C’mon Photoshoppers: give me a break

photos,images,pictures,colors,howtowritebetter.net,how to write better,Suzan St MaurPhotoshop and its competitors certainly have given photographers the chance to enhance and manipulate images to a degree that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. But has this colorful freedom gone a bit too far? [Read more…]

Great images: how they bring your blog posts to life

Great images: how they bring your blog posts to life

Interesting images: a great way to bring your blog posts alive

Although these are not strictly speaking a writer’s responsibility, no writer can afford to ignore the importance of visual thinking. There is no way that one element of a blog post can be developed in isolation from the others: the internet is a multi-faceted, multi-media environment. In fact more now than ever before, words and pictures have got into bed with each other.

Video, too, has asserted itself as a keen online medium but as for its harmony with print text – well, that’s another story for another time.

So what really can work as still images to support your blog posts, articles and everything else you produce online?

Images? Do I need to draw?

No. All you have to do is broaden your scope out from the “words only” approach, and attune your mind to seeing your whole blog post (or other text issue) with all its elements as one overall concept.

And with a) a huge variety of free art and pictures on the internet plus b) the simplicity of taking good pictures of your own, sourcing great images is really easy. You just need to know what you’re looking for.

Warning: a bad image is worse than no image at all

Too often I see blog posts in which the author has stuck a pretty picture which, although pretty, bears absolutely no relation to the blog’s subject matter and therefore contributes nothing at all. If you can’t find an image that adds something to your words, don’t use one. Instead use bold cross-headings, pull quotes and other visual cosmetics to break up plain text and make your post more inviting to the eye.

Offensive images of any kind should be avoided, unless your blog post is about one of two things:

1.Drawing attention to some stark, shocking reality that your readers might not be aware of, e.g. the object of a charity fundraiser

Great images: how they bring your blog posts to life2.A humorous subject, provided that your audience will find whatever scatological or other off-colour illustration you use to be genuinely funny

What images work best?

Images that work best, for me, pick up on points in the text – not necessarily the main points, but on points for which an illustration lifts their prominence and contribution to the post.

I personally love humor and even in serious posts, I’m attracted to images that pick up on points in at least a witty sort of way, if not in fall-about slapstick humor.

As long as you’re careful not to stray over into areas of bad taste – e.g. using a humorous image in a post about death or illness – I think these slightly amusing illustrations help to lift the text and make the whole reading experience more entertaining.

What’s more to the point, however, is to keep your images relevant without repeating what you’re saying in the text, but rather using them to provide an extra dimension to it.

For example, if you’re writing about brass screws, there’s little point showing more than perhaps a thumbnail pic of a brass screw because everyone knows what they look like.

In this case, you need to use images that show why screws are better than steel ones … how much nicer they look when in place than other kinds … or perhaps a picture of them being made.

Where should they appear in the blog post?

Many blogging experts believe that you can use images to draw the reader’s eyes into the text to begin with, then use subsequent ones to continue guiding their eyes onwards down to the end. Unless there are good reasons why not, you should try to alternate left-right-left-right so as to keep the flow going.

Where a picture shows a definite inclination to one side, always ensure that it inclines inwards towards the text – not away from it. With images not containing any text of their own, it’s easy to “flip” the picture to whichever side you want using your Microsoft Office Picture Manager program or equivalent.

Great images: how they bring your blog posts to lifeSo for a blog post about ponies, you’d use this picture on the left hand side of the text:

 

Great images: how they bring your blog posts to life…and this version on the right hand side of your text:

 

Where can I find good images for free?

I (and many of my blogging friends) use Stock.Xchng which offers thousands of free images – be careful, however, to check their usage conditions as some require you to contact the photographer and gain permission, even though there is now charge.

Another good source that I use a lot is Photo Pin … a huge database of “Creative Commons” images. Just be careful to tick the correct option when searching; if your site is in any way commercial, use only images from the commercial category. And then simply cut and paste the short lines of HTML on to the bottom of your post.

There are many more libraries of “free stock pictures” – have just Googled that phrase are there are more than 63 million results, so that should keep you going for a while!

What about original material?

Great images: how they bring your blog posts to lifeLike most people these days I carry my phone around with me everywhere I go and I watch out for interesting signs, scenes, vehicles, etc. that might come in handy to illustrate a blog post one day. Here on the left is a good example of a sign I saw recently in Baltimore, Maryland…

Particularly if your blog is about a very specific topic or business, you are well placed to capture images that you know will work well to enhance your blog posts. Happy snapping!

Get writing even better blog posts:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

photo credit: canon7dude via photopin cc

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