Many forms of writing include visual elements. While the internet conveys most information through text, it’s also a visual medium with GIFs, YouTube videos, and user-focused website design. Even simple blogs frequently include images to increase interest.
Social media—from Facebook and Pinterest to Instagram and Twitter—often focus on images. Tweets with images attached grab more attention than those without. Same with Facebook posts. So our blogs will not only look better with at least one image, but we’ll also likely increase readers and shares if we include images.
But there’s a difference between blog images that simply provide a visual element, and images that add to the post itself. Maybe the image reinforces the message of the post, or maybe it gives another perspective to aid understanding or make the message easier to remember.
As Donovan Quesenberry, one of my blog readers, noted about my blog image for my post on trilogies:
“…The image at the top of this page is really insightful. I don’t think I would ever have thought to use three lounge chairs that way.
Possibly many of us write for different venues where visual aids add something extra. Could be Church, at the office, or for a social club. Whatever. So for a future post someday, if you would be so kind, expose your process for image picks.”
I do try to make the images at the top of each blog post mean something, so I love this suggestion from Donovan. Thanks for the idea! *smile*
Let’s take a look at how we can make the visuals we include with our work (whether that’s a blog post or something else, as Donovan mentioned) add to the meaning of our words.
Using Images to Add Context to Our Writing
As I mentioned above, images can provide additional context to our words. They can:
- reinforce our message with an image and/or headline that echoes our point
- provide another perspective with an insight expanding readers’ understanding of the topic
- enhance readers’ memory for the topic with visual shortcut cues and memory aids
And those benefits of strong images are just what I can think of off the top of my head. *smile*
But what makes a strong image in this context? It’s about more than just being visually arresting—it’s about adding to the story behind our words.
So how do we choose and create images that will tell a story related to our writing?
#1: Start with Our Words
There are times when we might start with an image, but that’s a different situation. In that case, the image is already telling us a story that inspires us to write more.
Instead, we’re assuming that we’re trying to find an image that works for a piece of our writing. In that case, our blog post, article, or whatever should already be complete, so we know what message we’re trying to get across.
#2: Think of Keywords
Once we know our message, think of keywords that would apply. Using this post as an example, keywords can come from the article’s…:
- title: such as “how to,” “blog,” “images,” “tell,” “story”
- categories/tags: such as “writing advice,” “blogging,” “social media,” etc.
- text: such as “message,” “context,” “visual,” “reinforce,” “adding,” etc.
#3: Choose a Legal Source for Images
All images on the internet are covered by copyright, so we must ensure we have permission to use the image (either directly from the photographer or via a Creative Commons license, etc.). In other words, don’t use Google Images to search for pictures, as it’s impossible to tell with most of those search results who owns the copyright.
Instead, search for images where we have a better idea of the photographer’s polices:
- Use Creative Commons licensed pictures (Creative Commons pictures are free to use with some restrictions. You usually have to credit the owner and link back to their site.):
- CreativeCommons.org’s list of Creative Commons sources
- Flickr is a popular source and has a nice search function
- The W.A.N.A. (We Are Not Alone) tribe of authors shares Creative Commons pictures in a special Flickr group called WANA Commons.
- Use photo sharing sites where the photographers grant members the ability to use photos under certain conditions (similar to Creative Commons, but not an official Creative Commons license, and note that sometimes small resolution photos will be free, while larger resolution photos will cost money):
- Use photos that are in the public domain:
- Use your own photos—we know those are safe. *smile* (Usually.)
#4: Search on Photo Site for Keywords
With experience, we’ll probably find a few sites that work well for us and become our go-to sources. Our favorite sites might be the ones with the biggest selection of images, the easiest sharing restrictions, or the types of photos that work best for our work.
Most photo sites have search capability, so we can search for a couple of our favorite keywords from the post. What we’re looking for is an image that goes along with our message.
- Does it match something referenced in the article?
- Does it inspire a headline or caption to go along with article?
- Does it cleverly twist a point of our article?
- Does it tell a story?
#5: Narrow Down Our Options
If we have several images that could work, we can then choose by the most visually interesting image. Or by which one we could modify to work best.
For example, for online writing, we usually want an image that we can add words to, either in a blank area or one that words could be overlaid on top without obscuring the meaning of the image.
The reasons for wanting to add text to online images are two-fold:
- Online images might be separated from our words, such as if a reader posts our image on Pinterest to bookmark our article. A sunset picture might add visual interest to our blog post, but without text to give context, someone sharing that image on Pinterest would just be sharing a pretty picture—not our post.
- Text on images can also act as a secondary headline to add to our message, like for those three benefits mentioned at the top of this post.
#6: Edit Our Image
We can use free image-editing sites to crop, resize, use effects, and add text to our images to make them more visually interesting. A few years ago, I wrote a blog post with a tutorial about PicMonkey for Writers Helping Writers.
PicMonkey is an online image-editing site that allows us to crop, add Instagram-style filters, borders, thought balloons, text, etc. to any image. In that tutorial, I walk through how to go from the before to the after:
#6a: Add Text to Tell a Story
As part of editing our image, we want to add text. Text is the most important aspect of giving additional context to our words, as like I mentioned above, the text on a image acts like a secondary headline for our article.
The text can…:
- echo our article’s headline, rewording it slightly
- emphasize an aspect of our article
- use clever wordplay
- tell a story along with the image
- share a memory aid, such as highlighting the number of tips or steps in a post
- tie together the message of a post with the message of an image, so they each add meaning to the other
With a bit of creativity, we can create images that make our articles more interesting to readers—and more likely to be shared. Just as our writing can be more meaningful with echoes and references, the combination of our words and images can make our blog posts and other writing more meaningful as well. *smile*
Do you notice the images on blog posts and articles? Have some images helped make the information more interesting or memorable? What makes images stand out to you? Do you ever share images from posts on social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest? What makes you more likely to share images?Pin It