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Improve your Image and Create Better Graphics

Creating an image that is unique, stylish and that resonates is not easy. It takes time, research, dedication and a lot of decision-making. But mostly, it takes time. And time, for many of us, is not exactly easy to come by.

Writing unique, compelling content that is interesting also takes a lot of time, and when you decided to start a blog you probably thought more about what you would write rather than what images you would choose to visually express your content. After today, you will be convinced to take images and graphics for your blog off the back burner! You’ll get the low-down on the sites you can use to get the most creative images in the least amount of time.

This is the first part in a two-part series on creating images and graphics, check back next week to learn the best programs to edit your images and the best practices to broadcast your beautiful images across social media!

Hard Data Prove Images Are Important

In the blogging world, data is your best friend. Lots of resources exist (like Mom Bloggers Club!) to guide you when you feel lost and unsure of the next step. An endless amount of research has been conducted to understand what makes an image shareable, including the content, color and size of the image.

Your content talks the talk, but it’s your images and graphics that walk the walk. 

People prefer images and graphics over text because they grab your eye and break up blocks of texts. The Hub Spot Blog makes a compelling case for including visual content, including these two little nuggets of information:

  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.
  • 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text.

It’s clear that visual content is beginning to drive engagement more than ever, with Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter as strong players in circulating images that go viral. A study conducted by Socialbakers found that 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook are photos. 

In a study by Taggs, Facebook shares of images skew away from pictures of faces, with the most images that are shared, commented and liked being those that contain no person or body part or show a close-up of two hands being held, rather than a picture of two actual people holding hands. 

Socialbakers also found more Twitter engagement among Tweets with photos. 

And as you can see in a study by Twitter, photos with URLs get the most retweets:

For Pinterest, a completely image-driven site, pins without faces are 23% more likely to receive a repin. Pinners are also sweet on pins with bright colors that include red, orange and brown in the image, which are twice as likely to be repinned as blue and cooler-hued images. 


If you have a Pinterest board, go through your pins that you’ve collected and see if you can find any consistency in the theme, color and size of the pins. Studying your own social media habits can give you valuable insight to predict how others might respond to your images.

Where to Start

Take an inventory of the images currently on your blog. Is there anything consistent about them or are they all different? Do they include images that others would find unique, or are they images that are only interesting to you? Chances are your adorable children’s smiling faces likely aren’t going to get your images noticed, but a picture of your children’s hands all in a circle after a day of finger painting just might.

Branding your blog through your images, and not just your content, will diversify your blog’s reach, especially across social media platforms. Design Sponge has three rules of thumb when it comes to branding your blog with images:

  • The style—giving all your images the same look, like always using the same filters, fonts and consistent color palates, creates legitimacy in your brand and also makes your images easier to identify across social media.
  • The content of your blog’s images should relate directly to the overall blog’s theme. You don’t have to use imagery that explicitly mimics your content, but it’s important to include elements that add to the overall theme.   
  • How the images relate to the text—your images should illustrate your text, compliment the story and be as much a part of the story as the text.

Once you’ve got an inventory of your images, the next thing to do is brand your image by adding a small logo, catchphrase, or your website URL to the image if it’s something you created. There are lots of easy-to-use programs to add a text overlay. We’ll touch more on those in next week’s post. 

Stock Images Versus Unique Images

The stock image versus unique image debate is hot. Of course, unique images are always preferred over a stock image because, well, it’s unique! The value of a unique image on the Internet cannot be overstated. However, creating a unique image is no short order, and for most of us—ain’t nobody got time for that!

There is only one thing more important than publishing an image with your post: publishing a GREAT image with your post! There are certainly plusses and minuses to stock images and unique images, but understanding how you can utilize both options will bring you image Zen.

Creating your Own Images

If you know how to work a camera, then you’re probably already taking great photos, but you don’t need a fancy D-SLR camera to do it. Most smartphones are capable of taking great photographs as long as you know its limitations.  

The Sitsgirls blog has rounded up an amazing list of tips, tricks, and tutorials that give you the A-to-Z guidance you need for great photography no matter your skill level. The TED Blog breaks down how to take photos with your smartphone.

The topic of how to take a great photo is a lengthy one, but here’s the round up:

  • Use good lighting
  • Use simple props and don’t overcrowd the picture
  • Use a clean background
  • Take the same picture from multiple angles. A good average is 20 photos of the same image to provide the best possible image. 

