What impression do you convey with your words? I hope it is a good one, but the truth is no matter how good your words modern audiences think visually and published material requires images to entice and retain readers. Every writer should learn to embed visual components to enhance the readability of their pages. The featured image for this post was selected because it shows how an audience can be captivated by a visual image.
Posts Without Pictures
If you write about anything that conjures visual imagery, for example history, sports, recipes, destinations, the latest mobile phone technology then you should be adding a picture on every occasion and frequently more than one when demonstrating different aspects of that topic and perhaps the options available (and often you are best including video to further enhance the presentation). Remember there are also plenty of dry topics, that demand images in order to make them more presentable or perhaps a little easier to understand, or simply a little less boring. Too many articles are published with limited or no visual impact, writers must understand the Internet is today a visual environment not a textual one.
Using text alone to convey your message cam leave your work flat and unappealing, no matter how powerful the words or message are. Pictures are frequently used to enhance official documents, for example ballot slips that carry the symbols of the political parties in many countries.
Next time you write anything you should ask yourself how you can visually enhance your material and I am sure you can find a way, it is even possible to add images to fictional works in order to enhance them, show moods etc. Images cause breaks in the work, they add white space around them, give the reader permission to pause and take in some of the scenery before continuing to read.
If you use Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network it’s easy to see that the most popular posts are those that have pictures and the same is true for search results – you are missing out if you don’t use pictures or images to add to the meaning of your work.
Pictures Entice/Engage Readers
If you go back to the early 1800s and look at any newspaper from that era, there were no pictures to enhance the stories told and with the technology of the day printing pictures was so costly even the advertisements that paid for the printing process were primarily text based. With the creation of the camera it became possible to capture images and increasingly the world of newspapers used pictures to aid the telling of the story, in some instances the picture captured the story more effectively than words could (and this has become particularly true of colour pictures used in more modern publications), but mostly it was the combination of the words and the picture that made for the best reporting.
You may wonder why I am referring to the newspaper of yesteryear, this is because many article writers of the current period bring to the world news and commentary from their own world onto the Internet, through blogs and writing sites and each writer needs to develop their own style. Arguably all the news and all the information you’ll ever need today is available on the Internet and this is discovered in several ways, through search engines, social media, or sharing sites and other information feeds – it is well known that photos on Facebook generate 53% more Likes than text alone. It is certainly true that the picture sells the story and once the reader opens the appropriate article the visual appeal helps retain the reader and keep them on the site much longer, according to The Next Web “visuals can convey up to six times more information than words alone“, ample reason to enhance your words with an appropriate image.
What Visuals Should I use?
It is valid to ask what visuals you should select as there are potentially millions to choose from. Go to Google Images and type in any topic you think of and you are likely to see hundreds of pictures, I am not saying that you select any of those, but they can give you some idea of the types of images that may apply when you are unable to think of something to use.
Take a look it the diagram above to understand how to approach selecting the right image or picture. You start by looking at what is the most appropriate picture to use in order to enhance the element you are currently writing, then you need to find where you may source it. In sourcing pictures it is necessary to think about copyright which is discussed in the next section, but anything you have created, for example the photo you snapped on your mobile phone, is owned by you so you can use it without worrying about it (even if there is a public image that is identical to yours).
Copyright and Pictures
Ownership is an important thing to understand and it is the reason why I include a section within many articles showing picture and image credits.Copyright should be an easy concept to understand, ask yourself if you have the right to copy the picture, normally the answer is a firm “No”.
Generally it is legal to use another person’s picture provided you give them credit and use of their work has not been specifically prohibited. If you take a picture of the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel the image is your copyright, not the Vatican City’s, not the Pope’s, and not Michelangelo’s (as he has been dead longer than 70 years – the longest amount of time before copyright expires), but yours because you pressed the button to move the camera’s shutter and take the picture. The same is true if you take a picture in a pop concert or at the Super-bowl (which is why promoters hate phones with cameras on them).
In addition to pictures you have taken yourself, there is software freely available that can turn pictures into cartoons, alter images, add quotes or text to pictures, merge pictures together into a collage etc. so there is no reason to be afraid of using images to enhance your work. There are also plenty of public domain or royalty-free images that are available. Several years ago I purchased several CD collections which include royalty free pictures, drawings and cartoons that I use to enhance many of my own articles, such as “Look” used here, which was purchased from IMSI under a license that allows me royalty free usage.
Microsoft Word and PowerPoint can be another great source of creating a visual images, especially those created using shapes or lists and are tools most people have access to without spending a large amount on photo enhancement software.
Respect the Creator’s Rights
You should respect copyright when using pictures, that said there are plenty of pictures that can be freely used:
- Anything available on Wikimedia Commons is royalty free.
- Pixabay will help you find a suitable public domain picture.
- Images Source has a wide collection of royalty free images.
- Getty Images has over 35 million images royalty free (many for newsworthy topics).
- Freeimages is another library of about 400,000 images.
- Openphoto collection of stock photos, not all are free.
- Stockvault offers images for personal non-commercial use.
- Morguefile A good searchable image collection.
- iStockPhoto also offers some free images
I make frequent use of Pixabay, where all images available are released free of copyright and are available for public use under a creative commons or public domain licence. Images may be downloaded, modified, distributed, and used royalty-free for any purpose you like, they may even be used in commercial applications, and attribution is not required.