The thought of worrying about pictures for your articles might not make sense: you’re a writer, after all. However, in today’s web copy world images are essential to create stronger articles that grab reader attention. Sometimes editors will even request that you find images to accompany your articles, so it helps to know how to balance your text with powerful pictures.
Benefits of Using Images
Imagine a blog post or article that doesn’t contain images: yes, it’s very boring. Images have many purposes when used in your writing, other than helping your article look great.
- Help to create pause in text. Nobody wants to read a long, uninterrupted stream of copy.
- Link your points. Pictures keep the reader interested in continuing with the copy. If you’ve just read a paragraph and now there’s a picture with a caption hinting at what your next section is about, it keeps you concerned with learning more.
- Make it easier for your reader to understand what you’re saying. Diagrams or graphics can be priceless when explaining things to the reader, thus working to make your copy much more effective and user-friendly.
How to Choose the Right Images
When you read web or print copy, chances are you don’t really pay much attention to the thinking that goes behind choosing the right image. If you’re reading a parenting article on how moms can discipline their children effectively and the accompanying image is that of a mother holding a child, it seems like, well, child’s play to have teamed that picture with the copy. However, it’s not always easy to choose the right image.
Consider these tips:
1. Image Quality. Blurry or grainy images just won’t cut it. Make sure the image is of a high resolution and clear.
2. Bright Colors. The picture is the first thing readers will see, so make sure it grabs their attention by being bold and colorful.
3. Give it a Face. Often pictures that contain people in them can be powerful as they help the reader connect with them.
A study by website consultant and author Jakob Nielsen found that random or stock images used on websites are ignored by visitors, and they add untidiness to the web page. In fact, according to Nielson, the feel-good, decorative images are ignored while generic people in photos are intentionally overlooked. On the other hand, when site visitors know that a picture of a person is real, they can engage with it for a longer time.
4. Images Should Work with Your Text. Don’t stop at using eye-catching images. The picture needs to work with your text for overall appeal. For instance, an instructional graphic could come in handy for a technical article; on the other hand, an emotional shot works with an inspirational piece.
5. Avoid Trite Images. Some pictures are clichéd and have been used a million times over. For instance, the image of two people shaking hands or a couple smiling while posing in front of the camera. Avoid such clichés. Rather choose something more unique and interesting that won’t bore your readers.
Why Pictures Need Words
It’s not just the image itself that’s important—spare a thought or two for image text.
Search engine robots do not understand images or videos. If you want to maximize your article’s SEO, it helps to add text to them that is both appropriate and contains keywords.
For images specifically, describing the picture in the “ALT” attribute of the image HTML is important.
Write text that is related to the content surrounding it. For instance, the image of a woman applying make-up that is used in an article about tips for improved make-up application could be described as “How to apply make-up more effectively” instead of just “pretty woman.”
The “ALT” attribute is also important because if someone views your website on a browser that does not support images, the contents of the “ALT” attribute can still provide image information.
When saving your image on your computer, make sure that the file extension (for instance, ‘.jpg’) is mentioned so that search engines know it is a photo. When writing file names, keep them short and descriptive! This is when they are most effective.
Your photo caption is essentially a short sentence describing the image; however, it doesn’t have to be boring. Make sure readers remember it.
For instance, if you are writing an article about the benefits of a vegan diet and your picture shows a healthy woman eating vegetables, your caption could be, “Studies show vegan diets improve health.” Make the caption something believable and based on truth, without trying to convince the reader about what you are saying in your article.
Writing Effective Photo Captions
Your photo caption is basically putting the image into context and it can also intrigue the reader to want to read the full article. If you are telling readers that certain studies reveal the benefits of vegan diets, they will be interested in reading these studies from your full article. Make sure your article mentions the studies so that readers won’t feel fooled!
Sometimes slight contrasts between image and caption work wonderfully. Let’s take the example of an article about the dangers in detergents. The picture could be of a baby playing with toys on a carpet, with the caption “Don’t put your family at risk with chemical cleaning products.”
This drives home an important point while evoking emotion in the reader who will see the contrast between a happy, healthy child, and the possible dangers lurking in that newly-cleaned carpet on which they are sitting.
1. Keep it Under the Headline
According to legendary advertising executive David Ogilvy (d. 1999):
Reading the headline is a must for readers and website visitors—it tells them what they can expect in the article. Don’t distract readers from the main headline with an image.
Placing & Positioning Images
2. Pictures Display What Your Text Is Saying
Make sure that images are placed in appropriate places in your copy. Taking the example of an article entitled, “How to Choose the Right Fitness Program,” it could be a good idea to place a picture of friends in an aerobics class together underneath a paragraph on how working out with fitness buddies can help you enjoy your program more.
Similarly, an image that features a woman in a hip-hop dance class would be appropriate in the section of the article discussing the importance of choosing a fitness class that allows you to have fun while working off calories.
3. Stick to Left Justified Text
Although pictures are important, you don’t want them to overwhelm your article or distract your readers from what you have written. People read from left to write, so don’t interrupt easy scanning of your article by placing an image on the left side of it, forcing the reader’s eyes to jump.
Tips For Finding Images
About the author:
Giulia Simolo is a freelance journalist who has always been passionate about writing. A regular contributor to various websites and publications, Giulia has garnered a lot of
experience as a freelance writer and enjoys sharing this with others who wish to enter the exciting field of journalism.
Also by Giulia Simolo:
1. How to Write the Perfect Article Pitch
2. How to Write Riveting Book Reviews (article)
3. How to Write Web Copy that Sells!
4. Writing E-Mails to Editors
5. How to Write Gripping Subheadings (article)