Blog images are seldom written about in great detail. We have loads of content online on how to write our blog posts well, but comparatively less advice on how to choose our blog images wisely. Obviously, as with most things online, there are lots of nuances to know about in selecting blog images. Most important of all, you need the right tools. You can get by with using tools that allow online visual finishing like Canva – but if budget permits, I’d strongly advice that you get yourself Photoshop Elements (a smaller version of Photoshop with which you can do most things Photoshop can).
If you too believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, you’ll know that a blog post is often clicked because its visual looks attractive. The same goes for content shared on the social media, after its been written up as a blog post and posted as a social update. The picture counts for a lot of social clicks. Of all Content Types & Formats, blog images are the most used by content marketers.
Sourcing and legal-ese involved in choosing the right blog images
Before you begin to source your images from the big or small stock photo sites online, there are a couple of legal points you have to know:
Royalty Free versus Right Managed
Royalty Free (RF) and Rights Managed (RM) are the two most commonly used licensing models in the stock photography industry. But these licensing models are very different from each other, and each has its own pros and cons. Understanding their differences and best applications is very crucial, to make sure you have the right license for your needs, and that you will make the best out of stock photos in your projects, and meet your goals.
According to StockPhotoGuides.com, the exact differences between these two principal license varieties are as follows:
Royalty Free license grants non-exclusive, unlimited and multiple use of an image, with few restrictions. It’s a one-time fee that allows perpetual use of the image in all the permitted ways. You can then use the licensed material for your own company, website or for advertisements. Due to the non-exclusivity that allows people to sell as many licenses to the same photo as buyers are willing to buy, images sold under RF license are widely distributed across stock photo agencies, and priced at low (and flat) rates. For this reason they are also often in use by different people, companies and brands at the same time, in different ways.
Rights Managed license provides time and geographically limited, specific and per-use rights to use an image, and often times also grants exclusive usage during the licensed period. The license only covers the consigned use, so to use the image in any different way, a new license is needed. This license includes digital rights management and basic rights management. The price for the license depends on the specifics of intended use. Sometimes it turns out affordable, and at other times it can get considerably expensive. Due to the more detailed buying process, and the custom-set, specific rights a buyer acquires over an RM image, these tend to be less widely available, and for the same reason, they don’t have so many duplicates in use simultaneously.”
There are so many zillions of Royalty Free Images around that even if there were hundreds of other buyers and users of the same stock pictures, I wouldn’t be too worried about looking like the other blog posts. So long as the images are reasonably priced and allow unlimited web usage, for an unlimited time period, for a one time payment, my choice is to always go for Royalty Free Images.
Attributing images to photographers or sellers
Should you attribute the photos to their original photographers or the sites you get them from? Normally the sites that sell these images do give you a two-line source credit text you can use, and it would be good practice to give images this attribution. But if you’re using it for your own site, it’s not always mandatory to add the credit line below the pictures. However, if you are writing guest posts, and supplying images to go with those, I would definitely advise sending the attribution for the images, so that the site where you are guest posting will know you have legally sourced these images, and will have the proof of it.
The best sources for stock images
There are a few really good sources for stock images and I would look up all of these sites:
Everybody has their pet peeves on the right sources. It’s a good idea to have two or three sources you’ve signed up for, so you have some variety. The way you can pay for stock images is either on a monthly or quarterly plan (depending on your usage) … or you can also pay-as-you-go via credits you can top up. Get used to the way the stock photo sites line up their search features (nowadays there are sophisticated visual searches enabled), and see also how they allow you to add your shortlisted images to categorized lightboxes. Seeing a lot of images in one go can blur your mind, so always make sure your mind is clear and focused, and do your search slowly without undue haste.
How to choose the right images for your blog posts
There are four main considerations you should worry about when choosing images …
About sizes of images and file formats to buy
Blog images don’t need very high resolutions, as you would need in images for a printed brochure. Most stock photo sites would allow you to choose from Small, Medium, Large or Extra Large image sizes, which progress to larger width and height dimensions, as well as higher resolutions, as you go up the ladder. I get by with the smallest size I can get (usually 848px x 565px dimensions at 72dpi resolution). That is more than adequate for web use.
Ultimately, I even downsize the small images to an even smaller size of just 450px x 300px. I find I am able to size these up or down a bit without any loss of quality for my blog posts, social media posts, etc. I pay less than a dollar per image, since I write a lot of blog posts, and use a lot of images.
Most stock photos are available in the .jpg format, which is what you should get. If you have a good photo-editing tool, you can alter change the formats to .gif or .png (should you need).
The subjects of the images to buy
One very important point about blog post images, that most people tend to miss out on, is how to pick the “ideal picture” for the topic of your blog post. For instance, let’s say the title of your blog post is “6 ways to write to correct headline for your article”. The title of your blog post sounds like it’s giving “positive” solutions to a problem. So then, should the image highlight the problem (i.e. show someone grappling with the problem of writing a good headline)? Or should the image also be positive (i.e. someone happily and easily writing headlines)? There are no right or wrong answers, so you’d have to go with your intuition.
Sometimes, it helps make a forceful point if both headline and image show the negative, so that people are spurred to take action. Sometimes it helps to have both positive headlines and positive images to show people the rewards of taking action. Sometimes it also helps to contrast the headlines and images – for example, show a negative image of someone suffering with a problem, but have a title that says “It can be gone in minutes with a bunch of our easy solutions”.
