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:
- Images should be relevant to the content.
- They should be attractive.
- 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
Image Credit: Gaby Ave via Flickr
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
Image 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, as well as our own Beginners’ Guide to Digital Photography that you can read and download for free.
Create A Collage
Image 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 and ways to create a diptych or collage without Photoshop.
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
Image Credit: Grownups 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.
Image 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 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. 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 you can even use commercially.
Make A Silhouette
Image 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.
Check Public Domain Image Sites
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.
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