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Getting images for my websites was a huge headache for me way back in the beginning. I wasn’t a photographer, and has no aspirations to become one.
I essentially wasted £350 on a DSLR camera that I would rarely use. Luckily my boyfriend sometimes uses it.
So don’t worry if you don’t have the equipment (or the budget to get said equipment). you don’t need it. If your blog needs custom images that you’ve taken, then the camera on your phone will be absolutely fine to use.
If you can use stock photos, there are plenty of websites that have free ones that you can use however you like.
Do you need images on your website?
No. A lot of niches just don’t need pictures.
The only reason pictures are such a big thing for bloggers is that they make your articles easier to consume for your readers.
But if you notice on this websites (and the majority of articles across my sites) I don’t use them. I use a featured image, because if someone shares my article a image is kind of expected, but I rarely use other pictures unless I need one to illustrate a point.
Instead, I create the little page breaks that you see (the little wiggly blue line). It breaks up the article, adds a bit of white space and just makes the article look less like an intimidating wall of text and make them more likely to read to the end.
As as a skim reader, I think having a small page break, rather than a big photo, makes an article easier to skim.
Pictures can also slow your website down, so don’t add pictures just for the sake of it.
How I prep my images before adding them to my site
As I mentioned in my article about creating graphics for my blog, I put all my images into Canva to resize them before uploading them to my blog.
There’s probably a quicker way to do it, but it works for me. All of my blog photos are either 672 x 372px or 672 x 672px. I can’t actually remember why I chose this size, but it works really well on all of the plethora of themes I’ve tried.
With images, we’re always looking for them to be as small as possible, so I download most of my image files as jpgs (Canva defaults to png).
As well as doing that, I have the Autoptimize plugin which optimizes pictures.
Make sure that you have lazy loading enabled. Most image compression plugins should give you that option – I think both Autoptimize and SG Optimizer do.
Lazy load just means that an image will only load when it’s on the screen – so if you put a Pinterest pin at the bottom of an article it won’t slow until the user scrolls right to the bottom.
Enabling lazyload significantly improves site speed and there’s no reason not to enable it.
How I take my own photos for my blog (even though I’m a terrible photographer)
Don’t sweat it. Just take the damn picture. If it’s useful to your user (say a picture of what an onion should look like after chopping) they won’t care about the quality or the lighting as long as it suits there needs.
You can add filters and stuff in Canva, but I don’t bother. I do make adjustments if the photo is dark though.
Simply add the photo to your template and make sure it’s selected, then click ‘adjust’ – it’s just above your template.
My default settings are:
- Brightness – 19
- Contrast – 25
- Saturation – 32
All the other options I keep the same. Seriously, I use those settings on 80% of my images – even stock photos.
Why it might be beneficial to have your own photos
If you do a lot of step by step guides and tutorials, it might be most helpful to your audience if you take pictures, rather than trying to hunt for a stock photo that kind of works.
It can be super time consuming to hunt around for suitable photos, and it only takes a couple of minutes to take a photo on your phone and airdrop it to your computer.
I actually add pictures from my phone to the Canva app on my phone, so I don’t fill up my computer with unedited stock photos.
How can images affect SEO?
It used to possible to get higher rankings on Google by keyword stuffing the alt tags of your images. It not only doesn’t work that well any more, but it can earn you a smack on the wrist from Google.
I make sure to name the image in Canva the same as the article title, and I also set the description to the article title.
I usually leave alt tags unless I think that it would help someone – for example if I had an article about watering plants but the featured image was of a Monstera, I’d leave the alt tags – they’re not relevant. But if the article was about Monstera care, I’d put ‘photograph of a Monstera deliciosa’ in the alt tags.
The main purpose of an alt tag is so that visually impaired people can understand what the image is of. Google also uses them to work out how relevant your article is to the keyword.
Don’t try and hack this by lying about what’s in your image. Google finds out this stuff and will punish you.
Why you can’t just take any random picture from Google Images
It’s illegal to take some one else’s photograph and claim it as your own. If you see the perfect image and want to use it, I highly advise you try to track down whoever owns the rights to it and ask them.
That’s best practice and it ensures you don’t get hit with a law suit (it’s unlikely, sure, but is it worth the risk?)
There are plenty of free images out there. Don’t steal someone else’s work.
Where to find free photos and graphics you can use legally on your website
I pretty much only use Unsplash because they have a lot of the stuff I need. There are dozens of sites though, such as:
- Pexels – a lot of those weird photos that have an animated aspect
- Stock up – if you’re after pics of marijuana leaves, this site is for you
- All the free stock
There’s loads out there. A lot of the sites basically aggregate the stock photos from other sites and then they all link to each other. Just find an interface you like and use that one.
Some niches are better served than other, but I would start with Unsplash.
Final thoughts on finding photos for your writer website
Don’t stress too much about finding the perfect images or taking amazing photos. Many niches just don’t require them, and if you haven’t picked a niche yet, maybe go for one that is either well-served by the stock photo websites, or doesn’t nedd much in the way pf images at all.