February 21, 2017

How to Make Our Blog Images Tell a Story

Calculator focused on addition key with text: Add Meaning to Our Writing with Images

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.”

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:

#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:

Before and after blog image

#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?

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Comments — What do you think?

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Donovan Quesenberry
Donovan Quesenberry

What an interesting post! I love it!
Stay Well,
PS: I take cash, Visa, PayPall. Or you can send chocolate. 🙂

Jennifer Jensen

I always put images with my posts, and all from a legal source. But adding text–never thought about it! I’ve used Canva and PicMonkey for other things, but not enhancing blog images. So thanks for a great tip!

Glynis Jolly

Thank you for the lengthy list of site where there are free photos. I only had to bookmarked for so long.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Thanks. I try to use photos I have taken myself, or the cover of a book which I am recommending.
For my book covers I have used all my own photos and we’ve used some images from NASA as well.


[…] Frances Caballo has her indie author apps, tools, and plug-ins 2017 (part 2), and Jami Gold shows how to make out blog images tell a story. […]

Deborah Makarios

There is actually a way to toggle Google Images searches to only show pictures that are licensed for reuse: under “tools” at the top of your search results, there’s a drop-down for usage rights. Of course, you do need to check the specifics for each image as you use it, but still, it’s a useful tool.

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