If you’ve got a blog, it’s very likely you’ve had or will have to insert images. While I demonstrated in a previous article the basic steps of handling photos for web, this time I’d like to concentrate on the nature of the photos themselves.
Since many of us tend to skim through the ever growing content found on blogs and news site, using images will provide your readers with a visual aid and will help them identify the important posts from the rest. Bigger images will be the ones your visitors will look at first of course, so use them wisely. The other ones, the smaller images, will inform them about the topic of the article.
Take a look at this example from io9.com:
The vast majority of you will notice first the photo of half-naked Eric and Bill from True Blood restrained with silver chains and about to be burned alive. It’s the most important article of the page, the one you’re supposed to see first. Not only it is big, it is also striking with its intensity. But what else is there?
On the right side you’ve got the regular articles. People will usually look at the image and the title before reading a description. In my case, my eyes went toward the cat and the blue screen first. They are colourful and obvious. The other images are quite obscure and since my brain can’t make any link with a topic, they are quickly dismissed. Their tiny size doesn’t help but since the content is on the side bar it cannot be helped.
So size and color matters. What else?
The type of images you will use will vary according to your website’s target audience and its content. If you are writing about coffee, you might look for pictures of coffee beans, cups, machines, shops and packaging for example. If it’s about finance, perhaps you will be needing photos of stocks, markets and people in business attire to illustrate the context and etiquette in that field. And unless you have a professional photographer or artist at hand, you will need to find those images somewhere…
What you’ll be looking for is called stock images. Websites such as iStockphoto provide royalty-free images that can be reused for different purposes a certain amount of times. And how does it work? Well, you will have to buy credits (1-2$/credit) and use it to purchase material. If you only want to use a photo on your blog, it might cost you 1-2$ per image but it gets expensive when you need bigger sizes for printed work.
In any case, stock images are not a bad idea if you need a lot of images and you are willing to pay for good quality. Most of them have a very professional look and can be used to picture usually abstract concepts like friendship, business relations, trust or marketing, to name a few. There are also free stock image galleries out there like stock.xchng that provide decent material, although sometimes not exactly what you’re looking for, it’s definitely worth taking a look.
The downside of stock images is that they rarely are original; everybody uses them and they can be spotted a mile away. You know what I’m talking about. If you’re not sure, click here. Those photos of people interacting in front of a white background? Stock images. Those images of businessmen laughing or taking a call in front of their computer screen? Stock images. Those photos of people whispering in each other’s ears? Happy families? Handshakes or fists in front of a white background? You get the point.
Professional yet plain, stock images are useful but, when possible, you should go a step further and make them your own. This practice is even more crucial if you work in the creative field. You will want your photos to speak to your readers and you will want them to say more than “hey, I bought a picture from iStockphoto and put it on my site”. You will want them to scream originality so they are not lost in a sea of other articles and content.
That said, it’s not a call for excess. Use your common sense; you don’t need to use hyper saturated colors on all your blog posts. But there’s some tweaking you can do.
- Playing with size, as we mentioned earlier
- Adding text
- Playing with the colors
- Making them your own
Text is not a necessity but it can be nice. I personally like to add text to Veodesign’s articles as I tend myself to look at images before anything. I figure that if our readers can see the image and read the text at once, I’m killing two birds with one stone.
Playing with colors doesn’t need to be extreme. It can simply be subtle enhancements that can be achieved on Photoshop or Picasa. See the original photo I used by gnu2000 and compare it to this blogpost’s image. You can also go further and apply some colorful gradients as you can see below.
It took me only a few minutes. Can I afford to spend 5 minutes of my time on an image for my blog? Sure thing! If you want to push it further, you can make the image your own by drawing it.
Of course not everyone has time or the skills to sketch every single picture, but it’s something you should consider for some of your special posts if you can and want to.
A picture is worth 1000 words. They’re what your readers will see first. So why not dedicate some time choosing the right picture and making it unique? Show your followers you are different than the other blogs out there. Show them that you care and pay attention to detail. It will pay off by strengthening your blog and making your visitors remember you.
If you liked this article, I would like to recommend Tentblogger’s post about Images. It’s well written and provides a lot of information about copyrights.
Please leave a comment if you have any question or comment related to this post.