When I started my blogs (janetcobur.wordpress.com and bipolarjan.wordpress.com), I chose simple, clean themes and layouts, with no large pictures or fancy frills – just nice, clear, readable fonts that I liked, with a tiny splash of color. I didn’t want anything that would pull the reader’s focus away from the text. I mean, the words are the important thing, right?
Then one day I did a guest post for my friend Bradley on the subject of cognitive dissonance in bipolar disorder. You’d think that would be a pretty hard concept to illustrate. But to my surprise, Bradley changed the title to “Brain vs. Brain,” which was perfect, and added an illustration of two brains fighting with boxing gloves, which was also perfect.
“Where did you get that illustration?” I asked.
“There’s a service I use,” he replied. “I pay a few bucks for royalty-free photos and illustrations.”
Excited at the idea of adding images, I tried inserting one of my husband’s photos into a blog post and discovered that it was easy to do – just click Add Media, upload the image, position it, and voilà! Here’s that first attempt: http://wp.me/p4e9wS-7H.
I was so pleased with the result that I started looking around for an image service. The one I chose was Fotolia (https://us.fotolia.com/), but there are many others such as Adobe, iStock, Dreamstime, and Shutterstock. My subscription entitles me to a set number of images per month, and the price averages out to a little over $2 per image, since I download medium-sized images instead of full-sized ones. I have never yet gone over my monthly quota, and the unused credits roll over.
What do I get for my $2-and-a-fraction? I enter a keyword and instantly see a selection of photos and/or illustrations, then place ones I like in a virtual lightbox. Then I think them over, tinker with my headlines the way Bradley did, ask my husband’s opinion, download an image to my desktop and upload it to my blog. There are various ways to sort the images, but I like to use “undiscovered,” so my blogs don’t look the same as everyone else’s.
Generally, I prefer illustrations to photos. I find that they are more striking and easier to use to reinforce blog post titles or content. Sometimes, however, only a photo will do, if the subject – like ratatouille – is a difficult concept to illustrate. Most of the websites I submit my posts to (SheKnows, Red Tricycle, The Mighty, Medium) prefer photos, though, so I’ve been increasing my use of them to make my posts more appealing to those sites.
Another lesson I learned is to choose horizontally oriented images rather than vertical ones. Most of the sites I share to or submit to, like Facebook, present images in landscape (horizontal) mode, often cutting off the top and bottom of an image. That makes it a little harder to select images, and sometimes I have to crop an image to make it more compatible, but I get better, more understandable images that way. (Once I chose this vertically oriented illustration of a woman clinging to the end of her rope. It was perfect for the blog post topic, but it showed up on Facebook as only the middle part – the rope.)
Is my strategy working? It’s hard to tell – but my views and followers have been steadily increasing. And I enjoy the process and the way my blogs look with visuals. It may be extravagant to spend money on pictures when my blogs aren’t monetized, but I’ve spent more money on less satisfying things lots of times. Call this my little indulgence.