Blogging And The Power Of Pictures

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I get a few e-mails and comments every week about the images I use.

So, I figured it’s time to share a bunch of answers, resources and advice about the power of images and blogging.

Where do I use images on the blog?

I generally use them at the lead of every post, especially if the post is a longer, more feature-like article. In fact, if something I write goes over 1,000 words, it’s not unusual for me to include images in the middle of a post, too. Maki, over at DoshDosh.com often writes longer resource and thought articles and does a great job of finding and integrating multiple images into his posts. And, Skellie, over at Skelliewag.org also often uses multiple images to break up long blocks of content really well.

Why do I use images on the blog?

  • Images are channel stoppers – Ever wonder why infomercials feature celebrities? Beyond the belief that viewers want to do and buy what celebs do and buy, there’s another huge reason they are featured. They what’s known as “channel stoppers.” So, when you’re sitting on the couch, surfing channels rapid fire, you are more likely to stop for a few seconds when you see a celeb. In blogging, images can serve a similar purpose. The right images can serve as strong channel stoppers, especially when people are rapidly surfing through websites as they do with services like StumbleUpon.
  • The VAK Effect – Readers receive and process information in a combination of three modes, visual (V), auditory (A) and kinesthetic (K). And, with each person, one of these three modes tends to predominate. So, if someone is primarily a visual learner, you’re best off presenting your content in as visual a manner as possible and using words that reflect a visual perspective, like “see.” The better you match your mode of communication to that of your readers, the more easily people will “get” your message, without having to work so hard. And, they’ll be more likely to develop an affinity for the way you present your content which, over time, can translate to affinity for you and your blog. Now, here’s the cool part. A significant percent of people are strongly visual learners, so by adding strong images to your content, especially ones that in some way demonstrate what you are trying to convey, you are more likely to grab and appeal to a larger percentage of potential members of your blog’s community.
  • Help tell the story or set stage – Building on the element of visual processing, a well chosen image can help you tell whatever story you are trying to tell and actually make the writing part of your job shorter, faster and easier.
  • Make a post more bookmarkable of social media ready – If it’s compelling enough, the image alone may motivate a reader to either bookmark the entire post and/or submit the image to be shared in social media. If enough people also like that image, it’ll can add anywhere from a modest to a massive viral traffic bump to your post. Again, StumbleUpon is one community that gravitates toward great images. And, more recently, Digg now allows you more leeway in choosing the images to associate with a post that you submit to the community. There, too, if the image is good enough (which, on Digg, often means “outrageous” enough), you may end up with a strong bump in traffic, not from the written content, but from the image alone.

How I choose images for my blog?

I tend to look for images that convey some sense of emotion, power or depict an event or scene that would help tell the story of a particular post or demonstrate a central point. So, I usually think about a handful of keywords that I might search on to find my post, then use those when exploring images to choose from my online stockhouse.

Where I get my images from?

In my earlier days as a blogger, I would draw photos from a wider variety of places. But, or some time now, I’ve leaned strongly toward two sources. First is my own images, taken by me that show some part of my life. Second, my go-to resource for images has become istockphoto.com. They’ve got a huge selection of royalty-free images, are reasonably priced and allow you to choose the image size and resolution and download them instantly. They also have weekly free images.

Each image ends up costing me around $2-$4. And, yes, I realize that if you are posting daily, researching and then paying that amount can add up to thousands of dollars a year. For me, though, because my blog is not only fun, but part of my professional life, I am okay paying this price. Plus, the search and organization functions make the effort go a lot faster…and time is money.

I also don’t post daily, so I probably end up spending about $300-$500 a year on images. If you post more frequently and use more images, a monthly subscription based stock house would allow you to download way more images and cut your per image cost, so that might work better for you.

Other resources for paid images to explore include:

What about free Images and crediting the photographers?

If you’d prefer to use images for free, I know a lot of people use photos from Flickr, many of which may be used, with certain limitations, under a Creative Commons license. One of the key elements of this license is the photographer must be given public credit for the photo, in lieu of financial payment. If you’ve got more time on your hands to find images, there are some great shots on flickr, and you’ll avoid the financial outlay. For me, because time is one of my most precious business assets, I’d rather pay the $3 and free up an extra 30 minutes to make many times that in income.

How do I edit my images?

It’s rare that you find an image that is ready to publish right out of the box. And, often, an image won’t truly come alive until you’ve cropped it properly. In fact, cropping can turn a very ho-hum image into a captivating image. When I search for my images, part of that process is thinking about how I would crop them and trying to guess how they’ll look. Interestingly, I can always tell when people swipe images from this blog and use them elsewhere, because of the way they are cropped.

I used to use Photoshop for my image editing, but then Darrren Rowse from ProBlogger.net shared an awesome little $19.95 program for Macs called ImageWell (sorry PC peeps). It does basic editing and cropping much more quickly and easily. So, these days, I actually do 95% of my editing in ImageWell.

So, what about you?

Do images make you stop at, bookmark or share posts?

Do you use images on your blog?

If so, how do you choose them?

Where do you find them?

Got any other cool resources to share?

Let’s discuss (and share resources)…

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19 responses

19 responses to “Blogging And The Power Of Pictures”

  1. I believe more bloggers like yourself are tapping into adult learning behavior (VAK) and applying to your readers.

    I am always fascinated with using different images and even communication medium (video, audio, text, presentation, etc…) and the reader/listeners to provide their own content within the context of a post.

