick edits and file managing.

SWTOR Imperial Agent screenshot edit

With a few clicks I can Crop (Ctrl+Y), Sharpen (Shift+S) and Resize (Ctrl+R) an image to fit my blog. I'm using a fixed-width blog layout, so there's a limit to how wide my images can be before they clip with the sidebar - I've settled on 600 pixels max width, so that's the limit I work with. After I've saved the newly cropped image as a high-quality JPG file (quality 100, we hate compression artifacts) I just upload it into Imgur, copy the provided URL into Blogger/IRC/wherever and I'm done.

I'm also using Imgur for all other images I need to share, not just for my own screenshots. It's very bad form to hotlink to images on other people's sites, because the image might get deleted or the owner of the image might change it to something really nasty if they catch you stealing their bandwidth. Even if it's just the cover image of a game that you copied from Amazon, upload it to your own webspace or image host! Big-name image hosts are also fairly reliable, so the links should be valid for years to come. All my images from way back when (2004?) are still intact on Photobucket, even though I haven't used it for years, which is more than I can say about the state of the image archive on my current PC.

Do you have any tips to share on the topic? How do you manage your blog images?


  1. I love this! I've been uploading photos via the Wordpress client ... D:

  2. When I started posting screenshots in forums, a long time ago, I used Image Shack since I just liked it. At the time however it was just impossible to organize anything there. So I end up moving to Photobucket which I still use to this day. However I've been annoyed with them with their uploading system for some time. I don't know the reason either. I am just weird like that. I guess I might just spend some time and give another image host a try. @_@

    Anyway, thanks for your tips! I am terrible at screenshots and any help I can get with them is much appreciated. It never occurred me to sharpen the image before or that there might have compression artifacts when saving to JPEG. I will keep those things in mind next time I deal with screenshots.

  3. Happy you liked it, Eva! The Wordpress upload is very nice indeed and it's probably the best option if you're running a self-hosted Wordpress and you have enough space and bandwidth.

    I'm thinking of returning to self-hosting, and when/if I do I'll probably just use Wordpress for storing my images (because it's less hassle ^^). At least it'll be easy to copy all my 3 years' worth of Blogger posts to Wordpress because all the image links will still work, which probably wouldn't be possible if I had just stored my images on Blogger.

  4. I've used ImageShack a few times over the years but I never really liked their premade links - for years they didn't even want to give you the direct url to the image and always directed you to a subpage of theirs that's showing the image in a smaller size, surrounded by ads. If you're tired of Photobucket I'd say give Imgur a go, it's very streamlined and clutter-free compared fo ImageShack or Photobucket :)

    Glad to hear my lil tips were useful, shardsofimagination! I still want to write a whole new screenshot-taking guide at some point, but I think I'll leave it for my new site, if/when I ever get around to setting up a self-hosted Wordpress again :)

  5. Awesome post! Thank you so much for sharing. :)

    - Rhalinur

  6. Have you been having any issues with posting images on Blogger? I use the compose view rather than html view for writing posts since you can do a bit more with your image placement (like right justified with the text wrapping around it.) I'm trying to add a little more style and interest to my posts. But, whenever I click the add image button, choose URL, paste the URL, often nothing happens. It will load the preview, I say post it but it doesn't. Sometimes refreshing works otherwise I just have to try to post it around 10 times before something finally happens.

    1. I use the HTML view mostly because I prefer writing the image tags by hand (since I'd have to go and add the ALT text anyway - and the code that Blogger does is simply awful). I've tried using the image upload from a URL as well but I never got it to work well enough (ie. faster than just typing out the HTML). The image management just isn't one of Blogger's best features :/

  7. Even as a seasoned blogger, the bit about shortcuts was a handy tip - never thought to do that!

    I'm the same as you though - I've ended up using imgur for the most part since it's simplistic and ad-free.

  8. Thanks xhii, this is very educational, I'm going to use it later today to post some screenshots on our forums.