Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blogging Myth #4: Any Old Picture Will Do

If this is your first time visiting for my Blogging Myths series, welcome! You can read from the beginning of the series here. This series explores the misconceptions that many bloggers and readers have about blogging.

Myth #4: Any Old Picture Will Do

Although we discussed the importance of words last week, blogs rely heavily on pictures to tell stories, share steps in a tutorial or recipe, and say things that sometimes words just can't impart. Readers tend to scan for a picture or two before moving on.

If your blog is lacking in (good) pictures, how can you grab your readers' attention?

The hard truth is that sometimes the difference between a good blog post and a great one lies in the quality of pictures shared. 

I am not a photography expert (looking back through my archives will prove that), but I have learned over the past few years of blogging that good photographs can only enhance a blog post that features good content. 

Here are a few things to think about when planning your posts:

1. Size Matters (that's what she said)

Many of you know that I contribute to the Centsational Girl blog as a "talent scout" of sorts for Kate's weekly Best of the Blogosphere series. I can't tell you how many blogs I've had to click away from because the photos were so tiny that it was impossible for me to see the details of the project/room/craft/recipe that the blogger wanted to share. 

Small pictures make your reader work too hard, and readers don't want to have to work to get the gist of your post!

Here's a little test. Which of these pictures works best?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the largest photo works best because it lets the reader see not only what my girls are doing, but also the colors of the bedding and the neat IKEA lamps that I wrote the post about.

Please don't go through all the work of transforming your family room/bedroom/kitchen/bath only to cram all your work into teeny tiny photos. If you work in Blogger, the easiest way to resize your photos is to upload them to your post, click on each photo individually, and choose the size you want. (Note: Some blog templates will not allow for X-Large photos unless you have your template redesigned)

But what about my Blogger storage? Will using larger photos use up my storage?
Yes, you will go through your storage capacity using large photos, but Blogger (shockingly) made it very easy for me to add more. I spent just $5 for extra storage and was immediately able to get back to reloading photos to my post. $5 is small price to pay for large, clear pictures that do not make my readers squint or work at guessing what I'm sharing.

2. Lighting
Bad lighting is another culprit in blog photos. If you want a real explanation of why using your flash on photos indoors doesn't really work, check out the resources at the end of this post.

Suffice it to say, flash photos just have a harsh, glaring look to them. It's easy to tell the difference once you've  been reading blogs long enough.

I grabbed a little box of Bible verse cards on my kitchen counter to show you the difference.


No Flash (natural lighting):

3. Timing
Obviously, life doesn't just hold still and wait for good, natural lighting to arrive so we can snap the best shots. But you can control when you shoot photos of your latest project or recipe.

If you're serious about making your blog reader-friendly, scheduling a few minutes ahead of time to get some good pictures of your latest project can make a huge difference! Planning plays a big role in blogging.

4. Other factors to consider

  • Angle

Experiment with different angles before choosing the best photo for your post. It's fun to see how a picture can look completely different when shot from a few inches to the left or right!

  • Background
Again, when real life is happening (birthday party, school event, etc.) you don't have much of a choice in your surroundings. If you're working on a specific project, planning ahead to reduce background clutter and distractions can go a long way.

I used the old poster board technique to shoot my Bible verse box...but look what happens if I show you the "whole picture":

Getting close to your subject, cropping, and being aware of backgrounds are all good things to think about! No one needs to see my food processor, candle propping up my poster board, or (still!) need-to-be-caulked counters!

I hesitated to post these tips today because I am self-taught when it comes to taking photos. I am clearly not a pro. I haven't even had to guts to use the Lightscoops I got for my birthday. These are all tips I wish someone had shared with me as a new blogger. I think it would have been a game changer for me!

Here are a few great Resources on Photography:
Better Brighter Blog Photos (a series from Centsational Girl)
I Heart Faces (a great site with good tutorials and fun challenges)
31 Days to a Better Photo (wonderfully informative series at Life with My 3 Boybarians)
Using the Flash (guest posts at Centsational Girl)

I'm taking a break from Blogging Myths next week because of our beach trip (holla!), but I have some other fun things in store....

What are some tips you have for better blog photos? (Or things you like to see?)

Linking to Home Stories A to Z


  1. Thank you for this! I love these tips and I am going to start using posterboard immediately.

  2. These are great tips, Amanda! And they're actually better in many ways because they come from someone who's not a photography expert. As much as I admire the work of the pros, sometimes it's hard for me to follow them. These tips I can understand and employ!

  3. great tips! i'm glad you didn't say fancy things that do not apply to my camera nor my picture taking skills. the hardest thing for me to is find the space with the least busy background, but now i know i clearly just need poster board to fix that problem! thanks, great post!

  4. You shared some great tips! I use natural lighting and avoid using my flash. White foam board is my friend for bouncing light when shooting photos especially for indoors.

  5. These are great tips Amanda! I need to take more time to plan out my photoshoots sometimes. After working on a craft or recipe for hours sometimes it is all I can do to get a picture, but I know a better picture means more traffic! I love the whole view of your photo shoot too...I need to get some posterboard!

  6. Good photos are so important to a blog post. Every single tip you've given is a good one. I especially like your poster board trick and need to try it myself.

    My biggest struggle is lighting, particularly during the school year when I am forced to photograph projects in the evening.

