Some of the most common questions I get asked are based around using images on your blogs, so as part of the Blogging Beautifully series I’ve put together a couple of general tips about using photos. If you wish to grow your blog and readership then it’s essential to recognise the importance of getting this right. The internet is a visual world, and to attract regular readers to your blog it’s necessary to make sure that it’s a visually appealing space. There’s nothing more unattractive online than a site which has images or graphics that are too small, large, cluttered, fuzzy, unorganized, overlapping or just plain messy.
1 - The first and most important part of using photos in your blog posts is getting the size right. Images should be the width of your blog post, or close to it. It doesn’t need to be exactly right, just as long as the images are not too large and overlapping the borders of the post, nor too small leaving a lot of awkward white space between the edge of the image and the border of the post content area.
2 - If you’re using portrait sized photographs then either put them together as a group of two or more (like this), or emphasize one portrait photo by making it the same width as your blog post (I do this whenever I want to highlight a particular photo, like this one). Another great option is to wrap your text around the photo (like I did with the shot on my About page).
3 - If you don’t know the width of the post area in your blog template then don’t worry. It’s pretty easy to figure it out by resizing your photos a couple of times and placing them in a test post until you get the size just right. Start with an image you know is too small, make it larger by resizing it in a photo editing program, then keep checking the new size in your test post until you get the perfect fit. This is the size that you should use for all images in your future posts.
4 - A common mistake I see bloggers make is having post areas that are just too large and using huge photos to fit into them. Giant photos can be overwhelming and detract from the written content of your post, not to mention the fact that they can take a long time to load. If you don’t know how to tweak the width of your blog then it may be time to look at switching to a smaller template.
5 - The other most common mistake I come across is bloggers using images that are much too small for their post content areas. Your images are just as important as your written content in terms of keeping a reader interested. If we can’t see your photos properly because they’re just too small, then they’re not likely to hold our attention for very long.
6 - It’s also important to make sure you’re not using images that are too large. They will either overlap untidily or look squashed within the confines of your post borders. They’ll also take much longer to load and leave your readers waiting.
7 - Some blogging platforms or templates will automatically resize your images as you put them into posts. This can distort the photo, making it look squashed or out of proportion. In the post settings for each image make sure that they are displayed at 100% and not more nor less.
8 - It’s a bad idea to make a photo bigger by resizing it in Photoshop or a similar program. Unless you’re resizing it a tiny amount, making an image larger will cause it to appear fuzzy and unclear. If the image you want to use is too small for your post then look at the idea of grouping it with other photos or wrapping your text around it as mentioned above in point 2.
9 - If you’re creating a photo mosaic, then the trick to avoiding a distorted and uneven result is to resize each of the images you’re using to the exact same width before you start. This will make sure they fit evenly together and look their best. It may still take some reshuffling to get everything to fit together smoothly, but you’re starting from a good point and shouldn’t end up with distorted images.
10 - When resizing an image before using it in your post, you only need to set the resolution to 72dpi. It’s not necessary to have a higher dpi when resizing for use online, and a much higher resolution will make photos slower to load. Don’t be daunted by the term ‘dpi’ – it’s just a simple change you can make while resizing.
11 - It’s worth investing in a photo editing program like Photoshop Elements to help you edit and resize images correctly. It’s not as expensive as the full version of Photoshop, but it should be enough if you’re not planning on getting too into photography and image/graphic editing. You can download a free trial version to test it first.
If you don’t want to spend money on a program then you can try downloading the GIMP which is free open source software that should have everything you need. I’ve used the GIMP in the past, but found that it was much less intuitive to use than Photoshop Elements and I got quite frustrated. But if you have time and patience then it’s worth learning how to use it. Picasa is another free option, but it won’t allow you as much control as other programs.
12 - If you’re using an image that you didn’t take yourself, and it’s not a stock image that you’ve paid for, then it’s essential that you always credit the source. That doesn’t mean linking to Pinterest or We Heart It, that means finding out the photographer or blogger’s name and linking to them in the post. If you don’t know the original source then you can use Google’s Image Search or Tin Eye to search for it. Or if you use Firefox then there’s an excellent add-on called Who Stole My Pictures that will use several image searches all in one go.
13 - When placing images into your blog posts it’s important to give them a fitting description. If you use relevant keywords it will help users searching those keywords on image search engines to find your blog. It will also be the text that automatically appears when a user pins one of your blog photos to a Pinterest board, so it can be a useful idea to write a good description with your blog title in it.
All of the above tips can also be applied to your sidebars and other content areas. They are just as important as your actual posts, and it’s good practice to make sure that there is continuity in the size of the images you use in these areas.
That’s all the photo tips I have for now. I’ll write another post in the near future about simple techniques you can use to make your photos look their best, even without owning a fancy camera. In the meantime if you have any tips that I haven’t thought of then please share them in the comments below, other bloggers may just benefit from your experience.