Now let’s discuss stock images—the pros, the cons, and where you can find the best sites for the most unique stock images.

Stock Images: The Pros

  • Stock images are great for those who are short on time, money, design skills and photography equipment. With millions of images to choose from, your biggest challenge will be choosing an image that resonates with your content.  You could literally spend days going through stock images. 
  • Stock images are cheap, with most images costing less than two dollars, and a lot are free of charge. Other stock image websites charge a monthly or yearly fee for use.
  • Stock imagery will save you time from editing the image (too much), setting up photo shoots, and lugging around camera equipment, such as lenses and lighting. And, one of the best benefits of stock images is that they are typically better quality than most of us could take on our own.

Stock Images: Cons

  • Everyone else is using stock images too, meaning other bloggers and even brands that you may not want associated with your blog. 
  • Stock images are not unique. This is because the artists create these images for universal appeal, which may make you blend in when what you want is to stand out. 
  • An important caveat to stock images is to be aware of licensing. Some images are only allowed to be used for editorial content, so if you are selling merchandise on your website, you want to be sure that you read the fine print to make sure you are not infringing on the license requirements. 

Where to Find Stock Images

If you ask any visual content marketer, they’ll tell you that unique images are better than stock images. But when you don’t have the time to create a fantastic image, you need somewhere to turn. Listed here are both paid and free stock image sites.  And always read the fine print: some images are only available for editorial use and some require artist attribution, which will be covered in next week’s post. 

iStockphoto and Shutterstock

For both these sites, you’re going to have to pay to use the images, but you are paying for convenience and quality. When it comes to images, high-quality images attract whereas low-quality images detract. These sites provide images that will give your blog a polished, professional feel. 

The search tool features for these sites are easy to use, and in no amount of time you can click through some images to download in less time than it takes to slurp down your morning cup of coffee.

But let’s get on to the FREE STUFF!

Gratisography

Gratisography features images by artist Ryan McGuire, which are completely free to use on personal and commercial projects. Ryan notes that while attribution is not required, it’s always appreciated. And hey, sometimes when you give a shout out they shout back! 

Gratisography has nowhere near the amount of images that iStockphoto and Shutterstock have, but it does provide images that range from edgy to comical, with a good mixture of landscapes thrown in for balance. Below is one of the photos downloaded from Gratisography. 

(Image courtesy of Gratisography)

Unsplash

Like Gratisography, Unsplash features a collection of unique and awe-inspiring images. The first thing you’ll notice about these images is that their beauty grabs you, holds onto, and shakes you! Unsplash images are free to use, distribute, and edit as you like, and they feature a great section that highlights what others have done with their images. And if you sign up for their email list, they’ll deliver 10 new images to your inbox every 10 days. 

(Image courtesy of Unsplash)

Picjumbo

Picjumbo offers a subscription service as well as free images to download and has a wider selection of images than both Gratisography and Unsplash. Picjumbo Premium is a paid subscription service that delivers anywhere from 30 to 100 images to your inbox every month, and at $6 per month, it’s pretty manageable. This service even includes previously unpublished images, which will add to the unique-factor of your image. 

(Image courtesy of Picjumbo)

Death to the Stock Photo

Death to the Stock Photo provides monthly image packs to your inbox each month.  This site was created by a couple of awesome artists who literally CANNOT EVEN with traditional stock imagery. Death to the Stock Photo also offers a Premium subscription service for $20 per month that gives you complete access to all their images, an exclusive premium-only image pack in addition to the free image pack you receive every month, and access to their cloud storage to store the images. 

Also, a percentage of the profits from their subscription service go back to the artists who create the images so you can keep getting really awesome, unique images. The only perceived drawback to Death to the Stock Photo is that you have to wait for the images to be delivered to your inbox instead of receiving images immediately upon signing up.

The Bottom Line

Great images set your blog apart from the rest and give your posts more reach. In this image hungry information age, visual content is essential for any blogger or content marketer looking to expand their reach. 

Next week, we’ll dive into Part Two of this blog post to find you the best image editing sites, both free and paid, as well as how to properly attribute images, and how to edit your images so they are broadcast correctly over social media (no more grainy images!).

If you have insider knowledge on great stock image websites or image editing sites, please share in the comments below!

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