I used to love blog photos. I relied on them to make my blog stand out back in 2012 when Pushing Social was struggling to gain traction. I picked photos that were outrageous, striking, and professionally done. Over the years, I’ve continued to dutifully place a great photo. But I, like most, began to hate my blog photos.
Here’s the drill:
Write a blog post. Upload to WordPress. Go look for a photo. Get lost in a stock photography library weighing the pros and cons of dozens of photos. Pick one, then change my mind. Find the one I like and realize it will cost me a small fortune to license. Find a less than desirable but cheaper photo. Upload and done.
Now I pretty much hate blog photos almost as much as I detest whole grain bread.
The problem with this approach is that everyone else is going through a similar process and selecting the same darn photos. I bet you can look at a photo and find it on another site in a few minutes. The stock photography sites are trying their best to offer some original photos but they are forced to charge more for the better ones. You can’t go without a photo since they set the emotional tone for your post. But, selecting the best photo you can afford results in a lackluster presentation to the reader.
What can you do? How can you get the love back? Let’s go back to the basics.
Photos are still magical
The right photo can transform a blog from tchotchke diary entry to New Yorker beautiful. They are still the best way to radically change the experience for your users.
They are still worth a thousand words.
Even though finding the right photo is a monotonous grind, the photos themselves can give you chills.
Blog posts need help
After writing 700 blogs, I can tell you that readers are easily bored by the same old white on black text routine. Your words are probably great but they need a little accessorizing.
Your reader would love to have someplace to rest their eyes while they digest the last few sentences they read. A photo provides that oasis, a pitstop, before diving back into the text.
You can delegate the tedious stuff
I have a library of about 300 photos that I adore. I picked ten of them. The rest were picked by my assistant. I’ve been using these photos for two years. It took me two months to compile the photos and about $140.00. Not bad.
Now I enjoy selecting a photo because all of them reflect the PS brand and are well done. But, you might be asking, how did you select 300 photos before the blog posts were written? Ahh…. you are a clever one.
Ignore the Blog-to-Photo Rule
Experts tell you to pick a photo that reflects the mood of your blog post. I asked, “Why?” I’ve done the research. I even offered this advice on several occasions, but frankly this is just a nice thought pretending to be a best practice.
Instead, I select photos that express the overall culture of Pushing Social. We are a striking, irreverent, honest, and pugnacious bunch that loves challenging common wisdom. My assistant picked 300 photos that embodied this. You’ll be seeing more as we refresh the library.
We have a client that is quirky, witty, geeky, and authentic. It’s been fun seeing the photos they’ve collected for their blogs.
Remember, your blog posts are long-form expressions of your brand. They can stand on their own, especially if you write them with a unique voice. The photos that sit at the top of the post are just as much as an expression of your brand. These photos shouldn’t be handcuffed to the title of your post. Remember, there isn’t a shred of good insight that says they should. Good for you if you can find a great brand-reinforcing photo that also illustrates a core concept of your post. But I promise you that this 1:1 alignment will be hard to consistently pull off.
Your Photo is Lonely & Your Reader is Bored
Why is it that we find one photo and call it a day?
I rarely see a blog with more than one photo. I think the normal “watch paint dry” process scares off multi-photo-placement but I suspect it might be something else. Social media types have a strong, almost instinctual urge to follow other social media types off a cliff. “So and so used one photo. They must know what they are doing,” we claim. Actually so and so was just plain lazy.
Remember that nifty metaphor about an oasis for the tired reader I used earlier? It applies here too. I consciously sprinkled more photos in this post. See how the post feels more like an article from a magazine instead of a blog post written by someone scrambling to get the heck out of their cubicle for the day?
These “spice photos” are easier to pick because they can illustrate a word or idea. Nothing crazy here — just something to break up the monotony.
Time to Push Best Practices
I recommend you spend time challenging the best practices you’ve been following. Content Marketing and Social Media are too new and dynamic to be caged into bullet-pointed best practices. Often, breaking the rules is the best way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Photo selection and placement tactics are still wide open to experimentation. Have fun.
You might have noticed that I don’t have a comments section. Comments are a stupid addition to most B2B blogs, including Pushing Social. But I do want to verbally duke it out with you if you disagree. We like to keep these bare-fist matches in the family – so you’ll need to register for the Content Toolbox to fight..or watch (if that is your thing).