    I know you are excited about your beach trip!

  7. Thank you so much for these tips! They are very helpful and force me to stand back and really examine my blog hard. Thank you again!

  8. Thanks for visiting my blog - I am guessing you got your idea to focus on poor photography from my site. I am (1) impatient and (2)have a lousy camera. Those are my excuses - but I am headed out, today, to buy white posterboard. That should at least help my etsy stores!

  9. These are great tips!! I wish my blog template allowed for me to use the extra large photos but it doesn't. I have been making sure to always resize them to large though. I didn't used to think about it when I first started blogging, until I noticed that on other people's blogs when they had teeny photos I would loose interest really fast and leave their site. I guess most of us are very visual- we want to be able to see exactly what we're reading about. I love your idea with the poster board. I'll have to start doing that!

  10. Some really great tips! I just recently started making my pics XL in my blog. I think it really has made a nice difference :)

    Have a great trip!

  11. These are super helpful tips! I'm following you now. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  12. This is so true! Whether we like it or not, we live in an image-driven culture. I fully admit that there are some blogs I like to read just because looking at the pictures makes me feel like I'm transported to a lovely, peaceful world. Of course I have to like the content as well, but the pictures are often what draw me in to keep reading.

  13. @Brooke--have you tried adjusting the width on your text area? You may be able to give yourself some extra room. I ended up changing templates to fit in the x-large pics, which was a lot of work, but totally worth it in the end.

  14. Great tip. I was using the X-Large pics but than went back to large because they were going outside the margins. I guess as Susan said I have to change templates.
    As for lighting I use LightScoop! It bounces the light up so your pics will have a natural look.

  15. Absolutely agree! It drives me nuts when there are tiny pictures, but I think that when good bloggers {even really good ones} use flash all the time, it just looks awful! It seems like they were in a hurry and didn't want to go and work on post-editing or even getting some good natural light. Everyone around my house knows I will NOT use the flash - unless it's absolutely the only way to go and even then I hate it! Ha, ha!

    Becky B.

  16. Thanks for the tips Amanda! I KNOW photos are something I really need to work on! And this will really help!

  17. Thanks for the great tips, pictures are my major downfall.......I'm looking forward to checking out the links you posted and getting some better pics.

  18. Great tips Amanda! I think the most important tip is on lighting. It really makes a difference in photos.
    Since I started blogging in April, I've learned to get in close to the subject. Your photos lose quality when you crop, so move your camera in for a close-up.

  19. well said girl!!!!! There are so many times I just click off a post if there are small photos or ugly flash. Flash can make even the best of a room or item look awful! I too had to learn all the tips the hard way- so glad you have posted this for new bloggers. Great job!

  20. Oooooh! Great post. Bookmarking to read tonight! Thanks! I have heard about Lightscoop. Want it!

  21. Excellent article. I am FB and tweeting it out!

  22. Great post. However I do think you should download the more current version of windows live writer. Totally better! :D

  23. great tips, but I agree with Kristy! WLW is the ONLY way to blog! :)

    I upload 20 pictures at a time, have them sized, watermarked, and centered with one click! LOVE it!

  24. Good tips, Amanda. I think it's less about being a professional photographer (alhtough that's certainly nice) and more about taking your time and taking lots of photos to choose from. And the big photos thing is a big one. I used to use much smaller photos and I can't believe the difference.

    Thanks for all the tips!

  25. Great tips, Amanda! It is worth waiting for good (day)light. Agree about the size of the pics! Make 'em big, folks! My other pet peeve is that people put their 'best' picture (final project) at the end of their post. Put you 'best foot forward' and place your best picture at the top. You have seconds to capture someone's attention. Make it count with your first picture.

    Thanks for sharing these!

  26. Amanda, thank you SO much for all of these Myth posts you've been doing. Although I've been blogging for awhile, first at Windy Poplars, then at Living Graciously, I now find myself in a new (and hopefully permanent) home with all my readers gone (lost in the move). So I'm essentially starting from scratch again, and have needed to be reminded of all these things while I WAIT (and try to network of course ;-). Thanks so much for all the time you have put into it. We'll miss you next week, but I suppose a vacation is a good excuse to miss! Have fun!

  27. Thanks so much for sharing these tips! I am shaking my head at myself thinking "why haven't I thought of using something for a background?" It always help to see other people spell it out for you. Thanks again:)

  28. Definitely some great tips! Except I won't repeat them to my hubs... I keep telling him I just need a new, fancy camera! ; )

  29. Great tips!

    The only thing I'd add is that if you upload a gigantic photo to Blogger your page will take much longer to load... I get impatient with blogs that take forever to load. You can crop your photos to 1000 px wide and 72 dpi and they'll still be very large, then follow the steps you outlined to make it show up extra large.

    I just got a Lightscoop for my birthday and I can't wait to try it out--a very economical way to get great photos when using a flash is the only option (like in my dimly-lit kitchen).

  30. Hi Amanda,

    I've really found this post helpful because photography is a talent with which I wasn't blessed. I do recognize however that a good camera is key to good pics. Unfortunately, I haven't the funds at this time to purchase a really nice camera for the taking of great blog photos. I sure hope what I have for now will due and not cause any new blog browsers to quickly click away because of not so brilliant photos. :/ But I will seek out a better camera here in the near future. Thanks for the tips. :)



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