DISCLAIMER: This document is not an official LiveJournal document! It is a resource document maintained by an fellow user. The original source of information is noted, where applicable. LiveJournal takes no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.
Images: A Newbies' Guide To Using Them In Your Journal
Most of us, once we've been on LiveJournal for a while, want to put up a picture of something. Our cat. Our kids. Our newest project. But how do we do it? For many of us, image hosting will be our first experience of the nuts-and-bolts, behind-the-scenes mechanics of the web. It seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be. This guide will show you what you need to do - step by step.
1. Find your image a home on the web
Images are hosted on web hosts. A web host is just somebody who has a file server connected to the internet and lets you use it to store files (web hosting). Sometimes you are entitled to a small amount of web space with your internet access plan - check with your ISP. Otherwise, you will need to create an account somewhere. You may be able to get one for free and have advertising banners on your page in exchange, or you may prefer to buy webspace. Do a search for "web hosting" and check out a few companies before you decide. Read the FAQs carefully. Often people take up an account and then find it does not suit their needs.
Some things to consider:
Will the host allow remote loading?
This is the most important consideration. Remote linking is where the web host allows a website that is not on their own servers to call up a file. In other words, if your journal page "asks" the host computer to send out the image into your journal, will the server let you have it? Many webhosts, particularly free webhosts that cover their costs with banner ads, do not allow this. They have scripts to stop you from doing this. They do this because they want you to come to their site to see the information, rather than seeing it at someone else's site. Some popular sites that do not allow remote loading at the time of writing include Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire, and AOL Hometown. I am reluctant to make any specific recommendations because policies can change without notice. However, generally speaking, an ISP or paid host is more likely to allow remote linking than a free one.
Will the host give me enough bandwidth?
Bandwidth refers to the amount of traffic used. For instance, if you put a 10KB image up on your journal, and 10 people look at your journal once while the entry is on the page, you will have used 100kb of bandwidth. Web hosts put limits on how much bandwidth you can use in an hour, day, week, or month. This could be important if you have a very popular journal, or you have a great many people who list you as a friend. Remember that unless you put the image behind an lj-cut, it will appear on all your friends' friends pages as well. It could also be important if your image is very large, say over 100kb, because then the bandwidth mounts up very quickly. It's considered rude to use an image that big without giving people the choice about whether to view it, anyway. You should always use an lj-cut with a text warning of file size for something that big. If you have trouble making your image files smaller, do a web search for "image compression". I hope to put up a tutorial about this down the track.
How much bandwidth is enough? If you're using ISP or paid webspace, and you don't have a high-traffic web site there as well (in which case you wouldn't be reading this guide), you should have enough. But on free sites, you will periodically be told that you have exceeded your transfer limit and to try again later. If this happens regularly, it's time to look for a host with more bandwidth.
Do my images breach the terms of service of the web host?
Most people have at least a rough idea about copyright rules and how they affect web space. If you don't own the images you use, the images can be removed from the server without notice. This includes celebrity images, scanned magazine images, and other items for which you were not the original photographer or artist. In practice, many people use such images and slide under the radar just fine.
Whether you get kicked off a server for using copyright images depends mostly on how you do it and whether the copyright owner cares enough to make an issue of it. If you use an image to do with a television program and say explicitly that you don't own the image, often (not always) you will be extended some tolerance, at the discretion of the copyright owner (and, if you're active in a fandom, then yes, they know about you. Really. Internet privacy is a myth.) But if you use another artist's or photographer's work against their wishes, or if you say it's your work, expect them to come after you. They will find out. It's a small, small world.
But there's more to it than copyright. In some countries, decency standards are very restrictive. In the United States it is now illegal for web hosts to show photographic images that suggest any kind of sexual act that may be construed as degrading (and "degrading" has been interpreted to include such common practices as consensual BDSM, domination games, etc). So arty photographs of BDSM scenarios, for instance - even if they are not explicit - could well fall foul of web hosting rules. If you wish to host images of this sort, you may need to find a web host located in a place with less restrictive rules. There are many European web hosts who have stepped in to meet the needs of this market. In other places, images depicting violence or offenses against race or religion may be illegal. Read the fine print. It's worth the extra time.
