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It can be tough to come up with feature images to go with blog posts if your forte is not in art or design, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time. Today I’m going to show you:

  • Why you should always illustrate your posts,
  • What makes a good feature image, and
  • 7 easy, do-it-yourself ways to come up with images to go with your blog posts.

Why Your Blog Post Needs A Feature Image

One of the biggest things you can do to improve your blog’s traffic is to give each article a great feature image. According to content-marketing company Skyward, articles that include at least one image earn 70% more pageviews than articles that have none.

The Feature Image’s Goal

The purpose of the feature image is to get more people to read your post. This image is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that it will be included automatically whenever a person shares your article on social networks such as Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn.

There are 3 rules for a successful feature image:

  1. Images should be relevant to the content.
  2. They should be attractive.
  3. They shouldn’t be stolen.

I’m not going to start a debate about these rules. Whether or not your image meets criteria 1 and 2 is between you and your potential readers. Whether it meets criteria 3 is between you and your image sources. What this article will do is give you tools to address each rule, and suggest contexts where those tools will be most useful. So, with these aims in mind, let’s get started!

Image Creation Strategies

Try a metaphor

birds-and-beesImage Credit:  Gaby Ave via Flickr

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Metaphor is a powerful tool not just for writers, but for illustrators as well. I’m covering it first because if you can come up with a good metaphor for your content, your image will be relevant — the first of our three rules.

It’s also highly functional: Maybe you are writing about a sensitive topic like health and sexuality, and you don’t want to include explicit images, but still need your piece to have engaging visuals. Or maybe you write about something that lacks a concrete visual reference in the real world, like particle physics.

These are scenarios where imagining metaphors and abstract images that connect to your issue can help you out a lot, so don’t be afraid to spend time brainstorming and making mind maps to find a suitable visual.

Shoot Your Own Photograph

photograph-your-own-imageImage Credit:  woodleywonderworks via Flickr

You don’t need a high-end dSLR and a lot of equipment to take a decent photograph for your blog post. Many of you will have a more than powerful enough camera right inside your cell phone — and the best camera is the one you carry with you.

All it takes after that is the will to compose your subject in some decent lighting, snap some shots (take extra in case any are blurry or have unwanted elements in the background you didn’t notice at first), and then a bit of time to crop or tweak at your computer later.

MakeUseOf has many recommendations of blogs that can help you become an amazing photographer 10 Blogs That Will Make You Into An Amazing Photographer 10 Blogs That Will Make You Into An Amazing Photographer Now, you really don’t have to struggle in the darkroom to learn the ropes of how to take great photos. That is because the lessons of photography have gone online too. Ten blogs – that’s... Read More , as well as our own Beginners’ Guide to Digital Photography A Beginner's Guide To Digital Photography A Beginner's Guide To Digital Photography You may think that picking up a digital camera, turning it on, and taking the photo is all that you need to know about digital photography. Think again. Read More  that you can read and download for free.

Create A Collage

collageImage Credit:  I..C..U via Flickr

Maybe your challenge is not being able to decide between several images that represent your blog post. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that the Chinese language uses the same character for crisis as it does for opportunity (not exactly true). True or not, this crisis provides the creative opportunity to make a collage to feature in your blog post.

Collages can be a great way to showcase multiple facets of an issue, and that instantly communicates a great deal of meaning. We’ve previously written about both about how to create a collage with Photoshop How To Make A Cool Collage Using Photoshop How To Make A Cool Collage Using Photoshop Read More and ways to create a diptych or collage without Photoshop 5 Easy Ways To Create Diptychs & Other Photo Collages Without Photoshop 5 Easy Ways To Create Diptychs & Other Photo Collages Without Photoshop A diptych consists of 2 images displayed side by side, and can often be a creative and attractive way to tell an even more elaborate story with your images. While with a little bit of... Read More .

Just remember, the key to a good collage is to make sure the components have something in common. For example, featuring the same subject, drawing from the same colour palette, or showcasing a notable pattern.

Draw Stick Figures Or Simple Sketch Art

xkcdImage Credit: Grownups 7 Tricks To Help You Find The Right Images For Your Blog Posts 7 Tricks To Help You Find The Right Images For Your Blog Posts It can be tough to come up with feature images to go with blog posts if your forte is not in art or design. These tips will help you. Read More via XKCD

Photos or other graphics not quite right for the message you’re working with? A little stick figure comic image can go a long way if it fits with the content and suits your writing voice (great for humorous or informal writing). Think this breaks rule #2? Maybe it bends it, but think of your blog posts as living in an ecosystem of your site.

