Digital Content: Moving Beyond Sunsets and Silhouettes

The internet has enabled a whole new industry full of work opportunities, but its reach has also enabled global competition. By finding the tools that will help support your personal and professional projects, you can become better prepared to take your next steps in online mastery. If you’re creating content online, it’s probably a good idea to do a mix of media and digital content. Some writing, some pictures, some short video.

You don’t want to plagiarize content, using others’ material without permission, which can lead to some pretty negative outcomes. Still though, sometimes it is not possible to create all the media you need to make a good final product.

You might not have a good camera, which can be difficult to justify the expense for if you just need a handful of pictures when good cameras can run hundreds or thousands of dollars.  Some smartphones can meet this need, but they aren’t exactly cheap, either, and can have limited zoom and other capabilities.

Maybe you already have a great way to take pictures, but you’re working on a piece about summer fun in the middle of January, surrounded by a wall of snow.

So, you turn to free online stock photo sites like Unsplash and others. Sites like these are great, but have limits – especially when it comes to pictures of disability.

For example, if you search Unsplash for coffee there are more than 3,000 photos available. You are set for pictures of coffee for almost any coffee-related article you could think of.

Same site – search for disability. Now there are 47 results. Some of them are pictures like these snowy trees, which don’t seem to have much of a connection with disability at all.

A snowy road leading into snow-covered trees.

So, you go searching photo websites for a picture you really need that involves disability, and you will probably come up short of what you really want.

Stock photo companies seem to have an overabundance of inspirational-style photos that misrepresent people, generally focused on wheelchair users, like this silhouette photo of someone who has left their wheelchair to cheer at a sunset.

Silhouette of a person illuminated by a sunset. The are on a hilltop overlooking the ocean. An empty wheelchair is on the ground below them.

If you are going for a real photo of someone with a disability, you might be feeling desperate. Aside from a host of problems that come from using photos like this, they ultimately feel stale; you can see them just about everywhere.

There are sites that have great, real pictures of people with disabilities – like PhotoAbility and Disability Images – but they come with a cost if you want to use them.

One of RTC: Rural’s projects, Healthy Community Living (HCL), struggled with this issue for a while. Part of HCL’s goal was to include real pictures of people, with and with disabilities, in their online courses.

Ultimately, between their own photographers and people in the community, mostly Centers for Independent Living, HCL created a free-to-use picture database on Flickr. This database contains pictures of people, animals, and community-shots, like this photo of a woman in a wheelchair chatting to others at a community gathering.

A woman using a wheelchair sits outside at a picnic table smiling at other people seated at the table.

Thanks to support from RTC:Rural staff and community members sharing pictures, this resource is continually growing. HCL also posted instructions to help visitors join the group and upload their own content, as well as tips for aspiring photographers.

Even if you do not need other’s pictures, finding ways to store your own property – images, documents, and other things can be incredibly important. If your life is stored on a single device, a dropped phone or a fried computer can be devastating.

Duplicating documents to online locations, often called the cloud, can be a lifesaver.

Programs like Google Drive and Dropbox can be good catchalls for files. Photo-sharing sites like Flickr, Photobucket, iCloud and others can be used to store high-quality pictures. Creating albums on Facebook for images is another possibility, but know that your picture quality is automatically lowered when uploading to vast social-media websites like Facebook.

For videos, YouTube and Vimeo are good options.

On almost all of these sites, you can set visibility, who can see your photos or video, to a range of options – from the whole world, to online-friends only, to just you if you are primarily using the site to store backups. Most applications and sites have a storage limit, but allow you to go over this limit for a cost.

Digital content you produce will often be a mix of pictures, video and words. Hopefully, this article helped you think about ways you can improve your multimedia use online.


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