An effective blog post requires more than just good writing. It requires visual interest. An intriguing photograph can reinforce the blog post’s subject matter. It can also add a depth of rich interest and comprehension to a blog post.
Here at Small Business Trends, we’re business people and writers, not artists or photographers. So adding visual interest to blog posts is something we’ve had to learn — it doesn’t come naturally to us. In fact, we’re still learning about how to add visual interest.
One lesson we’ve learned is to use images with emotion in blog posts. So I’d like to share a little of what it means to add images with emotion to blog posts, and demonstrate how that can make a difference.
Here at Small Business Trends we tend to write about concepts or intangible business ideas — examples: strategy; success; entrepreneurship.
Or we write about business topics that are visually tough to capture or downright boring from a visual perspective — examples: the Internet; accounting; financials. These are subjects that are hard to convey visually. They certainly aren’t exciting. They usually don’t make you smile or feel angry. OK, I concede they might make some of you cry (as in bored to tears). But typically these topics don’t inspire any kind of emotion.
So how do you inject emotion into such topics?
Let’s take a topic like a Board of Directors. If we were writing a blog post about Boards of Directors, we’d have a number of options visually. One option might be to show an image with people in business suits around a large conference table, looking awfully serious (as Board members are wont to do). Straight forward, right? Emotions? Not many.
But what if we used an image like the following, a playful image showing penguins around that conference table?
Such an image is unexpected. It makes you stop and think about the incongruity for a moment. Plus, penguins are rather funny looking birds to begin with. They look like they’re in tuxes with tails. They also walk funny, with a strange shuffle-waddle combo. So they naturally bring a smile to your lips — certainly more of a smile than a 60-something male with gray hair in a gray suit would bring to your lips. In other words, the image brings a bit of emotion (humor / smiling) to an otherwise dry topic.
Let’s take one more example: the topic of unemployment.
Here again, there are a lot of ways to convey unemployment, say when you’re writing about the latest jobs numbers. One way is to show an image with a classifieds help-wanted ad. That would be straight forward and obvious, yet it would have no emotion. Instead, what about an image like the following, showing a skeleton holding a sign saying “Need a job!”
Now this image in a blog post certainly would raise more emotion than an image of a newspaper help wanted ad. The skeleton image is startling. It makes you stop and confront the fear and pain of unemployment — how it can literally make people go hungry. The emotion in this case isn’t pleasant, but it does evoke feelings about the human cost behind unemployment. A business article about the latest job claim numbers becomes more than just about numbers with this image — now it’s about people.
So that’s what we mean about images with emotion. They are images that bring to life the topics in your blog posts, through making you feel. Even when you write business blog posts about intellectual ideas or intangible concepts or necessary but dry business topics — they can be brought to life with the right imagery.
Good post, Anita. The penguin photo is very amusing! I agree — a lot of stock photos are tired and overused, mostly because they’re too obvious.
Flickr is a great place to find unique images. If a photo you like is under a Creative Commons license, you can use it on your blog as long as you credit the owner.
I think the word that encapsulates the idea is “unexpected”. That makes people stop and pay attention. That gets people to read your post. We’re trained to ignore the expected (like ads on the right side of websites). I’m looking forward to the awesome pictures.
Maddy: I agree with your statement that stock photos are a bit overused, especially at traditional web sites. Flickr is a good pick, but be careful with reading the small print. I am using Zemanta as an image service for my blog posts. it is under a Creative Commons license, but I had one instance when the photographer of the image got back to me and wanted to get paid. Personally, I think it was due to the content of my blog post. I have written about Michael Moore, and I didn’t praise him as they usually do in mainstream media. I told the photographer that I was sorry and that I had used a free service under the CC license. It ended up that I removed the image and learned a lesson from it.
The penguin photo was funny. Maybe I could find funny cat photos in a business setting?
Anita, I have to (sort of) disagree.
Pictures are great. They DO get people’s attention. They DO increase involvement. But on a scrolling blog entry to which you already induced someone’s presence they don’t add very much.
The fight here is getting people to visit.
On the other hand, if you syndicate your blog out via sources that include thumbnails of images you’ve embedded in the post (Facebook, for example) by intelligently parsing your link, then that graphic image WILL help attract attention.
But cute as that penguin picture is . . . well like I said before, you already had me. Scrolling past it as I read your words didn’t engage me any more than I already was engaged.
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@Martin: It’s always a good idea to read licenses carefully when sourcing images. Thanks for sharing your experience. If the license is right on the photographer’s site or photo page, all the better. I didn’t know about Zemanta, but it looks useful. 🙂 I usually use http://compfight.com/ to search Flickr photos.
Great images, for sure.
I’ve learned that since Google is now ranking sites that are slow-loading, a little lower, so I make sure that my images are smaller. (Smaller images load a little faster,right?)
I love adding them, though!
The Franchise King
Joel, smaller file size (e.g., a file in KBs instead of Megabytes) helps load times, not smaller pixel size (e.g., height and width).
Another thing that affects load time is if you use the resizing feature within WordPress to force a different pixel size on the page. Always resize your images separately in an image editing program before loading them into WordPress. Never force the size to be different by using the WordPress feature.
Maddy and Martin — there are 2 reasons I don’t use Flickr.
First, an image owner could change his/her mind later on. Then how would you prove 2 years later that the image had a sharing license when you used it?
Second, some of the sharing CC licenses allow use for noncommercial purposes, but not for commercial purposes. On a site like this one, we’re a for-profit business. So it’s always made me feel unsure whether the license allowed usage or not…. Like Martin says, you have to read the fine print.
But – having said that — Flickr has some GREAT images on it. Talk about emotion-filled images!
Jeff, Well, it’s true that images don’t always get more readers to your blog. But I think they make for a better experience once you get there. 🙂
Thx for the tip using http://compfight.com/ to search Flickr photos.
I use Zemanta, but compfight looks quite user-friendly.