What to avoid and what to get more of
Experts in visual user experience suggest that images that are like “A for Apple” are a bad idea. For example, if your headline is about “Email Marketing”, it’s a bad idea to have a picture of a piece of wood etched with the words “email marketing”. This is too pat and repetitive of the headline of the blog post. Plus, the visual does nothing to stir emotions – which is what visuals are for. The main job of an image in a blog post is to stir emotions in people, so that people are ready to read the text that offers a more complete emotional experience – a closure of a problem, an idea to create something new, an inspiration for a better way to achieve, a sought-after answer to a long-standing issue.
There are also some other thumb rules for picking good images – it’s good to know these, but you don’t have to religiously follow these guidelines. In general, people love to see nature (scenery, pets, etc.), or they like to see other people. Especially for blog topics, somehow, people respond to the emotions they see in other people. So although many uppity bloggers decry shots of people as: “Oh, those awful cheesy stock pics of people”, you have to be careful how people look in the shots before you chuck them all out.
For instance, see the two pictures below: one looks like a studied, artificial-looking picture (on the left), where the model is smiling into the camera with her head obviously a bit at an uneasy angle, as if she were forced to cock her head at that angle to look like she’s on the phone. Whereas, the same model on the phone in the picture on the right, looks natural, easy, unstudied and more authentic – because she looks as if she’s on the line with someone and is reacting to what they are saying.
The picture looks more candid, and the emotion more genuine. It’s a very subtle difference, but it all boils down to three words – “genuine, un-selfconscious emotion”. If an image shows an genuine emotion, where the person in the picture seems un-selfconscious of the camera, it’s the one to pick. If you can get shots of people with real emotions coming through, it’s OK to go with those. People raise emotions in us any day, better than abstract images can.
Branding your images to create your own style
Some blogs like to use images as is; some others like to brand their images with their own visual style; and yet some others like to source images, and then work on them a lot to create visual effects that are unique to their blogs. It doesn’t matter what you do, but it enhances your branding a great deal, if there is a clear pattern in the styles of all the images you choose, across all your blog posts.
If you are going the photography way, do so for all posts … or use illustrations, abstract graphics or people shots, but do so consistently. Over time, a certain brand image builds, mostly by the way you consolidate your visual style.
Among branded images, there are many distinctive styles developed by some bloggers, that instantly makes their images stand out in a crowd of sourced generic images.
For instance, see how Copyblogger always brand their images with a quote from their articles.
Images courtesy: Copyblogger
And see below how Lilach Bullock distinguishes her web page with a distinctive green color (which is also in the dress she’s wearing!). See how she then uses the same green in varied ways, in her post images! Clever branding, isn’t it?
Images courtesy: Lilach Bullock
Basic techniques training using Photoshop Elements
I am a great votary of Photoshop Elements as the best photo-editing tool. It costs around $99, but it’s one of the best investments a content-creator can ever make, because unique visual content is one of the greatest magnetizers of readers. There are no two opinions on this.
Witha good tool to hand, you can do some wonderful things with stock images. You don’t need great skills either. I am no great visual editor myself, but the excellent tutorial videos from Adobe Photoshop Elements gave me enough skills to get started – and then I found tons of other free training online, to create all kinds of filters and effects – and have fun!
Below I’ve shown you where to buy Photoshop Elements and where to find the video tutorials they offer to get you started with all kinds of simple wizardry!
To buy Adobe Photoshop Elements
To learn Photoshop Elements through Adobe’s Guided Edits
How to optimize your images for the web using Photoshop Elements
It is extremely important to see that your images for blog posts are all optimized. Optimization ensures that, without losing quality, you bring down the file-size of an image as much as possible – thus aiding your page-load speed. Google ranking is very adversely affected by slow page speeds, so image optimization is a huge part of ensuring good Google rankings.
Image optimization, for minimizing of image file sizes, without sacrificing quality, is again very easy with Photoshop Elements. Here are the simple steps you need to follow:
Step 1: Open your image in Photoshop Elements, and if the image is OK to save, select “Save For Web”. This is the most important part, because Adobe Photoshop Elements enables you to save your image in a way that is extremely web-friendly and file-size friendly.
Step 2: When you choose “Save For Web”, you will see a dialog box that shows you two versions of the same image.
The image version on the left is the original file, with a huge file-size (in this case 1.37M). The image version on the right shows no noticeable quality change, but it has a file-size that is a mere fraction of the original size (in this case 38.27K). Yes, you read that right!
The settings you can fiddle with are in the area circled in red. Here we have chosen JPG as the file format and set quality level as “High” with quality at about 60% of the original. Even with this reduction in settings, it has not affected the image quality, though it has brought down the file size.
Perhaps if we had chosen JPG quality of “Medium” or “Low” (say 45% or 30% quality levels) it would have made the image look fuzzy, crackled – or generally less pure and pleasing. Since we are getting such a big file-size reduction even with quality at “High” and a Quality setting of “60”, we’ll go with this.
Click the “SAVE” button, name your file and you’re done!
One extra point to note: If you want images with transparent backgrounds you have to choose PNG as your file format in the settings – otherwise choose JPG, as it’s the most optimum option for the web.
Experiment a few times with the settings for every picture, because the original quality of the all pictures is not the same to start with … so altering the settings may give you a crackly look in some images, even at a “High” quality setting, while other images may show no difference at all in quality, even with “Low” settings.
Believe me, this one Photoshop Elements Image Optimization trick has increase my page-load speeds so much, its I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E!
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Types & Formats”:
- 9 Types Of Content To Master To Be A Content Marketing Crackerjack!
- 6 Terrific Inspirations To Make Your Own Engaging Instructographics!
- How To Make Case Studies Work Really Hard For Your Brand!
- Want To Create Ebooks? Follow This 4-Step Plan For Content Marketers!
- Push Messages: 22 Big Insights To Nudge Customers Via Small Content!
- How Evergreen Webinars Could Be A Solopreneur’s Smartest Selling Tool!