How To Choose The Best Photos For Blog Posts

Most bloggers understand the importance of using photos in blog posts and their effectiveness for engagement. But while visual content certainly has appeal, it shouldn’t be viewed with the simplicity of “images = GOOD, no images = BAD.”

Some studies indicate that images are more effective for click-throughs on posts shared on social media; their on-page effect may be negligible, however — even harmful in some contexts. Further, while some blogs regularly incorporate images, other highly successful blogs like Moz, Crazy Egg, A List Apart and this one either use images minimally (as illustration, infographics, charts) or not at all.

Be relevant

Images should be high-quality and relevant to the post. But quality can be subjective, especially in our Instagram era. Unless artistic license is being taken carefully and with intent, some basics are:

  • Subject should be easily identifiable and in sharp focus.
  • Good exposure… not over or underexposed.
  • Very low noise. Noise, or graininess, can always be added for artistic value.
  • Good composition. The subject should either be centered or positioned off-center with a rule of thirds composition. This isn’t required, but it generally makes for a more appealing composition.

Avoid generic images

This is a tough one. A well-photographed handshake was probably great the first couple times it was used, but it’s a passé and boring approach now, and it won’t likely help your post. Look for interesting images that have a much better chance of grabbing your readers. It’s often hard or impossible to avoid generic images altogether, but it’s always best to strive for unique images.

It also helps to look for striking values within a photograph like bold colors, contrast, composition or even a bold character or theme, provided it suits your post. I look for images that address the post’s title and are thought-provoking.

Keep your budget in mind

Regularly producing content can equate to a lot of images and if you’re paying for them, the costs can add up. With stock sites charging per credit, I won’t go above a certain amount per image.

Download images at double your intended resolution for Retina application

If your blog isn’t Retina-ready, it should be in future, and you’re going to need to serve images at twice the resolution you’re currently serving them. Also consider that in your budget.

Honor copyrights/usage rights

Be sure to give credit where it’s due. Buying stock photos usually doesn’t require crediting a source, but free images often do. Using unauthorized images can be costly.

Format your images well

Whether they’re floated within blocks of text or used block level with text underneath or above, pay attention to formatting. Specify reasonable margins and breathing room with other content and don’t let text butt up against images, which can destroy your visual and interrupt your mojo.

Also make sure the dimensions of your images are scaled appropriately (72dpi, whatever your width x height is). Don’t oversize them for your application; it’s rough on mobile users and those with slow connection speeds. Consider trying lossless compression tools like Yahoo’s Smush.It for faster loading images and posts.

Optimize your images for search

Do this by using descriptive alt tags — it’s good for both HTML standards and accessibility for the sight-impaired. Companies have been sued for inaccessibility. Name your images appropriately, too, with a good file name (“your-image-description-and-keyword.jpg”). Good naming conventions and alt tags optimize the image for search visibility.

Make your images shareable

Consider your post’s shareability and appeal on social media with or without images. Again, media rich social posts have been known to do wonders for likes and shares, but this can all depend on the images used, along with the post’s context and formatting (ex: big images on Facebook, versus small thumbnails with standard posts).

While evidence supports the appeal of images in blog posts, the best thing to do is experiment using images, no images, smaller and larger variations — all while gauging your analytics.

Grabbing those images

As a photographer, I sometimes use my own images. But despite how time-consuming finding just the right image can be, stock sites are plentiful and can save time. A few popular resources include depositphotos, iStockphoto and Photopin, a free stock search engine.

What are your experiences using images in your posts? Tell us in the comments—and happy hunting!

This is a guest post from Indianapolis photographer Josh Humble.

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