Using beautiful, interesting, photos in your blog post can attract the eye of a reader, break up large expanses of text, help to tell a story, or convey information. It is an important tool when crafting fabulous posts. Using your own photos not only gives a unique and personal touch to your posts, you can also tailor the image to really match your content, and you don’t have to worry about copyright issues!
Not all of us have a talent for photography, and not all of us have a fancy, top of the range camera, but you don’t need either of these things to make your own photos look great on your blog. I am far from a professional photographer but here are a few tips and tricks I use when putting my own photos on my blog.
Taking the Photos.
Even a point and shoot camera, or your smartphone can take great blog photos if you use them wisely.
Get In Close – If you are taking a photo of a person or an object to illustrate a main topic or point then get in close, really close. You usually don’t need any of the surrounding background or objects, so take a step forward and fill all of your frame with your main subject.
Use Natural Light – Lighting can be difficult to master (I struggle with this a lot) but using natural light is far better than using your standard tiny flash. The best light is filtered natural light, the kind you get on a cloudy but bright day, or just after the sun has set. Set up subjects in front of a window, or outside if you can.
Take Lots of Photos! – The joy of digital photography is that you can afford to take lots and lots and LOTS of photos. To get one really good shot you might need to take 30 not so great ones. Often the image that looks perfect to me on the tiny camera screen turns out to be not so perfect when I get it up on the big screen. So take more photos than you think you’ll need.
Editing Your Photos
You don’t need to own fancy photo editing software or do lots of fancy editing, just one or two simple adjustments can make a big difference. You can do all of the following editing suggestions using photoshop, photoshop elements, photoshop express (free online editing), gimp (free downloaded software), Pixlr (free online editing) and one of the many other online tools or smartphone photo editing apps.
Even if you don’t know much about editing digital photos, these simple tweaks can make a big difference:
Crop – If you didn’t manage to get in close when you took the photo, or if there is something in the frame that you’d rather not share, crop your images to really focus on the subject. Remember when you crop to make sure you keep the original photos aspect ratio – this is a great article explaining this common mistake in simple terms.
Light Balance – Often your camera’s automatic light balance will need a little tweaking after the image has been taken. To really make your photo ‘pop’ play with the levels/exposure to make your whites whiter and your blacks blacker.
Fix Any Problems – Edit out any major problems in your photo. Things like removing red eye and correcting colour casts are easy to do automatically with most editing software. You can get more complex and clone out any offending boogers or even blur a cluttered background to bring the focus back to your subject.
Find your Style – working out a cohesive ‘look’ for your images is a great way to brand your site and convey your message. It could be something as simple as deciding on an image size and sticking to it in all posts so everything looks cohesive, or something a little more complicated like setting up a template with your brand colours and texts to make all your pinterest images look fabulous. Simply being aware of what your style is great when you are starting out so you can build on it as you learn more photo skills.
Save For Web
It is important that you optimise your photos for uploading to the web. Images that are too big in either size or resolution can slow the loading of your blog and frustrate readers.
Re-size – It is best to re-size your images to the largest size you’ll ever want to use them. Often resizing your images to a little less than the maximum width of your blog’s content area is a great way to start (if you don’t know how wide that is send me a message and I’ll help you), but you also need to take into account optimal sizes for social media too.
Save For Web – Use your photo editing software, or a site like Short Pixel, to save your image in a format and at a resolution that is optimised for web viewing. The most common format for photos is jpg but there are other file formats appropriate for different things, so play around with the settings to get your photos as small a file size as possible without losing quality.
Name Your Image – It’s a good idea to give your image a meaningful name when you save it. It helps you to find it later, and this might even help with SEO (experts still don’t agree on whether it does or doesn’t these days!)
Getting Your Photo onto Your Blog.
Each blogging platform and theme uploads and displays photos a little differently, but the following tips are useful regardless of whether you use wordpress, blogger or other blogging software.
Original Size – You have already resized your image to make it the perfect size for your blog, so now you need to make sure you check the ‘original size’ option when you upload it. Your theme settings or image settings might be set to make the image larger that it’s actual size (which will make it look blurry) or smaller (which is a waste of bandwidth, if you want the image smaller then make it that size before you upload it.)
Use the ‘Alt’ Field – The ‘Alt’ tag
(alt=" ") is the text that is displayed if, for any reason, your image can’t be shown. Alt tags are important for accessibility (they can be ‘read’ outloud for users who are visually impaired) and may help a little with SEO (once again the experts don’t agree). It’s good to get in the habit of adding them.
Where Should It Go? – Where you put images within your text is up to you. Most SEO experts seem to agree that some introduction text before an image is best for optimisation, but not the be all and end all. Put images in your posts where they would make the most sense to the reader.
Protecting Your Photos
Many people are worried about having their photos ‘stolen’ or shared. There is no fail-safe way to stop images or content being used without your permission, so be aware of this when you choose what photos you use on your blog. If really you don’t want someone to share or use the image, then don’t put it online, anywhere.
That said, you own the copyright to all images you create, and no one has the right to use those images without your permission. Simply putting an image online doesn’t give anyone else the right to use it. You may be fine with other bloggers using your images, with a credit link back to your blog, but you don’t have to allow that, and do not assume that everyone else allows that either. If you want to use someone else’s images, you must ask first.
Copyright – Add a copyright notice to your blog so that readers know what is ok when it comes to using and sharing your work. A Creative Commons licence is clear understandable way to make sure people know what is and isn’t ok.
Watermark Your Images – Add a simple, transparent ‘©sitename.com’ (use dark text and the soft light or overlay blend mode to make unobtrusive transparent text) to your images. Or add a small logo to the corner of your images which also helps with branding when your images are shown on other sites like pinterest etc.
These are just a few very basic tips for using your own photos in your blog posts.
It may seem daunting at first, but the more photos you take, and the more you edit, and the more you play around with your photo style, the better you’ll get at it. And soon your blog will be full of wonderful, unique, images!