HDR Photo of Puerto Galera Pier in the Philippines

How to Think Outside the Box With Your Blog Photos

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Last Updated on August 3, 2019

Let’s face it, these days the attention span of the average internet user is about 1.5 seconds – at best.

Each day, we’re bombarded with thousands of conflicting messages, so getting people to stick around long enough to actually read our blog posts is increasingly difficult.

That said, finding a way to not only capture, but hold the attention of your visitors is absolutely essential to the success of your blog.

HDR Photo of Puerto Galera Pier in the Philippines
Capture attention with a beautiful image

There are a variety of ways to do this, controversial headlines, catchy infographics, and perhaps most importantly, dramatic and interesting photos.

Your photo selection has the power to not only draw people in, but to keep them there long enough to actually read your posts.

Getting Creative with Flickr Creative Commons

Not all of us are professional photographers. In fact, most of us barely have time to cruise Google for decent images for our blog posts.  That said, spending ten minutes more than you usually would on any given post, can pay off many times over. Flickr creative commons screenshot

For starters, using Flickr Creative Commons can take what might have otherwise been a drab blog post, and give it life.

Creative Commons features millions of user submitted shots that are available with a variety of different attribution licenses – most you can use for free, as long as you provide a link back to the original source.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot (most) of the photos on Creative Commons are pretty bad.  Bland vacation shots, and iPhone photos from your sister’s night out on the town comprise most of their catalog. Those obviously aren’t what you’re looking for.

Creative Commons can be an incredibly useful place to start looking if you have an idea of what you want.  Formulate an idea in your head for a photo that could be interesting given the title of your post.  Maybe your image is an ironic play on the title, perhaps its graffiti of the central theme, or a unique piece of art.

If you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for do a few searches for variations – usually you’ll find something with minimal effort. Photodropper also provides a great WordPress plugin to allow you to easily drop photos into your blog posts.

If you can’t find what you want in Creative Commons, you can also check other stock photography sites such as istockphoto where the quality jumps up dramatically, but you have to pay for use of the photos.

Try Something a Bit Different

We get so used to seeing the same thing with blog posts, that there’s little that stands out these days.  You can mix things up and draw attention by doing something different.  Ways you could do this are experimenting with the size and location of your photos.  Try placing a really large photo right at the beginning of the post that draws people in, and then early on in your article explain how it relates.

Try making a collage of a bunch of photos.  If you’re writing a post about a variety of people in your industry, take their twitter photos and combine them together to make something unique. The Domino Project does an excellent job of this with their latest ebook.

You could also make the photos themselves different.  Try making all of the shots for your next post black and white or sepia.  Maybe devote an entire blog post to Instagram images. By having a series of shots all with the same effect you create a sense of cohesiveness, that can be unique enough to grab people when they aren’t expecting it.

Hanauma Bay Panorama
Try using panoramas to draw your readers in

You can also mix things up by doing this with a series of panoramic photos.  Pretty much any point and shoot camera these days will have panoramic functions. With advances in technology, programs like Photoshop and PTGUI make creating panoramas extremely straight forward.

Get Serious with HDR

Speaking of doing something different, one of the most unique ways you can set photos on your website apart is by using a technique called HDR, or High Dynamic Range.

Have you ever seen a photograph that was so vivid and lifelike, that you knew there had to be something a bit different about it? There’s a good chance this was an HDR photograph.

HDR photo vs traditional photo
HDR can make a standard photo much more memorable

So, what is HDR?

HDR is done by combining a series of images using HDR software that were each shot at different exposures. Generally, this includes one overexposed, one underexposed, and one correctly exposed shot, although professionals can use up to 9 images when necessary.

Due to limitations in traditional camera technology, a camera can only expose for one aspect of any given scene.  For instance, if you’re shooting a beach at sunset, your camera can either expose for the sun, or for the beach foreground, not both.

By taking a series of images at all exposure levels, you capture a wider dynamic range of light, and due to this are able to create a perfectly exposed, more accurate depiction of any given scene.

These types of photos are an incredible way of capturing attention and keeping people interested in your blog.  I’ve been using these types of photos on my blog about living the location independent lifestyle for over a year, with really impressive results.

If you’re interested in using HDR photography on your own site, there are a variety of resources worth checking out.  Make Your Photos Not Suck: 50 Tips to Improve Your HDR Photography is a fantastic beginners resource.  You can also find a variety of examples that other people have shot at HDR Spotting. Each photographer has their own rules about reposting photos, but this could be a good place to look if you aren’t into the idea of creating your own shots.

Lighting is Everything

If you’re serious about taking your own photos for your blog, the most important thing you can consider is lighting.  If your photos were shot in direct sunlight or are too washed out, they won’t have the same eye catching appeal as they would if they were shot under proper conditions.  This holds true regardless of whether you’re shooting with an iPhone or a Nikon D3 – lighting is everything.

This doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy a bunch of fancy equipment, quite the opposite actually.  Just being aware of where the sun is, and not going out in the middle of the afternoon for a photo shoot will dramatically increase your results.

That said if you’re going to work on one technique that will improve your photos and have the greatest impact on your blog (regardless of what type of photos they are), learning the basic principles of lighting is definitely it.

Don’t Be Boring

It really doesn’t matter what you do with your images, as long as you put a little bit of thought into them.  Too often bloggers make their photos an afterthought and don’t spend the time necessary to really create a cohesive message with their images.

By incorporating some of these strategies into your next blog post, you’ll have a much greater chance of increasing reader engagement, while also increasing the likelihood of those readers sharing your post with a broader audience.

Sean is an avid photographer and makes his living by helping people build businesses they can run from anywhere in the world. He loves to golf, ski, and is a connoisseur of fine Oregon beer.