Relevant and unique images improve a visitor’s experience on your site, help you rank for visual queries, and add more context to your content. Unique images are also expensive or copyrighted and if you don’t want to hire a professional designer, the only remaining option is to customize the images yourself. The following guide will teach you how to make boring stock photos look less stocky, and how to
Why Have Unique Images for Your Blog?
There are several reasons why you shouldn’t settle for stock photos:
Better SEO Ranking: Unique blog images increase traffic, clicks, and the time a user spends on the website. Optimizing images for speed, user-experience, and crawlers also correlate with better organic rankings. Nonetheless, there are specific requirements for some search engines, such as Google, on the type and size of image deemed appropriate.
Stock Photos are a Cliché. Like you, there are many people out there looking for free or cheap photos to use on their blogs.
This is Sam. He’s a programmer:
He’s also an expert on breathing techniques…
…the poster boy for a mobile app…
… and a partner for a Forex Site:
Did I forget to mention that he’s also a sperm donor?
You get the idea.
Unedited stock photography looks fake and cheap. NEVER use stock models to represent your business, customer care department, testimonials, or anything similar because users will read right through them.
- Using Some Images May Eventually, Cost You. Most images are copyrighted, and although you may get away with using them once or twice, it is really not worth the risk. The copyright law of the United States tries to encourage the creation of art and culture by rewarding authors and artists with a set of exclusive rights. Similarly, some images are open to interpretation by owners. For example, an image use may be considered a commercial use if it belongs to a blog or a business that generates revenue.
- Number of Referrals and Sharing Increases. People are attracted to photos they have never seen before. They like sharing unique and relevant visual stimulants. This is beneficial to your brand or blog. It is the best way to create positive impressions.
How to Customize Images FOR YOUR SITE
The following are guidelines on how to optimize images on your blog for better impressions and audience retention.
1. Find the Right Image
The creation of great custom visuals begins with the right image. Most image types, regardless of their format, have different types of copyrights. But where do you source them? Here are a few places you can get them legally.
Public domain images – These are old images or images that the creator has allowed to be used publicly. They are free and safe. Examples of sites you can get these types of images are Pixabay, Morguefile, Pexels, and Public Domain Pictures. Please note that proper attribution is required for these images. Other free stock sites include Unsplash and StockSnap.
Creative Commons Images – Creative Commons is a non-profit organization offering licenses to images and other creative works. The images are of good quality and some are free while others are paid. The images can be found using Flickr, CC Search, and Google Advanced Image Search.
Simple Icons – There are tons of custom images based on stock images that you can use for your blog. Whenever the necessity to use them arises, you can get some at NounProject. The images are either paid or free.
Stock Images are created by professional photographers and they are not free. You can purchase them from platforms like DepositPhotos, Shutterstock, etc.
2. Resize the Image
Resizing an image may seem like a simple task, but it can be tricky when the site or the page you want to post on has certain requirements. Social media platforms have their own standards for featured images, cover photos, avatars, etc. and it’s your responsibility to ensure that your photos display well everywhere.
While resizing the image, ensure that the most important part of the image is visible. Photoshop is the best tool for image editing, but it isn’t free. If you’re on a budget, GIMP is a solid alternative. My favorite editing tool is PhotoScape X. The Mac version boasts a plethora of useful features, filters, and editing capabilities.
If you don’t want to install any software you can also edit your images with a browser tool:
- PicResize: Simply upload the image and utilize the resize features on the screen. The tool has preset crop sizes you can use.
- LunaPic: Works the same way as the PicResize tool.
- Web Resizer also compresses your images.
While resizing, also make sure that the quality of the image remains in high definition or its original quality.
Standard image sizes for social platforms:
- Facebook : cover photo: 820 x 312 pixels, profile picture: 170 x 170 pixels, shared link thumbnail: 476 x 249 pixels, long-form ads: 476 x 714 pixels, event image: 1920 x 1080, newsfeed image size: 1200 x 900 (4:3 image ratio), right-column ad: 254 x 133 pixels (more info).
- Instagram: the recommended size is minimum 1080 pixels on the shortest side to preserve quality.
- Twitter: profile image: 400 x 400 pixels (displays 200 x 200 pixels), header image: 1500 x 500, in-stream photo: 2:1 ratio – minimum 440 x 220 pixels (more info).
- Image Source: Postcron Twitter Image Size Guide
- Pinterest – profile image: 165 x 165 pixels, pins: 238 pixels x adjusted height, expanded pin size: 735 pixels x adjusted height, board cover image: 214 x 147 pixels, board snippet: 238 x 284 pixels.
JPG vs PNG vs GIF
There’s one more thing you need to worry about before uploading your images: file extension. Without a doubt, the most commonly used extension is JPG because it can suffer through heavy layers of compression without losing too much quality. The major problem with JPGs is the fact that their quality declines with every save, and they tend to blur out when they are associated with text. In addition to this, most editing software automatically defaults JPGs to medium quality, which means that they become even blurrier.
