If you are looking for a way to spruce up your blog posts one of the universal suggestions you’ll receive is to add pictures. This is especially true if you tend to write long blog posts like me.
My average post is about 1,000 words, so I break up my posts with subheadings, block quotes, paragraphs that are only 2 or 3 sentences long, and lists. If you are like me, you scan the post first by skimming these features and then read the full post if it’s caught your interest.
I am a sucker for a good photo though. Great photos can make the page come to life with bright crisp colors contrasting against the text of your post. Carefully chosen photos will often add more to the story in a way that mere words could never do.
So how do you choose these photos, and where do you find them? Here’s how I do it.
Set the Overall Mood with Your First Picture
I get inspiration for my posts from numerous places. I really never know where it will strike. Many times it happens on the way to pick my son up from school, so I have learned to rely on my iPhone’s voice memo feature.
Most of the time I get an idea for the post, think of a title, and then go searching for my primary image. After I’ve written the post, I look at my subheadings and search for images that will fit that section, as well as, fit in well with the general look of the post.
Occasionally though, I find a picture that just begs for a story to be told about it. Is Your Small Business Kissable? is one such post. This picture is another great example. Just seeing this girl and her dog can set off numerous stories in our heads.
When I see a picture that I really like, or matches an idea of a post I know I want to write, I purchase it and put it in my photo ideas directory. I look to this directory for inspiration quite often.
Searching for Photos Online
I was asked earlier this week where I find my images. I’ve never actually thought about tracking the source of my images. I’ve always just put them in my photo ideas directory, but I rename them so I can search them better.
Some of my images come from stock photo cds that I have purchased over the years, but my primary source for images is iStockphoto. I’ve used their images since 2004, and have been so happy with them that this year I became an affiliate for them.
You have probably seen this banner at one time or another on this site.
There are thousands of images from which to choose. They are royalty-free, do not have to be credited, and come with an agreement to defend you from any legal issues that may arise from the use of the photos under your license.
The best part is that most of the images are only $1 for the size typically used in a blog post or website. You can purchase larger or higher definition images for printing, but I always have to reduce their xsmall size image for my blog posts.
Shhh! I Don’t Pay for All My Images.
What’s better than getting an image for $1? Getting images for free, of course! That’s right, I don’t pay for all of my images. Now before you start reporting me, or take this as my permission to steal images, keep reading.
Each week, iStockphoto provides a Free Photo of the Week. You can receive this image in your choice of size too – not just the xsmall size. These are all high quality photos, and I make sure to download mine each week and put it in my photo ideas directory.
This Santa photo is the free photo this week. Talk about Merry Christmas. There is no charge to set up an account. You don’t have to buy a subscription plan, or even a pay-as-you-go plan, to get your free 52 images a year.
You’ll probably see a lot of familiar pictures in their free image of the week archive, because I’ve used them on this site. Looking for more than images? They also have a Free Vector of the Month, Free Video of the Month, and Free Track of the Month.
Getting Lost in the Images
One of the reasons I started my photo ideas directory was that I would find a great photo, but then when I decided to use it I couldn’t find it again. The search feature is okay with iStockphoto; however, it returns so many images that it may be difficult to find the one you wanted.
They offer a lightbox feature where you can save photos you like, or even browse through other people’s lightboxes for ideas. I strongly recommend you use this feature, or purchase the image you like right then and there. I use the second method so I have it available offline.
Choose Your Pics Wisely
There are many other sources of images that you can find online. iStockphoto is just the one that I have used for many years, and I have been very happy with them. Make sure you check out the reputation of your image provider.
I avoid trying to use free images because of link back requirements (you never know what will be at the end of that link on any given day), and you never know if a photographer’s work has been stolen and put up on a site by another as their own.
I like the protection that iStockphoto provides me against both of these, but you may like someone else. In the end though, using images can have a big impact on your blog posts or website. So go ahead and spruce it up.
After all, a picture is worth a thousand words (or just about one of my blog posts).