    I also find that images enable the reader to link a visual metaphor with the upcoming written message.

    As far as tools, I love istockphoto.com and also the free http://resizeyourimage.com

  2. Sonia Simone says:

    AC-DSee (I might not have that exactly right) is another cheap editing-and-cropping program that works for Windows.

    I actually often find stronger images on Flickr than I do on iStock, but I use both of them. I completely agree that the right image adds something indefinable to a post. Images lock the idea into the consciousness in a way that words alone don’t (for most readers, anyway).

  3. starrlife says:

    I love this article- so interesting and helpful. I love to use my own photos but am a total amateur. I use Picasa to edit so you know that’s pretty basic. I have used Freefoto.com for other formats.

  4. starrlife says:

    BTW- that’s a great photo of a boardwalk! Yours?

  5. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Matthew – Yeah, I agree, I think that especially as the trend toward longer “articles” grows with lower frequency, more bloggers are exploring communications methodology and the power of images

    @ Sonia – Hey, thanks for sharing the PC editing resource, was hoping someone would chime in with one.

    @ starrlife – Thanks for those resources, I’ve used Picasa on a PC, too, and it’s got a lot of juice for a free app. Man, I wish that boardwalk in today’s image was mine, Someday, working toward it! 🙂 It’s actually from istockphoto.

  6. I use images from Stock Exchange (sxc.hu) and I agree – I used to use Flickr but it was a pain finding good images. Because there is no quality control, a lot of the images look great as thumbnails but then turn out to be out of focus etc.

    I htink about a third of the CC licensed images on Flickr are really useful though, but it was frustrating for me to find the perfect shot – only to learn upon clicking it that it wasn’t as clear as the thumbnail.

    I also use Paint .NET on my PC (not sure if it works on Mac/Linux). It’s awesome. Also very similar to a “Photoshop Lite” for PC

  7. Tim Brownson says:

    People actually learn with VAKOG. You missed gustatory and olfactory. So when are you doing a scratch and sniff post? It could be really ground-breaking 😉

  8. […] Go to the author’s original blog: Blogging And The Power Of Pictures […]

  9. Great post, Jonathan. Since I’ve started blogging I’ve always felt photos play a very important role in getting any message across. In fact, sometimes they can say much more than words.

    I use Flickr almost exclusively. Like Sonia, I think find “stronger” images on there. I also use my own photos, since I dabble in professional photography on the side.

  10. Brandon W says:

    I keep a non-profit blog “on the side” where I use a photo, chart, graph, or video as the main body of the post. I only have text as the headline and sometimes as a brief explainer or link to an article. I still occasionally write something, but the idea of that blog is to see what ideas I can convey visually. Those who follow me on Twitter (@brandonw) may have seen it.

    Another good, free image editor for the PC is IrfanView.

  11. Love your photos, as you know.

    Another reason to use compelling images is that it encourages readers who receive the blog by email to open the emails.

    I know that even when I’m in a hurry I usually open the Awake at the Wheel emails just to see Jonathan’s latest pretty pics!

  12. PC peeps can check out Paint.NET. It’s free and it’s awesome.

    Oh, and… nice picture! 🙂

  13. Glee Girl says:

    I love the photos you post. Thanks for sharing a bit of background about them and some links.

    I always have one, sometimes two photos on each post (even though my posts are usually quite short). They are almost always my own pictures, somtimes something I saw that day that made me smile, like cool cloud formations or a great old house, but other times just a picture I took of something that I love that makes me happy to look at but which might not have anything to do with my post.

    Sorry – not much in the way of resource sharing from me!

  14. I think photos definitely take posts to a new level. I always try to include pictures in my own posts. I mainly use Flickr, but I will soon be moving onto to some of the sources you suggested. Time is more important, after all. 🙂

  15. […] Blogging And The Power Of Pictures – Why images can really liven up a blog post. […]

  16. Ari Herzog says:

    Echoing what others have said, I take advantage of free online repositories, including:

    Flickr at http://flickr.com and Wikimedia Commons at http://commons.wikimedia.org – searching for specific Creative Commons licenses that meet my criteria.

    More recently, I discovered Zemanta at http://zemanta.com, which among other uses, provides me a quick view of both Flickr and Wikimedia images with photo credit lines; all I need to do is click the image and it’s inserted into my blog editor.

    I also use Stock Exchange at http://sxc.hu and Picapp at http://picapp.com for other free images that don’t require backlinks.

  17. This article is on target in every way, you did a fantastic job on stressing the importance of the ‘perfect’ picture for our blog. Thank you!

  18. Ah…getting to ad images was one of the reasons I fell in love with blogging…it became a visual journal and I still love adding images to my personal blog. My pro blog doesn’t get them as often right now but will. I like Dreamstime. Smart images and the “extra small” size is perfect for blogs. They cost as little as .20 so my $10 minimum payment goes a long way for myself and clients!

    Kelly

  19. Sarah H. says:

    I just found your blog through problogger and as I was skimming through your posts I really found myself liking your images! I was pleased, therefore, to find that you wrote up this post about images and where you get them. My blog is new and I have been using all my own images so far since I’m also a photographer. I appreciate knowing alternate resources, however. And again, I think you use great images here…well done!