A site that uses high-value visuals to showcase interesting content is more appealing and more effective in getting people’s attention compared to a site that’s text only.
We are visual beings drawn to beautiful images. Visuals help us understand, learn and remember things better and quicker. Our brains process information better when presented in pictures and words.
Images create an emotional response and evoke feelings. They set a scene to your content. Sometimes images can make the visitor wish they were there. They can make them laugh. You should get outside of the “I need to write a lot of text” box.
Let’s take a look at how you too can use shareable imagery to make your content unique and interesting.
Best photo-focused site designs
WordPress is a great place for your photo content. It’s the largest online content publishing platform. 25% of all the internet is hosted on it. It’s perfect for photographers as it features hundreds of free photo blog designs, features that help you present and display your imagery, and it even helps you load your images faster. Here’s my step-by-step guide on starting your WordPress site.
WordPress has a lot of beautiful designs you can work from. Take a look at the design theme directory here for photo blogs. These themes are created with imagery in mind. They make it easy to display and showcase your photos in beautiful ways.
Why bother with images if your site design doesn’t use them in visually appealing ways in the first place? Make sure that your design showcases and uses pictures prominently. Some of my favorites are:
How to upload your images to WordPress
Now that you’re ready with WordPress, let’s take a look at how you can upload your images to it. All the images and other media can be found within the “Media” section of your WordPress admin left-hand sidebar. Click “Add New” there to upload new media. WordPress allows you to multi-upload your imagery by a simple drag and drop interface.
After you have uploaded the image you can also do some slight edits to it. You can rotate the image, you can flip it, you can scale it or resize it.
You can also upload images directly from the individual blog posts by clicking on the “Add Media” button on the top menu. This also allows you to create galleries of images to insert into your posts. This is the process you need to go through to create a gallery:
- Click on “Add Media” on any post that you are preparing
- Click on “Create Gallery” on the menu in the top left
- Select the images that you’d like to place in the gallery
- Click “Create a new gallery”
- You can now drag and drop to reorder the images in the gallery
- You can also edit the settings of your gallery such as the size of images, what the images will link to when clicked, and the number of columns.
WordPress plugins for photo blogs
Just as it has hundreds of designs to choose from, WordPress also features thousands of different plugins that help you extend the features of your site. Take a look here for my full guide on plugins you should use. Here are some of the best options for photo blogs to get you started:
- JetPack (made by people behind WordPress) can extend the native gallery feature of WordPress. It adds Tiled Galleries and Carousel to make the presentation of your images even prettier.
- NextGEN Gallery is the most popular gallery plugin. It’s used by more than 1 million websites.
- Pinterest Pin It Button allows your visitors to pin your images and share them with their friends.
- Simply Instagram is the quick way to feature your Instagram feed on your blog.
- Easy Watermark allows you to add a watermark to your images.
- Use the BJ Lazy Load if you have an image heavy site. The plugin only loads images that are in the browser’s view (i.e. above the fold) and loads the rest only as the visitor scrolls down the page.
- WordPress also has a free service called Photon. It boosts the loading time of your website by caching your images and serving them from their super-fast servers.
I will go into few more plugin recommendations further down in this article.
Let’s now get into the ways you can find imagery for your content. Either shoot the photos yourself or discover them online.
Shoot your own pictures
When possible try to use original images (meaning your own). This will make your site more unique. High quality image does not necessarily mean that you need to invest in a DSLR camera. The camera on your mobile device is more than enough for most of us. You just need to find great light and motives.
Walk around your city. Take photos when you are on vacation. Find the beauty in small details that might not seem as interesting. These images 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:
- Relevancy. Consider if the image quickly makes 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.
- 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. 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 notice 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.
Search 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 way 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.
Many bloggers use Flickr to find images to use in their posts thanks to the Creative Commons. The platform is very good at that as it has a variety of images from many photographer all over the world. For many years I exclusively used pictures I discovered on Flicks as featured images for my own articles. 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.
To help you in your hunt for free stock and creative common images this is the list of best free stock image resources. You can download good quality images on these sites without needing to register and you can use them in your blog content and social media marketing.
