Featured image taken by Flickr user Donfer Lu.
It is easy for us to sometimes think of blogs as primarily text-based. This is certainly an assumption that I have had to overcome as posts that make effective use of images are more memorable and are more likely to be shared. The inclusion of images does creates multiple other issues though! How many images are too many? How should images be used? How can I avoid infringeing on copyright? Do I have to worry about file sizes? How many images of pug can I tenuously use in a single post?
Hopefully answering these questions, here I present 5 Tips for using images in your blogs.
1 – Grab Readers by the Eyeballs
Content with images receive on average 94% more traffic than without, this is partyl explained by the picture superitority effect – a psychological theory telling us that pictures are superior in terms for human memory and engagement. As a result images, and blog post with images, are more likely to be remember and shared. So what type of images are the most eye-grabbing? The images with eyes of course!. People are great at recognising faces – to the point that we recognise faces in everyday objects. So using images with peoples faces is a great way of increasing time spent reading your posts, as well as establishing rapport or credibility.
In practice be very considered and selective with your images as users tend to ignore images that are not relevant or just used for visual garnish.
2 – Edit Images Selectively
It will be rare that you will find an image that is already perfect for use in your blog. Of course, image editing is beyond the scope of a single tip, in a single blog-post, in a single blog. It is recommended that you do not over edit images, ideally the image should speak for itself. For very quick edits to file sizes, colour saturation, and image cropping Pixlr is a very hand tool to allow you to make very quick edits. For fancier things, there are also plenty of tutorials available!
Please note there will be a follow-up post about image editing.
3 – Be in the Copyright Not in the Copywrong
The internet is awash with images. It is also awash with the incorrect use of images. At its simplest, copyright refers to the rights of a content creator to control how that content is used – including the right to determing how their content is copied. For a more in depth explanation of copyright you can read this website or watch this handy video. Generally however, copyright allows the
orignal author to determine whether:
- Content can be edited or remixed,
- Content can be used for commercial purposes,
- Content must be shared,
- The author recieves explicit credit
- Or a combination of the above
Some copyright holders promote the sharing of their content through the Creative Commons framework. Following the Creative Commons framework will demonstrate exactly what permissions they do and don’t allow. You can also search some image directories for creative commons images.
In practice even if the copyright holder isn’t obvious, and they haven’t explicitly claimed copyright, you still need to get permission to use an image. You are liable for all of the content posted on your blog.
4 – Hosting > Linking
Linking directly to images hosted on other website is referred to as ‘hotlinking’ and it is generally a bad idea. Firstly, it places the hosting costs on intenret traffic accessing the image on the original hoster, but they got none of the actual visitors thus losing out on ad revenue. Secondly, you have no control other the original image which can be removed or, worse, changed without warning – sometimes leading to embarassing results. This is why it is best practice to host all images you use in your blog. If you are unable to upload an image and host it through your blog, then imgur.com is a free and super easy to use image hosting service.
In practice be cautious with direct linking to content, as it may change to something different!
5 – Quality + Consistency = Credibility
In a survey undertaken by the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, out of 2,440 participants – 46.1% suggested that visual design is the biggest factor in determining credibility. There are of course many different aspects of visual design. For our purposes here we are concerned about two things, consistent use of images and image quality. Plastering a website with high-quality but generic stock-photo imagery will do very little to enhance credibility, or engagement (Tip 1). Image quality is of course a trade-off between image dimensions, and file size.
In practice be mindful of file size as there is nothing more frustrating than a webiste with an image that loads incredibly slowly.
6 – Keep it Accessible
There is are two reasons we write alternative-text for an image. First, it is really good for search engine optimisiation. Second, and most important, People with visual impairments still browse the web and will often use screen-readers. This software literally reads the whatever readable content is on the screen. Therefore providing alternative text to an image – especially if it is critical to the post – will enhance the accessibility of your website.
7 – Consider Emotionality and Colour
Images are great for evoking an emotional reaction. They may feature elements – smiles, open skyes, sweet pugs – that evoke an emotional reaction. Moreover, the colours within the image itself may evoke an emotional reaction:
- Red – excitement, strength, sex, passion, speed, danger.
- Blue – trust, reliability, belonging, coolness.
- Yellow – warmth, sunshine, cheer, happiness
- Orange – playfulness, warmth, vibrant
- Green – nature, fresh, cool, growth, abundance
- Purple – royal, spirituality, dignity
- Pink – soft, sweet, nurture, security
- White – pure, virginal, clean, youthful, mild.
- Black – sophistication, elegant, seductive, mystery
- Gold – prestige, expensive
- Silver – prestige, cold, scientific
In practice, use colours and images that fit the overal tone of your website – is it serious? is it playful? is it professional? is it academic?
Any blog that wants to be engaging should include images. However, each blog will use images different. Using bright, colourful images of people smiling in a blog about mental health issues may seem disingenuous. Using personal images that include alcohol in the shot may seem unprofessional. Using only images of pugs in an educational article may undermine the authority of author. So even though there are some good rules of thumb – use 1 image per 350 words, and always use a featured image – using images in a blog depends on the blog