2. Upload the image.
Let's say you found the perfect web host. Despite the cautions stated above, they are out there. Really. So let's assume you've found one and started your account. They've given you a username, a password, and possibly an FTP address.
Wait. An FTP address?
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. It's just a set of rules about how files are moved from one computer to another over the web. Just as your domain has a HTTP address, http://www.domain.com, it also has an FTP address - ftp.domain.com.
Before worrying too much about FTP, check your web host's FAQs. Many web hosts provide a web page (usually called a file manager) where you can upload your files by pointing and clicking. But if they don't, or if you want to upload many files at a time, you'll need to learn how to use FTP. Don't worry, it's pretty simple.
Some recent web browsers will work with FTP - use the URL ftp://user:firstname.lastname@example.org, replacing the username, password, etc as necessary. You can drag and drop (or copy and paste) files from your hard drive in this way. Please note, this is not very secure because your password is not encrypted when it goes over the web, whereas other methods usually do encrypt. However, this might not matter to you if there is nothing very sensitive or valuable about what you're uploading.
Not all browsers support FTP, and you should be aware that doing it this way is pretty slow and clunky. But if you're a bit intimidated by the idea of using a new software program, and you don't plan to use FTP very much, the browser might be an easy way to get started.
If you prefer, you can install an FTP program. There are a number of programs that do this, including CuteFTP, WS_ftp and AceFTP. Do a web search for "FTP client". Generally, the principles are the same for all of them. You'll have one window where you can go through the files on your hard drive, and another where you can do the same for your webspace. You can select files and press a button to transfer them over from one window to the waiting directory in the other. Once you're connected, it's all pretty straightforward.
Getting connected may present some problems along the way. Read your web host's FAQs carefully. Some web hosts use a different FTP address to their main address. Just because their domain is www.domain.com, doesn't necessarily mean that their ftp address is ftp.domain.com. It could be ftp.users.domain.com or some other variation. Be sure you have your address correct. Your username may just be user, or it could be email@example.com or user%domain.com. And both your username and your password are case-sensitive. PaSSwoRd and password are two different things.
3. Get the URL for the file.
URL is short for Universal Resource Locator. It basically means web address. The URL, or web address for your file is the address of your webpage, plus the path to the image. Please note this is case sensitive.
So, if you were to have webhosting with an address www.domain.com/~user, and the image was called myimage.jpg, the complete address would be http://www.domain.com/~user/myimage.jpg.
Alternatively, if you put it in a directory called images, then it would be http://www.domain.com/~user/images/myima
The one exception is if your web host has a www directory already installed when you go in, and you put the image in there. You don't need to include that www in the address. If you're not sure you have the right address, just try it in your browser and see.
4. Call up the image in your journal entry.
Phew! It's been a long road, but you're almost there. And, now that it's all set up, it will only take you a minute or two next time you want to use an image. Once you have the image uploaded somewhere and have a working address for it, all you need to do is use a fragment of HTML to include it in your entry. The code is this:
You can leave out the width and height if you don't know them. They're helpful if you want to keep your page formatted correctly while your image loads, but they're not essential. If you do want them, change the "30" to the correct number of pixels. If you don't want them, you can delete those two parts - width="30" and height="30".
The border variable can be "0" for no border, "1" for a thin border, "2" for a thicker border, and so on.
The alt variable is used to write a short description of the image. This is not essential, but it is considered polite. Many people view the web with graphics turned off, and they use these descriptions to decide whether to load the image.
LiveJournal has a FAQ concerning adding images to your entries, available here. That FAQ says pretty much the same thing as Part 4 above. There is also a FAQ titled, "How do I make text bold, italic, or centered?" That FAQ discusses the use of HTML in your LiveJournal in more general terms.
WS_ftp has a tutorial for using FTP with their free FTP program, here.
Another FTP tutorial can be found here.
Besthosting compares web hosts and their features. See their guide here.
WBG discuss remote loading issues here.
All4U Adult Webmaster Resources discusses the Cambria rules about adult content on the web in the United States here. Please note that this is not a pornographic site, however it does discuss the commercial adult entertainment industry on the web and is probably not suitable for minors.
FindWebSpace have a tutorial on reducing bandwidth used by images here.
These links are not under my control and are subject to change.
Last updated: 18 October 2002