Twitter and the iPhone were born for each other. A more than capable camera and a method of global distribution to your audience. Perfect, right? Well, sort of. Like many photographers, creative industry people and website owners, I wanted to have more control over how and where my Twitter / iPhone shots were displayed. There are plenty of Twitter image hosting services out there, but they nearly all have licencing terms that I didn’t really like. For sure, you retain copyright, but you’re giving them permission to use your images for pretty ,much anything they please. Plus you’re sending any click through traffic to them, not your own website. I figured I probably wasn’t alone and began searching for a way to self host your Twitter images on a WordPress based website. Is it worth the trouble? If you’re the kind of Tweeter who is working in photography or creative areas, or you simply want to make the best use of your Twitter uploads, then the graphic below shows how it can help you and check our my website to see how the finished system works in the sidebar.

Drilldown of my traffic sources showing the increase in traffic from hosting Twitter images

After quite a few blind alleys, I narrowed it down to two methods.

Before you read on, to host your own Twitter images and post them to your website, you will need a Twitter app that allows you to add a ‘custom’ image uploader beyond the usual TwitPic, yFrog etc. That’s a setting that’s often buried deep in the menus. I’m currently using TweetBot but there are others. The perfect Twitter app hasn’t been built for me yet, but that’s another story… If you use an Android or Backberry device, there are Twitter apps out there that will have the same feature, but you’ll need to research that one. Read on to see how to host your own Twitter images.

Method One – Twitter Image Host

The Twitter Image Host plugin works very well. Perhaps a bit of a fiddle to configure, but once done, it’s a ‘set and forget’ job. The plugin posts your images using a template that can be customised if you have a little PHP or HTML knowledge. The images don’t appear as a blog post, which can be good thing. Having an image appear on your blog timeline without any explanation doesn’t look right and can make your blog look cluttered. The downsides for me were that the URL’s aren’t SEO friendly. More importantly, anyone wanting to comment on the image isn’t able to do so. I’m sure this could be coded out, but I didn’t really have the time / patience. However, it comes with a very good widget that lets you display thumbnails in your sidebar. It’s a very good, reliable plugin and if all you wish to do is host your Twitter images on your WordPress plug, this will do the job perfectly well. I used it for several months and it did the job very well. But I wanted to move it on a little….

iPhone photography of a Porsche 911 Turbio badge detail
Porsche 911 Turbo detail. Shot on iPhone. Keep control over your favourite images

Method Two- The Tweet Images Plugin

The Tweet Images plugin is more powerful, creating a blog post for each image. I just said that I didn’t want that, didn’t I? Well, while I didn’t want to have the images displayed on my timeline, I did actually want all of the other features – posting into a given category, converting any hashtags into WordPress tags (neat touch), plus giving visitors the opportunity to pass comment on any images should they need to. It didn’t come with a widget for sidebar display, but a bit of intense Googling found the excellent Special Recent Posts plugin that allows you to add thumbnails and short descriptions of your recent posts. This can be filtered by category. To stop those images appearing in my blog timeline, I had to add some code to my theme that prevented that particular category from appearing. This will be slightly different for each theme, but involves you location the category number and excluding it from your home page display.

Job done.

The final thing I wanted was a watermark plugin. I’ve been meaning to get this sorted for a while, but the desire to automate far more of this whole process motivated me to find the very useful Transparent Image Watermark plugin. Easy to configure, it adds a .png watermark across the centre of your image. There’s a paid-for option that has other options such as using .jpg files and moving the position of the watermark around. However, if all you wish to do is move the watermark position, making a simple transparent .png file with the same dimensions as your largest image then postioning the watermark as a layer does that job pretty easily. The paid opgrade does allow you to watermark images retrospectively, however, so if you’ve got lots of images already online that you want to protect, it’s perhaps worth paying for that.

And that’s it. I now have an easy method of tweeting my images while retaining control over their usage and making the best of any traffic they generate on my own website, not a third party hosting company.