Some of these like The Stocks are great resources as they compile the list of best royalty free stock photos and save you time. Take a look and explore the sites to figure out the one most useful to you:
- The Stocks
- Stock Vault
- Wikimedia Commons
- Pixa Bay
- IM Free
- Morgue File
- Pic Jumbo
- Free Media Goo
- Big Foto
Tools to use to edit your images
It helps you stand out more if you can do some edits to the original image and make your version more unique and right for your content. There are many image editing tools that allow you to enhance your photos quickly and that you don’t need much editing experience to work with.
If you use a Mac you have access to Photos 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 to really create amazing imagery.
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. There are several simple alternatives that are browser-based. They are (mostly) free and very easy to use – there are some premium features you can subscribe for. Some of the popular options are:
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 and layers.
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 site’s 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. There are many ready-made effects (some premium, others free).
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 occasions 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.
GIFs are in vogue
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.
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! Make sure that you have at least three images and that they are the same size.
Create a text overlay with a magazine-style headline
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.
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 overlays and text 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 to make sure they are not ”stolen” if that’s an issue for you.
Reduce the size before uploading to speed up your site
First-time visitors 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 page loading time.
Make sure to save your image in a web friendly format and try to reduce the size in order for it to load faster. Most image editing tools have the “Save for web” option which can drastically cut the size.
Keep all your images the same size as randomly sized images are not appealing to the eye and result in a messy looking post. Your images have a solid size so the details are visible – tiny 200×200 pixels images are so 90’s! The ideal image sizes for social media platforms are:
- 1200×630 pixels for a Facebook page wall post
- 506×253 pixels for a Twitter post
- 497 pixels in width for a Google+ wall post
- 1080×1080 pixels for an Instagram photo
It’s possible to reduce the image size to a third of the original size without losing on the image quality. EWWW Image Optimizer and WP Smush.it are WordPress plugins that help automate this process for you.
Fill in the metadata to optimize your images for discovery
Metadata is the information that surrounds your image and helps search engines figure out what your images are about.
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.
Use a file name that describes the content of the image and includes the relevant keyword phrases instead of the generic file name with random numbers. 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.
Without filling in these details your images would be invisible and difficult to find in search. All this will help you index in Google Image Search and hopefully send you new traffic. The image on the right hand side shows how it all looks in WordPress, but other platforms might ask you for other details too.
- Headline: Make sure to give all the photos a short but meaningful headline. Also try to put the main keyword in the headline (i.e. person in the picture, description of what the picture shows).
- Description: Write a short description which describes what the picture is about, where the picture was taken and who is in the picture. Description is also a great place to put in links. For example links back to your website, to your site or to the social media profiles can be placed in here. Include a call-to-action with a link back to drive traffic. To make it easier when uploading a large amount of images you could think of this as an email signature. Create a signature with all your social media links and include them in every description.
- Tags: Tag all the important keywords with short and meaningful tags. Include key names, key words and phrases. If your tag is more than one word remember to place double quotes around the tag, i.e. “Web Design”.
Don’t insert links that open the same image in the new tab
As you see in the image above WordPress features the “Link To” option that allows you to open the image in the new tab. In most cases this is not necessary as the image opened will be the same image as the one already displayed within your content. There is no value in this for the user and you are just moving the user away from your main content.
Only use this option if you actually want the user to click on the image and see a larger version of the image or if you want to take the user to a different location.
Use social media open graph 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 click-throughs.
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 blog. For content distribution Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest are 100% visual platforms, while Facebook, Twitter and Google+ also place big emphasis on images.
Without images you will not reach an audience on these platforms and without highly sharable images you will not get much engagement. Recent studies show that image posts get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more link clicks when compared to text only posts.
There are several different image based social networks that you should be a part of and submit your pictures to get a wider reach. These are sites like Instagram and Pinterest. Flickr is one of the largest too and can also be used as a host for your images. It allows a free terabyte of space to host your pictures. That’s enough space for some 600,000 high-definition pictures so this is great for bloggers who work with a lot of imagery on their sites.
Flickr has a large audience and especially if you focus a lot on images and videos in your content you should have an active presence there with the aim of spreading your content through the platform too. You could do that by uploading all the amazing pictures and other multimedia that you take yourself. This could help get your work in front of targeted people who are interested in what you do and that may lead to you getting more customers.