Seeing your Work
Images–photos and artwork–can be used in two ways: as illustration–to extend or explain the content–or as decoration–to bring readers in and add interest to the page. Either way, choice of images reflects your personality, your thoughts, your brand, and your business.
Decorative Images Versus Illustration
If you’re using images solely for decoration, you can wander outside the box fairly far and folks usually will call what you do “art.” Even if your readers don’t like your choices, they will most often glance over and then continue reading, unless your choice is something that makes readers uncomfortable–say, a giant eyeball that seems to be watching them. It’s possible that a choice such as that will make them stop reading and move on.
Images used as illustration might show how to do something or how something looks. Readers rely on illustrative visuals to get more meaning from the words. Visuals can bring an idea home, by making it clearer or stop the reader cold by being a distraction. Placement is important here. The image should be close to the words that talk about it, so that readers don’t have to work to make the connection. A caption helps readers in the same way.
Photo Content Checklist
Content is king and images have content too. It’s not hard to underscore the impact images can have on your writing. They can kick up a notch and be the added value that brings readers back to you. Here are some rules about what you might consider when choosing an image to support your words.
- When showing people, look for a diversity that reflects the culture around you. People are used to a certain level of diversity. Straying too far from what folks are used to can lead them to subconsciously discount your message as biased, or to see it as less than authentic.
- Stereotypes just aren’t cool. It’s true that Mom often cooks dinner, but lots of Dads do it too. This is not being politically correct. It is choosing to show the exception, rather than always showing the rule. The folks who are the exception will thank you.
- Keep in mind your readers are not you. They’ve had different experiences; might use different currency;, could be in a different season of the year. Making room for the differences without making a big deal of them can show you are inclusive–rather stuck in your own world view. Opening your view helps them feel comfortable. People everywhere like to see positive images of people who do what they do–who wouldn’t?
- Watch for other unconscious bias in your choices. As humans we are drawn to the things we like and away from those things that we don’t. This could be happening in the images you choose. For example, a gardener may too often choose gardening photos. Go back through your blog and check the photos you’ve used. Is there a particular bias–beyond that required by the content you write about–that shows in images you use?
- Look for “photo no-nos”–unbecoming details within photos that could be distractions, particularly if you are using photos taken by an amateur. Some examples might include hands with dirty fingernails, any animal’s posterior right in the camera, animal sex organs, action in the background that is unwanted or distracting. Read the words in every photo. Sometimes they say something rude.
- Take care when cropping. It’s easy to crop out the interest. Any object by itself is rarely of interest. When cropping, try to put the main idea forward and just a hair off-center. A well-composed photo takes the eye from the upper-right corner area in a c-shaped counterclockwise spiral into the center.
- Size the photo to fit the piece that you’re writing. Use the “Goldilocks Rule”–not too large, not too small, but just right. Look at your favorite websites, blogs, and print materials to get a sense of what works for you. Keep in mind if you have a huge splotch of color or a photo in your blog header, you already have a large image on the page.
Keep those in mind when using photos to illustrate and decorate your writing. Readers might not be able to explain what has changed, but they’ll notice it just the same. You’ll probably hear more comments about how wonderful your writing is.
See what I mean?
Photos are the fastest ways you change the look and feel of your blog. You can change your blog daily and signal your readers what’s in store right now. With great photos, you add depth to your readers’ understanding that your brand stands for quality in every way.
I’m sure you check photos for other “photo no-nos.” What are they?
–ME “Liz” Strauss