On the other hand, PNGs can be associated with text, edited and compressed countless of times without losing their quality (this also makes them perfect for small icons, logos or signatures), but they will always be significantly larger than JPGs. Lastly, we have GIFs, low-quality images that are usually used for animations and decorative visuals with few colours.
You will notice that the JPG & GIF images have lower quality, due to noise & blurring, while the PNG retains most of its quality. The PNG is also noticeably larger.
3. Edit the Image for All Devices
After correctly resizing the image, you must ensure that it displays correctly across all devices. The fastest way to check how an image will display across different devices is through Place It. Simply select a mock-up that includes all the devices you are interested in.
Ideally, you should place your most important element in the center of the image and create custom-sized images for all your devices. I also recommend adding text that resizes correctly across all devices. This will help your brand look more professional.
4. Make Color Adjustments
Some photos are underexposed, poorly edited, or have a lot of white space. This leaves plenty of room for adjustments. There are several ways you can adjust the color with the simplest being changing it to black and white. Another option is the color overlay.
Color overlays will ‘hide’ the primary color of the image, making it a bit more flexible and convenient to use. The overlay can also be added to a small part of the picture to add or infuse the personality of your brand without distorting the style of the image.
Original image source: Pexels
5. Extend the Background and Change the Shape
Some stock photos are just perfect and inviting for customizations. Especially those that you feel need more space so that the point of focus doesn’t cut off during the resizing process. In such case, extending the backgrounds is necessary; however, it only works if the image has simple or backgrounds that have been blurred. Similarly, you can change the shape of the photo before using it on your blog.
Hexagonal or circular images also stand out as the perfectly customized rectangular photo. While changing the shape, it is important to ensure that the subject remains at the center. Photoshop and Photoscape are perfect for this task.
Image Source: Cats Who Code
6. Add Text and Other Elements
The correctly formatted text makes an image more attractive for potential visitors. Images that have texts are popular on sites like Pinterest, which also allows you to make brand typography integration on the Pins you upload. The text can be added in a negative space or be embedded in the image.
You can also add frames, overlay texts or do a collage of several edited images to create a perfect version for your pages. Illustrations can also help you take your marketing to the next level. The best applications to use while adding texts or doing general customizations are Canva and BeFunky, as they offer many interesting in-built fonts. You can also download Google Fonts to your Photoshop for more advanced editing.
7. Give it an Appropriate Name/Caption
Before uploading the image to your CMS, it is important to give it a proper name. The name should be descriptive, unique, preferably what you want it to rank for, as it will improve your organic ranking. Uploading an image, for example, with a default name ‘IMG_5667’, will not help search engines, like Google, to easily identify it. Instead, you will be redirected to thousands of images with similar names. Accuracy demands manually editing the title of the image before uploading.
BETTER: Labrador Puppies
BEST: Fresh Litter of Black Labrador Puppies
8. Compress the Image
Images can eat up a lot of space, and over time, they will greatly increase the load-speed of your website, especially if it is heavy on visual. Image compression reduces the size of the image without necessarily affecting its quality. There are many apps that can be used for this task:
If your images lose too much of their quality (example 2 & 3) you should consider using them as thumbnails, icons or medium-sized visuals.
- JPEGMini – Can compress images up to five times smaller while maintaining the quality. It has a paid and free version.
- Shrink O’matic – Handles PNG, JPEG, and GIFs and it supports EXIF data to ensure the information about the image is retained after compression and customization.
- TinyJPG – is a browser-based application that can help you compress 20 images at a time. The paid version of the tool has a 25MB upload limit.
The point of compression is to ensure that the resolution of an image is maintained in your blog across all devices regardless of whether they are tablets, phones or computers.
Tip: When working with icons, it is recommended to use their SVG version for better compression.
9. optimize your images for search engines
Platforms like Pinterest easily picks up Alt attributes as descriptions to the pins you make. Search engines also use an image’s text information to understand its content in relation to the context. Because crawlers can’t actually SEE an image, they will use its alt text to understand it.
Alt text, therefore, is mandatory for all your images. Descriptions, captions, and relevant titles are also recommended. Alt texts, also known as alt tags, should naturally include phrases discovered through keyword research, that are relevant in describing the image. In some cases (e.g. slow connections), when a user hovers over an image, the alt text appears.
“Captions under images are read on average 300% more than the body copy itself, so not using them, or not using them correctly, means missing out on an opportunity to engage a huge number of potential readers.”- KissMetrics
Tip: Using the alt tag on public domain or royalty free images doesn’t infringe on the right of the owner.
10. Attribute the Source
All the above steps are true for images sourced from public domain directories. If your image was sourced somewhere else, ensure that you attribute the source to avoid problems. Before using such images, ensure that you read the policies as some images may be free to use, but when the license changes after you have used the photo, it may trigger a request for removal.
A better reflection of your blog and brand, as well as the SEO ranking all, depends on how you customize images on your blog. Even if you have a designer to help you with images, it’s important to know how to edit images yourself. Hopefully, the above steps will help you create better images for your blog.