There are generally two distinct reasons for attaching images to blogs.
Firstly, there is the photoblog where photos are the main feature. Secondly, photos can also used as an accompaniment in blogs for visual effect.
Let’s take them separately, but first some thoughts on what makes a good photograph generally.
Photographs need to engage. When someone looks at your images, if you care about their reactions at all, you want to make them stop and look. One of the easiest ways to prevent this from happening is to give them some glaring fault to find issue with. Removing as many of these faults as possible is well worth the effort. Of course, some faults cannot be fixed after the fact so the first step is how to take good pictures for your blog; bear in mind your intentions for the images.
If you had to carry a checklist around of things that annoy people who might be looking at your images, this is a good start. The images in this post are just examples that indicate the subject. Not particularly good or bad photographs.
Focus: Ensure that your image is in focus, unless you intend purposefully for it not to be. Some images look great with only small parts of them in focus. It’s unusual to find a good image which is all blur.
Tilt: Generally speaking, one of the easiest mistakes to make with photography is not holding the camera straight. If you intend for the image to be taken on an angle, then do it properly. Two or three degrees is annoying, twenty might work. If your image is a little off, fix it before you post it.
Lighting: It’s hard. Really. But it matters. And don’t think that flash is always a good solution. We have huge advantages these days in terms of the amount of correction we can make to an image in the computer, but it’s always best to get it right in the first place.
Framing: I could put this twice, actually. Firstly, I mean this in terms of composition of the images. Something appropriate from the background around the main subject, or the lack of something that distracts from the subject. But also, for the web, it’s generally a good idea to refrain from ornate patterned frames around your images. It’s just another distraction.
One more thing. There is one overriding advantage to digital photography. So assuming you’re not still using film, take lots of photos. Think of lots of ideas, and then try all of them. It costs very, very little to have some extras in case things don’t go as you expect.
For a photoblog, the images are the main – or sometimes the only – tool you have to entertain, inform or impress your viewers.
It’s important to be able to add images which convey a message all on their own. Not something that requires too much in the way of explanation. In the same way that traditional photo albums rely on the images themselves, photoblogs need to be self-contained.
If you think about how the images need to look in your blog when you take the photos, you’ll take them differently.
Having said that, you also have a lot of flexibility in terms of the size, proportions, framing, lighting and placement of your images. Make the most of it. Think about images you’ve seen that you like, and how you might take advantage of them.
Think about RSS feeds, and the possibility that your images will be seen in places other than your carefully designed blog gallery.
Take a good look at Photoblogs.org. Other people have already done some of the hard thinking.
In a regular blog, photographs are used for emphasis. To attract or retain interest. To illustrate or extend a point. To entertain. If I might be so bold, MakeUseOf is a great example of how this works.
You have a little more license here to include images which are not quite so self-explanatory. If your post explains a trip you took, or something you saw, you’re probably going to be able to explain the image, either directly or indirectly.
Think about relevance. It’s often helpful for images to amplify what the text says. To answer questions or to ask others.
It’s not often a good idea to overpower a text-focused blog with large images, though there can be some advantage in doing so for impact, if you don’t take advantage of the option too often.
If the images need to be reasonably small, then think about placement of them. If the text flows in such a way that the image only makes sense after a certain point, consider where it might best fit. Small images cannot contain too much detail. Think of a sign, for instance. If you have to show a small copy of it on the blog, with the reader still be able to decipher the text?
Consider adding a link to the image, so your readers can look at a larger copy of the image, perhaps in the blog itself, or on another site like Flickr or Picasa Web Images.
Check how the RSS feeds work for your particular blog. Is the full post going to appear in the feed? Is the text going to arrive without the supporting images?
If you don’t have images which you think are appropriate, consider using those from other folk. Flickr makes it absurdly easy to blog images for which other members have set permissions. Ask anyway.
If your blog is used for any even slightly commercial purposes, ensure that you are have specific permission, or are using Creative Commons images, and attribute the source.
Read blogs. Take note of the things you like. Re-blog appropriate pictures if that’s appropriate and permitted. Give credit. Learn.
It’s interesting to put together a post which is full of my own opinions on how to take good pictures. I’d be disappointed if you agreed with them all, so let me know how you feel in the comments below.
Photos by A Different Perspective