his palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy.
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti.
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
to drop bombs.”
In his famed ballad, Lose Yourself, Eminem may have been talking about a young MC about to take to the stage to compete in a rap battle after having Italian food at his folks’ house, but it could well be about the final stages of turning an idea into a blog entry.
Your fingers are tired, your mind empty, your creative flow all but tapped. The written part of the task is complete, your words of wisdom, painstakingly extracted from your mind, are transferred onto your website’s CMS and the ‘publish’ button looks alluringly close, like a tropical mirage in the middle of the desert.
But you know there’s one final hurdle to pass, perhaps the most irritating hurdle. The hurdle at which many of us flop to the ground, stomp about, lose our cool and lose patience with the blog. It’s time to source images.
How can your generation-defining article full of abstract concepts and new-age revelations be captured in a single image? How can your dedicated, insider knowledge be adroitly summarised by a few pixels? And where are all the free-to-use images hiding?
The temptation to overlook adding an image to a blog is very real, I mean, who’d notice anyway? Surely, your words are strong enough to bypass the need for an image or two.
Sadly, this is very wrong. Visual content is hugely important to the impact of a blog. From making the blog more user friendly to optimising the entire entry for search engines and social media platforms to share; images can bring a blog to life.
And it is vital that the images are relevant, eye-catching and interesting, because after all, a picture paints a thousand words. So you’ve got to pick that picture/those thousand words carefully.
So with this in mind, here is the Banc Media guide to picking the perfect image(s) for your blog.
With (at last guess by the author of this blog) one decillion images on the net, finding one to suit your blog should be a breeze, right? No.
Sourcing images for blogs isn’t as simple as picking the best pics from the net and slapping them into your blog. Photographers have families to feed so won’t take lightly to you stealing their work, often demanding royalties for their images or imposing an exclusive right to use them on the net.
This can make it harder to find appropriate images, unless you know where to start. Here’s a few of our favourite image resources to help you complement your skilled wordsmithery.
With close to 700,000 free, professional-looking images, Pixabay is a stellar place to start your picture hunt. With a simple search bar navigation, finding images could not be easier, and the site features a few drop-down options to help you nail down the perfect image for your blog. However, be warned that the top row of images are from Shutterstock and you’ll be expected to fork out for those bad boys.
From the Ronseal school of business naming, FreeImages is home to 16,000+ free stock photos across 89 categories. The site has been going for 15 years, so there is some chaff among the wheat, but it’s still a sizeable collection of images.
Although it doesn’t have the same depth of images as some other free stock photo sites, Unsplash concentrates on providing striking and interesting images. Adding just ten new photos every week and a half, all the images on Unsplash have been carefully selected – so whilst a search might be unsuccessful about 90% of the time, you can get some absolute blinders.
Got a little bit of budget to dedicate to the sourcing of images? Head over to Fotolia, where 63 million images call home, all available at different prices. There’s almost no search on Fotolia which won’t turn up relevant results – the question is, how much will it set you back. All the images are of a highly professional standard, and all the models are attractive and smiling – stock photography how it should be.
Flickr is where I turn in times of desperation. When my searches are unsuccessful, I turn to the Flickr gods, get down on my knees and search. The image library is user contributed, so there is a massive selection of images, meeting almost every search request imaginable. Just make sure you check the usage rights of the image (I’d recommend changing ‘Any license’ to ‘Commercial use allowed’ in the search settings) before downloading it. If you get caught using a rights-protected image, you could land yourself in hot water. Naturally, as a user-contributed site, the quality varies from picture-to-picture, but there are plenty of gems to be found.
Picking the Right Image
Now you know where tens of millions of images can be sourced at a click of a button, you’ve got the fun task of narrowing these down to one or a few to snugly place on the blog.
Consider the Audience
You’ve got your ideal reader in mind, right? Those people who will be charmed, enthralled and delighted by your blog. They understand your insider jokes, they’ve noticed the clever allegorical web you’re spinning, they appreciate your otherwise unappreciated genius. So, as well as writing for them, make sure your images are directed to their tastes, interests and personalities as well. Stay sombre with imagery where appropriate, go funny when suitable and be informative where relevant.
Picture the images which would most delight your target audience, then sniff them out you diligent bloodhound, you.
Aspirational Blog? Search for Aspirational Images
Related to the above point, readers often turn to blogs when they need advice, guidance and inspiration. If you’re hoping to inspire your readers, make sure your images reflect their demographic. Incorporating images of other folks (representative of your blog’s core demographic) engaging in the activities put forward by the blog can help your readers place themselves in these (more than likely fictitious) peoples’ shoes.
This adds a wealth of value to the blog, helping the reader associate with the subject matter and engage with your words.
Does the Image Add Anything?
Excitement, humour, clarity or information – every image should add at least one of these qualities to your blog. Otherwise, it’s just a wasted space and a wasted opportunity to add extra value. An image which adds nothing and isn’t relevant to the subject matter can derail the blog and the concentration of the reader.
Optimising for Web
Most modern CMS’s are quite adept at fine-tuning images, providing a wealth of options to ensure your image is optimised for the reader and the search engine. Here are just a few things you’ve got to do to make sure your blog’s images are optimised and ready to be published.
More for the aesthetics of the blog than anything else, you’ve got to get the dimensions of the images right, otherwise your article can look a right old mess. Try to be consistent with the sizing of images for uniformity; this will keep the neat freaks on your side, and increase the likelihood that the blog will justify correctly on smaller devices.
Top Tip: When presented with a choice of image sizes at the download stage of image sourcing, plump for the largest. This will give you the greatest freedom to resize without the fear of dreaded pixelation.
Image Meta Data
Perhaps the most overlooked part of the image optimisation process, adding the image meta data can help readers understand what they’re looking at and can even improve search rankings. Many CMS’s have four different image meta data fields which will pop up when you upload an image, they are:
Title: The basic title of the image, this can help you find it in the future when searching through your site’s media library.
Image Alt Text: The text which is displayed if the image cannot be located. This can help add clarity to a blog, and is something Google uses as a ranking factor in image search results.
Description: This text will appear on the attachment page for the image, and can add a little background info for the reader.
Caption: Want to add a little info underneath an image, pop it in the caption field. Although be warned, some CMS themes display the caption in different places.
So your image isn’t quite perfect, what are you going to do? Crack open Photoshop or my good mate PIXLR (a basic, free, web-based alternative to Photoshop) and edit the image to perfection? Cool your jets, race car driver, you may not be allowed. Check in the usage agreement from where you downloaded the image whether you’re allowed to edit and manipulate the image. If not, it’s going to have to go up au naturel.
Picking the Hero Image
The hero or featured image is the picture which will be plum at the top of the blog, and (if you’re lucky) on the main blog page. So make sure you allocate the hero image carefully, picking the one which most accurately reflects your blog and the treasures of your content. A poor hero image could deter folk from giving your plucky little blog a read.
We hope this blog has helped you improve your image selecting process. Now, we’ve got the high-pressure job of picking images for a blog about picking images. Cool.
If you need a little more help crafting blogs and content for your site, why not get in touch with the Banc Media content team on firstname.lastname@example.org?