For your site, an image is attractive if it fits in, and elicits curiosity from the viewer. Sometimes you don’t need to be great at art or sketching to make it work. If you’re not sure it will work, try it with a really simple sketch first, put it beside your text and preview it in the context of your blog. If it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost much time, and if it does work, you may have found your ticket to relevant, attractive, not-stolen feature images.

Try Typography

typographyImage Credit:  Scott Ogle via Flickr

One elegant way to visualize an idea is to use the words themselves. For example you can create beautiful typography How To Create Beautiful & Shareable Images From Text Easily How To Create Beautiful & Shareable Images From Text Easily When adding an image to your social update, you're faced with two issues: you need the image to be relevant, and you want to create it quickly. Share As Image does both for you. Read More  with an app called Share as Image. If you’re more interested in creating your own typography, there are also plenty of fun tools and games where you can learn the basics of type design A Test Of Character: 10 Font Games That Prove Typography Can Be Fun A Test Of Character: 10 Font Games That Prove Typography Can Be Fun Playing around with typography can be fun. You will love these games if you like the sound of the quick brown fox who jumped over the lazy dog. Find out what we are talking about. Read More . Of course, there’s a world of fonts out there that are more interesting than those that came stock with your computer, so a service like FontSquirrel will help you find great and free fonts FontSquirrel: Get Great Fonts Free To Use In Commercial Projects FontSquirrel: Get Great Fonts Free To Use In Commercial Projects Read More  you can even use commercially.

Make A Silhouette

Silhouette at Redwood MotelImage Credit:  Don DeBold via Flickr

Sometimes you have a photograph that thematically fits the topic, but there’s something not quite right about it. Maybe the composition could be better, or the colour was off, or you just can’t use it because of the copyright. If that’s the case, consider making the elements of the image into a silhouette.

Silhouettes create intrigue because parts of the image are hidden, while still giving a clue as to what the writing will be about. They also give you freedom to simplify and alter the colour palette, helping you to either match it with your site, or to play with the mood and tone of the image itself. We even have a guide to creating quick silhouettes in PhotoShop How To Create Quick Silhouettes In Photoshop How To Create Quick Silhouettes In Photoshop Read More .

Check Public Domain Image Sites

publicdomain

There are some great images to be found that are free for anybody to use without restriction — you just need to know where to look. Fortunately, there are many places to get images in the public domain 6 Free Websites For Public Domain Images & Free Stock Photos 6 Free Websites For Public Domain Images & Free Stock Photos Public Domain refers to material that is 'publicly available' and not covered by intellectual property or copyrights. In today's media, where visual art is abundant, there is a high demand for images, for example for... Read More .

The tricky part with public domain, Creative Commons, and stock-photo sites is that your image won’t be unique unless you work with it first. That’s where the other techniques in this list come in — combine them together! Perhaps you can make a silhouette of Abraham Lincoln for a post about American history, or a collage of places to see for a travel post. The possibilities of graphic design are endless — just remember to make sure the image’s license allows for modifications, and to credit the artists of any Creative Commons work you modify.

What are your favourite strategies for adding visual interest to your blog posts? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: Alexander Baxevanis via Flickr

  1. Nirmal Anandh
    April 4, 2014 at 1:16 am

    Hi Jessica,

    Interesting topic you have covered. Pictorial representation of an article says everything. As a blogger, we have to create or re edit pictures for every post. It's not look good, if we didn't give any pictures to our post. I mostly use flickr for getting images. There we can find lot. But a thing is, most of the images are copyrighted in flickr.

    Anyway thanks for sharing.

    • Jessica C
      April 9, 2014 at 4:22 am

      Glad you liked it Nirmal! It's funny, actually: I didn't always value images in writing, I used to think that they were just sort of 'cheating' or a crutch for immature people (like how books for grownups don't have pictures, while children's books do). After taking classes in design though, I'm now a believer in the philosophy of 'Show, Don't Tell' wherever you can.

  2. Jessica Coccimiglio
    March 31, 2014 at 2:03 am

    Thanks for the feedback, Matthew! That was one thing I didn't really cover in the article, but high resolution helps a lot.

    Google Images lets you put in a minimum resolution (or specify large/medium/small) as well for image search, which is very handy for finding images too, just in general (as long as you go credit the source of the image and get permission from the creator as needed).

  3. Matthew H
    March 29, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Awesome stuff Jessica. I really enjoyed reading this article. I tend to get most of my featured-images from MorgueFile, which is an awesome collection of attribution-free images. Quality varies, but they tend to be of high-enough resolution to be used in featured images.

    Flickr is quite handy, too. :)

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