Content that uses high-quality visuals is more appealing and more effective in getting people’s attention than simple text. Studies show that image posts get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more link clicks when compared to text only posts.
Let’s take a look at how you too can find and use shareable imagery to make your content more compelling.
Creative Commons license is blogger’s best friend
We are visual beings drawn to beautiful imagery. Our brains process information better when presented in pictures and words, and visuals help us understand, learn and remember things quicker. For content distribution Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest are 100% visual platforms, while Facebook, Twitter and Google+ also place a big emphasis on images.
But don’t just pick an abstract image. Consider if the image quickly makes its point. First-time visitors are unsure you have what they need, and you have a few seconds to convince them to stay. A powerful picture is one that virtually screams the topic you’re talking about. 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.
Not everyone can shoot brilliant photography, which is why creative commons license is blogger’s best friend. Many popular sites use the Creative Commons imagery.
With creative commons attribution license, you are free to share (to copy, distribute, and transmit the work) and to remix (to adapt the work) millions of images from thousands of professional photographers from all over the world.
The only thing you need to do is to attribute the work in the way specified by the copyright owner. This basically means that you can use any of the images you find in the creative commons database as long as you credit the photographer with an “image by” link.
For many years I exclusively used creative commons pictures I discovered on Flickr. You cannot just use any image that you find online. You need to find images that you are permitted to use. Narrow your search results to the Creative Commons imagery only.
11 places to find brilliant images that you can use for free
This is the list of the best resources to help you in your hunt for free Creative Commons images. Take a look, explore, and see which of these fit the style you want the best:
- CC Search
- Flickr’s Creative Commons search
- The Stocks (puts together many resources in one place)
- Stock Vault
- Wikimedia Commons
- Pixa Bay
- Morgue File
- Pic Jumbo
- Free Media Goo
- Big Foto
Want something even more fun? 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.
Shoot your own photos
When possible try to use original images (meaning your own). This will make your content more unique. These images have been shot by you and nobody else has access to them.
The high quality image does not necessarily mean that you need to invest in a DSLR camera. The camera on your smartphone is more than enough. You just need to find great light and motives. Make sure to train your eye and keep a steady hand. Be aware of light and don’t rush. Take your time.
Walk around your city. Take photos when you are on vacation. Find the beauty in small details that might not seem as exciting. Look at other pictures and noticed how others are doing photography. It’s fun and 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.
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.
Best apps and tools for image editing
Learn about photo editing. I’m 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 but outdated tutorials on YouTube.
Web apps are a good alternative for those who need something quick and easy, but that still helps enhance photos. You don’t even need much experience to work with these. Here are some of the best apps:
- Photos (Mac)
- Preview (Mac)
- Snagit (capture your screen)
- Lightroom (premium)
- Pixelmator (premium)
All the web apps 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 can remove the blur, the red eyes, you can sharpen the image and you can even it out.
You could add a filter to the photo and give it a whole new look and style. There are many ready-made effects. 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.
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.
Consider adding a text overlay with the article’s headline
Just as a photo inserted into text can help illustrate a point, the right phrase embedded in an image can turbocharge a picture. The headline of your post helps the picture tell its story, and makes it abundantly clear the topic your post is tackling. Images with stats, quotes, and facts are also highly shared in social media.
The main featured image in your post should have some sort of title. Just like the cover of a magazine. Be creative and give it a magazine-style headline to make your posts stand out. There are endless possibilities when it comes to shapes, sizes, colors and fonts.
Use overlays to add a translucent layer to the image 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. There are several WordPress plugins that automatically insert watermarks into the images you upload.
Reduce the size before uploading to speed up your site
First-time visitors are impatient and won’t wait around for your large images to load. Your photos should be big enough to make an impact, but not so large that the file size prevents a quick page loading time.
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
Save your image in a web friendly format and reduce the size to make it load faster. Most image editing tools have the “Save for web” option which can drastically cut the size.
You need a design that facilitates imagery
Why bother with images if your site design doesn’t allow you to display them in visually appealing ways in the first place? Make sure that your design showcases and uses pictures prominently.
WordPress has a lot of beautiful designs that are created with photography in mind. Take a look at the design theme directory for your inspiration. Some of my favorites are:
How to upload your images to WordPress
All the images and other media that you upload to WordPress can be found within the “Media” section of your admin sidebar. Click “Add New” 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 it, flip it, scale it or resize it.
You can also upload images directly from the individual posts by clicking on the “Add Media” button. This also allows you to create galleries and insert them into your posts. This is how to create a gallery:
- Click “Add Media” on your post
- Click “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” button
- You can drag and drop to reorder the images in the gallery
- You can edit the gallery settings, such as the size of images, what the images will link to when clicked, and the number of columns.
Fill in the metadata to optimize your images for search
Metadata is the information that surrounds your image and helps search engines figure out what your images are about.
Always rename your image so it has a suitable name that describes the image better instead of for instance DSC_1234.
Then in WordPress, fill in these details as you upload new images:
Title: Make sure to give all the photos a short but meaningful headline. Try to put the main keyword such as the person in the picture, or the description of what the picture shows.
Description: Describe what the picture is about in more detail: what is it, where was it taken and who’s in it.
Tags: Tag all the important keywords. Include key names, words and phrases. If your tag is more than one word remember to place double quotes around the tag, i.e. “Web Design”.
WordPress also features the “Link To” option that allows you to open the image in the new tab when someone clicks on it. 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 place.
Use social media open graph meta tags
On Facebook, the image meta data 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. When your posts are shared they will display without images which may affect your click-throughs.
Activating WordPress Yoast SEO plugin helps you to add Facebook’s and Twitter’s meta data so all your images display properly.
WordPress photography plugins
Just as it has hundreds of designs to choose from, WordPress also features thousands of plugins that help you extend the features of your site.
I’ve already mentioned several in this post and you can take a look at my guide on plugins. Here are few more photo based options 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. It also features Photon which boosts the loading time of your website by caching your images and serving them from their super-fast servers.
- 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.
- BJ Lazy Load 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.