How to Find and Use Images in Your Blog Posts

There’s a problem with how a lot of writers approach writing online; they focus on words.

This is a problem because modern web design is based on the idea that text is complimented by images. In fact, most current website themes are designed with the assumption that images will be used, so when someone publishes a post without images, it often feels wrong in some subtle way.

That is especially true with the upcoming v2.0 release of my Author Website in a Box project. The new release is going to include a design for blog posts which will make them look gorgeous – if you use a featured image with each post. If you don’t, the posts will look vaguely off.

Since I know I will be making this an issue for users, I decided to go ahead and explain how to find and use images in a blog post.

Generally speaking, there are three things you need to know about this topic:

  • where to find the images
  • how to choose one
  • where to put it in the blog post

I already covered the first point in detail in another blog post, so I won’t repeat myself here. Instead, let’s start with choosing images.

How to Choose

The trick to using images with your blog posts is to find an image that says something about your post or its topic.

If you’ve never done this before, that might not be very useful, so let me put it a different way. Ask yourself the following questions about your blog post, and then use your answer to search for images.

  • What is your topic?
  • What is the subject of your post?
  • Is your post connected to a specific place, profession, industry, or what have you?
  • What is your opinion on the subject of your post?
  • What emotion or sense do you want to convey with the blog post?

There are more questions you could ask; these are just the ones I use when I go looking for images for my blog post. I have in fact been writing about the same topics for so long that I am having trouble coming up with questions for you, but I am sure there are more.

The thing about the image sites I linked to in my other post is that most have search functions that will try to match your search term with all of the tags attached to each image. Some will even try to match your search term with their AI’s guess about the content in each image. (This is still hit or miss, but the hits are getting better.)

If you can think of words to describe your blog post, chances are you will be able to use those words, to find images.

I have some advice on how you should choose them:

  • Before you choose an image, take a few minutes to consider the message it might convey unintentionally. For example, a few years back I wrote a post about Amazon hiring Dutch and Russian translators, and illustrated  it with a photo of The Hague. This was shortly after Russia invaded the Crimea, an otherwise a completely unrelated event to my post which still managed to turn that photo into a comment on geopolitics.
  • When you are about to download the images, most image sites will offer multiple size options. Be sure to choose an image at least 1500 pixels wide. This will give you more pixels than you need, yes, but that is better than choosing an image which is too small.
  • Also, you should consider what the image will look like on FB and Twitter.

Where It Goes

Once you have found the image you want to use, you need to decide how and where to use it.

Actually, the first thing you should do is provide an image credit link when required. Almost all of the photos I use on Flickr are licensed under Creative Commons terms that require crediting the creator, which is why you usually see an image credit line at the end of my posts.

Once you have added that image credit, it’s time for you to add the image to the post.

The very first place you should use an image is as a “featured image”. This is a special type of image which is not inserted or embedded in the post so much as it is “attached”.

Do you know how a lot of blogs have a large image either right before or right after a blog post title? That is an example of a featured image. It was placed there automatically by the the website after said image was selected by the blogger.

So how do you set an image as a featured image?

Well, that varies between blog themes, but most sites will have a spot in the right-side menu column of the “edit post” menu that specifically says featured image. It should say something like “Set featured image” and if you click it you will be taken to a menu where you can either choose or upload an image.

If you want to just use the one image on your site, that is great. Go ahead and set that as the featured image, and you are golden.

But if you want to use several images, I have additional advice.

  • Be sure to only use images that stretch the full width of the post column, and not half, three-quarters, or one-quarter the width of the text. I make this suggestion because those partial-width images do not look good on smartphones or in your RSS feed. (It took me about 8 years to notice that detail.)
  • I also think you should  use images sparingly, and that you should avoid making the post heavy on images and low on text. If, for example, you need four images to illustrate a point, combine them into a gallery.
  • One good way to use  images is as section breaks, or to illustrate the key points in your post.

* * *

Any questions?

image by @boetter via Flickr

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

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