You’re a blogger in a visual world. The visual part of online content publishing is as important as the written words, if not even more. Adding stunning pictures to your content is one of the most effective actions you can take to grab and hold the attention of your audience.
How do you communicate with words when your readers are conditioned to absorb information through imagery? To succeed, you better have effective visuals to hammer your points home and hook people with visual cues that tell them they’ve found what they need. To do the best possible job of marrying pictures to your posts, consider these factors:
- A visually appealing design theme. Why bother with images if your site design doesn’t utilize them in visually appealing ways in the first place? Make sure that your design showcases and uses pictures prominently. Here are some suggestions for themes to use.
- Does the image quickly make its point? First-time visitors to your site are unsure you have what they need, and you have just a few seconds to convince them to stay. A powerful picture is one that virtually screams the topic you’re talking about. Don’t pick something abstract. You can’t drop any old photo or illustration into an article and pat yourself on the back for thinking visually. There should be no mystery what the picture is communicating.
- Words in photos. Just as a photo inserted into text can help illustrate a point, the right powerful word or phrase embedded in an image can turbocharge a picture. The word or the headline of your post helps the picture tell its story, and makes it abundantly clear the topic your post is tackling. Images with quotes and facts are also highly shared in social media.
Where to find pictures to use in your content
- Taking your own pictures
Easiest way of being completely unique is by taking your own pictures and using them in your content. These images have have been shot by you and nobody else has access to them. Here are some general tips to keep in mind when taking the pictures for your site:
Quality: You don’t have to have a professional camera, to shoot quality images (although it helps). Make sure to train your eye and keep a steady hand. Be aware of light and don’t rush. Take your time. Learn about photo editing further down in this article. You can remove the blur, the red eyes, you can sharpen the image and you can even it out.
Motive: When taking food photos for instance, setting up the plate before you take the picture is essential. Think about the colors of the food, the background and the position. Maybe a red tomato will take the image from plain to extra in a matter of second – plus tomatoes are tasty.
Accessories: Different accessories can have a lot of impact and can enhance your pictures. You will noticed for example food bloggers using fancy plates or cute spoons.
Practice and learn: Look at other pictures and noticed how others are doing photography. It’s fun and it’s inspiring. Don’t copy others, but take inspiration from them and interpret the different styles that you see online. Soon enough you’ll have lots of ideas on your own.
- Searching for creative commons license pictures
If you don’t have a camera and cannot get your own images there is creative commons license to help you out. With creative commons attribution license you are free to share (to copy, distribute and transmit the work) and to remix (to adapt the work).
Only thing you need to do is to attribute the work in the manner specified by the author. This basically means that you can use any of the images you find in creative commons as long as you credit the source with a link.
CC Search is a search engine for sites that feature creative common materials.
Also Flickr images are used by many of the biggest sites. You need to find images that you are permitted to use. You can narrow your search results to the Creative Commons license only. When I use images from Flicker I usually credit the source of my image with “image by” link at the end of my articles.
How to use pictures to attract traffic
- Reduce the image size. First-time readers are impatient and won’t wait around for your giant image to load. Make sure the photo is big enough to make an impact, but not so large that the file size prevents a quick pageload. Several image editing tools have the “Save for web” option which can drastically reduce the size. It is possible to reduce the image size to a third of the original size without losing much quality.
- Fill in the meta data. Use a file name that includes the keyword phrase instead of the generic file name to better describe the picture. Also make sure the image title tags and alt text have relevant keywords in them. You can also use descriptive text near the image by writing an image caption. All this will help you index in Google Image Search and hopefully send you new traffic. This is how you do it in WordPress:
- Use social media meta tags. On Facebook the image meta is called Open Graph, on Twitter it is Twitter Cards. If you don’t use these tags Twitter and Facebook won’t be able to recognize your image so your posts will display without them when being shared which will affect your clickthroughs. In both cases WordPress makes it easy, just install WP Facebook Open Graph Protocol plugin for Facebook and JM Twitter Cards for Twitter.
- Go to image based social media sites. Now that you are comfortable about images and have started using them to make your content better, you should also work on using images to get attention and get more visitors to your site. There are several different image based social networks that you should be a part of and submit your pictures to in order to get a wider reach:
- How to optimize your Flickr presence
- Your guide to building an Instagram community
- How to use Pinterest when blogging
Simple image editing tips for beginners
- Image editing tools to get you started
If you’re just starting out you need a simple image editing tool. 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.
Picmonkey is a simple photo editing online tool. Allows you to put captions in fun fonts onto your pictures, create collages or add an effect to your pictures. From polaroids and traditional museum frames to craft scissors and rounded corners… framing your pictures is a quick and easy. It also lets you create collages with pre-designed templates. You can also make a nice Facebook cover picture pretty quickly.
Snagit is the another photo editing software. You download it to your computer and it gives you the freedom of saving photos, giving you a chance to get back to editing later, as opposed to Picmonkey, where you don’t have your own file of pictures. Snagit lets you do pretty much the same stuff, however the opportunities when it comes to size is larger with Snagit, making it perfect for making infographics.
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.
- The way to a better photo in Picmonkey
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 than 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!
Now the picture is straight, but 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.
If you are still unhappy with the lighting in your picture 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.
See also this step-by-step on creating GIF images.
Pictures will certainly boost your content and your social media engagement. When you are comfortable with images you can even go beyond. Include presentations within your content. Publish videos. Use infographics that look great and are highly shareable.