A site with high-value visual assets showcasing interesting motives is more appealing and more effective in getting people’s attention compared to a site that focuses on text only or a site that uses poor quality images. Let’s take a look at how you too can create shareable images (including GIFs) for your own content.
1. Image-editing tools to spice up your photos
In most cases it helps you stand out better if you can do some edits to the original image in order to make your version more unique and more appropriate for your own content. There are many image editing tools that allow you to enhance your photos quickly within the browser and you don’t need much editing experience to work with them. If you use a Mac you have access to iPhoto and Preview, both of them being able to do simple edits like resizing, exposure and saturation. As you get better at picture editing and your needs expand, you will need to move to more advanced picture editing software like Lightroom, Gimp and Pixelmator in order to really create amazing imagery.
There are several simple alternatives that are browser based. Some of the most popular are Snagit, Fotor, iPiccy and Pixlr. All of these tools pretty much work the same way. You start by uploading an image from your computer. You can then modify the image by cropping it so it fits the size you need. You can then add different effects, layers and frames. When you are finished, you save the image and it is ready to go.
In my opinion one of the best simple tools for editing pictures online is PicMonkey so this guide focuses on it. It’s (mostly) free and very easy to use – there are some premium features you can subscribe for. I am one of those people who likes to have an easy option that lets me edit my pictures quickly. Photoshop is an amazing tool and allows you to do so much more with your photos, but if you don’t know how to use it, you will spend half of the time googling ”how to apply layer in Photoshop” only to find yourself surrounded by lengthy tutorials on YouTube that are outdated. Web based tools are a good alternative for content publishers who need something quick and easy, but something that still looks great and can help get more shares.
2. Drag & Drop
Follow this simple guide to create an image that will attract the attention of your audience and make your post unique and interesting. Let’s imagine we’re a food blogger, who has taken a decent picture, but wants to make it more appealing and shareable. PicMonkey has made it easy for you to just drag and drop the image you want to work with. You can choose three different options: edit, touch up or collage. Edit and touch up are for single pictures – collage is for several pictures. It doesn’t really matter if you drag and drop your single image at edit or touch up as you can easily move from one section to the next while editing.
3. Identify the problem areas
So far so good. Our image is now in the editor and is ready to be edited. So, what needs to be fixed? Let’s take a look… This image has a nice motive, but it’s simply too dark. It also has a visible wall corner in the back and is slightly tilted to the left.
4. Start editing the color
The color may be a bit off. It might be too dark. If you take pictures in day light on a gray morning, it reflects in the picture. What to do? You can simply add some more brightness by playing in the Exposure tool. The tool lets you play with four different components; brightness, highlights, shadows and contrast. The ones to adjust are brightness, highlights and contrasts. Be careful when doing this and only move them a few points in order to keep the natural look of the picture. How much you should adjust each of these of course depends on your picture and the lighting, so just play around and you’ll easily see the results.
The image we’re working with seems dark and grey and I want to make it a bit more warm. It is after all a nice, spring breakfast! I therefore head on over to Colors in Basic Edits section. Clicking on the ”Auto adjust” and a tiny edit to the Temperature makes a huge difference already on this image, but if that’s not enough you can play with the saturation. Usually this step does the trick, but not always. Sometimes Exposure section will help you out with this issue as well.
5. Straighten the image
Sometimes you have to position your body in a special way in order to get a good shot of something that is placed in a specific way. Without a tripod, you can end up with a messy picture, but don’t worry it’s very simple to save the situation. Using the Rotate function you can straighten the photo out very easily and quickly and make it look perfectly straight. The editor will make the picture size smaller, so make sure to straighten a larger version of the pic then you will actually need for your site in order to end up with something you can simply just size down yourself if needed – it’s pretty hard to make it bigger and keep the same quality!
So let’s make the crooked pot straight. Make sure to leave a little room for this when resizing your image, as this step will make your image smaller automatically. So let’s say you need to resize your image to be 800 pixels wide, start by making it 850-900 pixels. It of course also depends on the damage – if you want to straighten something dramatically, you need to leave more room. When you’re done, you can adjust the size to fit your site. That way you will not end up with an image that’s too small!
6. Perfect the background
Now our pot is straight, but what about that wall in the background? We want to remove that corner, don’t we? This is where the monkey all of a sudden appears on your image signalling that this part of PicMonkey is premium. Darn it! I use the tool all the time, so I bought the premium version in order to get the full experience – and remove things like this wall. What I like about being able to remove elements and flaws is the fact that that’s the way to make the image more professional.
The easiest way to remove something is to click on the source bottom to your left and pick a source that you want to replicate on the spot you want to remove. You need to be precise – especially when coming close to objects you want to keep in the image.
And the result looks like this… Now our image has a clean background and the viewer is focusing on the subject rather than the flaws.
7. Add effect to the image
You could add a filter to the photo and give it a whole new look and style. Make sure to use a filter that is suiting for the rest of your sites feel and to add it to all the pictures in the post, otherwise you will end up with a messy look with a picture that stands out. See for example filter by the name of ”Intrepid” which gives a picture a vintage look and feel.
