You may have noticed that almost every blog post you read has at least one picture with it. Often, the picture isn’t strictly necessary to understanding the topic. In fact, sometimes the images have a tenuous connection to the actual content. Nevertheless, you are well advised to include one with your own posts. The reason is simple.
Pictures get people’s attention.
In print media, photos provide what we call an “entry point.” Say I’m flipping through a newspaper—maybe my local business journal?—and see an illustration of a spacecraft. What the heck? So I stop to see what that’s about and learn that a local manufacturer just got a NASA contract to build a new manned space flight vehicle for the U.S.A., and they’re going to hire a few thousand aerospace engineers right here in Central Florida…
OK, I know, wishful thinking on my part.
But the point is, a photo or illustration is attention-getting, and in a media-saturated environment like the Internet, they’re incredibly important. When your blog post is shared on social media, either by you or by one of your followers, it will get more attention if there’s a photo with it. People will pause to look at the photo, and if the headline also grabs their attention, they’ll click through to your post.
Also, images give you another search engine opportunity. When you upload a photo, one of the information fields is “alt text.” If you put your keywords in that field, your post will be more likely to show up in search engine results than if you leave it blank.
Where to find good images
Don’t use Google Images or something like it to find images for your blog. If you grab pictures from there, you do not have a license to re-use them on your own site. As writers, we expect people to honor our copyrights. Photographers and artists are also protected by copyright, so honor that and don’t use their images without their permission.
Here are some good sites for blog art:
FreeImages. This site has a large collection of photos and illustrations, all free for you to use. Because these are free, the quality is iffy, but there are some gems in there. This is always my first stop, because like many freelancers, I’m on a shoestring budget.
Fotolia. This isn’t a free site, but the prices are reasonable, and the quality of the images is excellent. Especially when I’m looking for something abstract rather than literal, Fotolia usually meets my needs.
WANA Commons. This Flickr group founded by blogger Kristen Lamb is a free photo pool by and for bloggers. (WANA is Lamb’s acronym for We Are Not Alone, her rallying cry for writers.)
Wikimedia Commons. This site is good for when you need classical art or pictures of things in the real world. The photos are usually covered by a Creative Commons license.
Unsplash. This site has fabulous photography, but a limited selection. Also using the Creative Commons licensing model.
How to find good images
Usually, as on this post, a literal interpretation of the topic works just fine. To find the image above, I used the search terms “photo collage” on FreeImages.
Other times, you’ll want to avoid the obvious. For example, if you’re writing about business introductions, don’t go with the obvious handshake photo. Dig deeper for something that hasn’t been done before. Try adding the word concept to your keyword as a search term. That’s how I found the illustration on my “Introduce Your Readers to Someone New” post.
The more abstract the topic, the more creative you need to be about how to illustrate it. That’s why you see a Rubik’s Cube on my post about preventing continuity errors. Instead of illustrating your topic literally, try to think of a metaphor. That can help set your post apart in the social media stream.
If you know a great site for free or inexpensive art, please share in the comments.