This is the third part of my series on blogging. The first post is about starting a blog, which you might want to check out if you don’t have a blog or if you have a blog on Blogger or some other hosted network. From here on out, I’ll assume that you have a WordPress blog that you’re self-hosting through Bluehost or another hosting company. The second post was a 10 point checklist for good blog content.
I told you in the last post that large images or graphics are really key to successful blog posts. A lot of media is visual and people are more likely to stop and read your post if you have a lot of pictures with short paragraphs instead of big blocks of text. Of course, the tough thing about this is that some bloggers are also great photographers (or have photographers on staff like A Beautiful Mess) and some bloggers have great ideas for blog posts but they don’t have the photography skills to execute their visions.
Bad photos can sink your posts. Here’s an example: these are both posts about lunches I had while I was traveling (one from 2009 and one from 2013). The first is a post that I had made private, but I opened it back up to the public so you can see all the awful. See how committed I am to improving your blog skills?
In my head, I saw a photo of a regional meal representative of my trip. The execution, of course, is a bad cell phone picture with bad lighting that makes the food look gross (ick – those fries!). The photo is also too small, off-center, and not accompanied by any text that would help anyone out. (Where did I get the food? Why am I at PDX? What magazine am I reading? WHY DID I BLOG THIS?) You can see why I made this post private. This is the kind of thing that makes your blog look bad.
Next example: another regional meal representative of my trip, this time from Napa:
This is another cell phone picture of food, but there are a couple of big differences. For one, the lighting in this photo is a lot better because I’m outside and not under weird fluorescent airport lights.Two, my camera is better and picked up more of the detail. Also, I edited the photo with a cheap phone filter app (PicTapGo) and when I posted it I made sure that it was 600 pixels wide so it fills up the whole blog post area. Finally, I added details like where I was, what I was eating, and other things that might actually interest/help readers.
Do you have bad photos on your blog? If you answer yes to any of these, the answer is…well…yes:
/// The photos on your blog are smaller than the width of your blog post area AND off-center. (Centered small photos are better than nothing.)
/// The photos are blurry or badly lit.
/// The photos don’t illustrate what you’re blogging about.
/// The photos include undesirable things along with your subject (such as a plate of food + your messy kitchen, your new dress + your dirty bathroom mirror, the craft you just made + all the bad versions of the craft that didn’t work out…).
/// WORST: The photos aren’t yours and you don’t have permission to have them on your blog.
The good news is that it’s not impossible to get good photos for your blog posts, even if you don’t spend a lot of money. If you look at the list of gear I use for my blog, you’ll see that I do own a big fancy camera, but I’d say that most of my blog photos are actually cell phone pictures that were edited with an app. (Check out my list of phone photo apps here.) Quick note: you want the photos to be big but you don’t want them to be TOO big or your blog will load really slow. Assuming you’re using wordpress, try a plugin like this one that resizes your images automatically when you upload them.
Here are 5 quick tips, no matter what kind of digital camera you’re using:
(1) Lighting is important and it’s the hardest thing to fix no matter how many app filters you add to your photo. The best lighting is outside when it’s cloudy or inside near sunlight coming in from a window.
(2) Take a ton of photos of each thing you’re photographing so you can choose the best one when you’re picking illustrations for your post. This is especially true for taking pictures of kids! I have so many bad photos of the kid, you wouldn’t even believe it.
(3) Check your background. If it’s in the shot, people will look at it, so clear away any mess or distracting junk. Even if the background isn’t messy, you might want to make it as blank as possible so people look at what you want them to look at.
(4) The best bloggers have a fairly consistent look with their photography. I’m all for experimenting, but pay attention to the look you’re drawn to and try to stay in that general area. I could list a ton of blogs that do this well, but one that comes to mind is Bleubird. (Although she married a photographer, like a ton of other successful bloggers. If I could consider it a reasonable tip, I would have just told you to marry a photographer and this would have been a much shorter post.)
(5) Getting your blog posts pinned on Pinterest is a great way to boost traffic, so keep Pinterest in mind when you’re adding photos. Pictures that get pinned more often have a lot of red, descriptive text, and/or are slightly taller and thinner than regular photos. The pin below is one of my most popular, even though I’d pinned the photo by itself before and barely gotten any repins.
If you really aren’t up to using your own photos, you can use Getty images. As long as you follow their rules for social media, they don’t mind if you use their pictures. They have a TON of images. I used some recently for a post about homeschooling.
Have fun with your pictures! They’re my favorite part of blogging. Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions. I know I promised that we’d cover how to get more eyeballs on your blog, but I wanted to make sure your photos were pretty first. We’ll do eyeballs on the blog next time.