There are many different ready-made effects (some premium, others free) and one of my favorite is Tranquill (free). Tranquill is an effect that adds a warm feel to the images and gives them a bit of charm. You can choose how visible the effect should be and you can set the Fade to your liking. I like it to still look fairly natural, so as you see, the Fade is set to 80%. This however also depends on the image and the color.
You can also frame your image in a fun and creative way. You can even add doodles to your images. There are doodles and overlays for many different occasions like Valentine’s, Celebration, Halloween etc. that make the personalizing easy. If you are editing people you can apply many of the same Photoshop edits like airbrush, blemish-fix, remove red-eye, enhance makeup, make thinner, etc.
8. Create an overlay with a magazine-style headline
Especially the main featured image in your post should have some sort of title – just like the cover of a magazine, or the first page of an interview spread. Be creative and give the first image in the post a magazine-style headline to make your post stand out. This will help you get more clicks in social media as the featured image is the one that shows in Twitter, Facebook and other feeds. There are endless possibilities when it comes to shapes, sizes, colors and fonts.
If you have a great image but it’s too busy or you want to decorate it and make it unique, you can use the Overlays and Text sections to add a translucent layer on which you can place your text. Always use a transparent background for your text, so your image still shines through.
Pick a great looking font. You can also use two to three different types of font some smaller than others. There are many free fonts online – my favorite place to find interesting fonts is Dafont.com. Try using white or other pale colors even on light backgrounds! Makes for a nice and subtle look. You should also consider adding your site URL or your logo – watermark your images in order to make sure they are not ”stolen” if that’s an issue for you.
9. Saving the image
That’s about it. Make sure to click Apply when you are done with each edit. You can always go back and undo the edits using the back button on top of your editor. As the end of the process make sure to save your image in a web friendly format and try and reduce the size in order for it to load faster. Keep all your images the same size as randomly sized images are not appealing to the eye and result in a messy looking post.
Make sure that your images have a solid size so the details are visible – tiny 200×200 pixels images are so 90′s! The optimal image size for a Facebook page wall post is 806×806 pixels while the optimal size for your Twitter post is 806×413 pixels. Always re-name your image, so it has a suitable name instead of for instance DSC_1234. This helps describes the image better and contributes to you ranking better in search engine results.
Here is a look at our before and after image. The finished product is, as you may notice, a much more clear and natural in terms of lighting, making the image more professional. The overlay makes the image stand out and even though you may not see the object, as you would without the overlay, keep in mind that this overlay will only be used in the first image.
Step-by-step guide to making GIF images
It seems as though the more modern we become, the more nostalgic we are. We are seeking back towards things as they used to be – the quality, the originality, the essence. Music lovers have LPs, Internet geeks have GIFs. GIF images seem to be the new black when it comes to Internet trends and with good reason. They are an easy way to give your site a trendy and fun touch that your readers will love. They also work very well on social media platforms like Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr.
Make sure that you have at least three images and that they are the same size. Once you have the basics ready, you’re ready to start working in Photoshop. Like mentioned above you can make a GIF image that almost becomes a video showing something in motion or you can make a simple GIF showing different images like the one you’ll see in this post. The process is completely the same – the difference is in the pictures!
If you prefer a simpler tool, GIF Maker is a good place to create GIF within the browser.
Step 1 – Getting Photoshop ready
Open Photoshop. Go to Window and make sure that Animation and Layers are chosen and shown on the front page. Your Photoshop should look something like this:
Step 2 – Start adding photos
Open one of the photos in Photoshop by going to File and clicking Open. The order of the pictures is not important right now – we will re-order them later. When you add your first picture, your Photoshop should look like this:
Now, it’s time to create more layers for you .gif image. Go to Animation tool and drag the little image down to ”Duplicates selected frames”. Now you have two of the same image. In Layers you will also have to drag each image down to ”Create a new layer”. The icon in Layers looks the same as in Animation as pointed out with the arrow in the picture below.
Next, go to File and choose Place. A box will appear where you will be able to find the next picture. Again, don’t worry about the order of the pictures. When you open the next picture you will see a cross appear over your image. It will look like this:
In order to remove the cross you will simply have to press enter. After you press enter, you will be able to repeat the same process as with the first picture, namely drag it down to ”Duplicates selected frames”. Continue using Place to add more pictures to your Animation. Once you’ve added all the pictures, it’s time to set the order.
Step 3 – Putting the pictures in the right order
Click on the first picture in the Animation field and once it’s marked blue, go to Layers and remove the eye icon from the pictures that should not be first in line. Once you click on the eye icons you will see the images change in Animation.
Step 4 – Decide on the speed
After you’ve put the pictures in the order you want them to be in, decide how fast your images should change. You do that on each picture in the Animation tool. Go to File and choose Save for Web & Devices. A new window will open. Make sure that the Looping Options is set to Forever. Test out your .gif by pressing play. The only thing left is to press Save! Needless to say, save it as a .gif image!
Thanks to Milana Saric for her contribution to the creation of this guide.