PLEASE NOTE THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS.
When it comes to writing and sharing excellent content whether it be on your personal blog or on your brand’s social media, you always want it to stand out. One of the best ways to achieve this? By using brilliant visuals. At Canny Social, we are BIG fans of GIFs. However, we also love taking our own images to really fit in with our brand and style.
Also, did you know that visual content can lead to better engagement? For example, according to Buzzsumo Facebook posts with images see 2.3X more engagement compared to those without images. And If like me, you love increasing your Twitter engagement, images are definitely something to play around with as a study by Buffer found that by adding images to tweets they saw an engagement increase of a whopping 150%!
And that’s not all, you’ve just got to look at visual-based platform Instagram. According to a study by Web Strategies, Instagram is by far the most engaging social platform for brands. They found that 2-7% percent of users interacted with each post. So there’s no denying that images definitely help when it comes to increasing engagement.
Why you should care about your images
So now that you know just how beneficial adding images to your content can be, you’ll probably be raring to go. One thing to keep in mind is that just like your written copy, your images should be top-notch. When it comes to your blog and social media photos, like everything you put out there, they represent your brand. Everything you share and put out there is a reflection of your image. You want to be putting out the best of the best. Whether you are an independent blogger or a business owner you want to be selling yourself, your brand or your products. A picture is worth a thousand words after all.
What camera should I use to create amazing website, blog and social media photos?
When it comes to creating your images you might be wondering what sort of camera is best to use. I personally use a now discontinued Nikon D3200 for the bulk of my blogging images. This is a camera that I’ve had for quite a few years and it has served me well. However, for most of my social media images I simply take photos with my phone. Nowadays phone cameras are fantastic. You can create some really amazing shots in the moment. Not only that but it’s much more convenient compared to lugging a big DSLR around.
Obviously the better camera and skills you have, the better images you can create. However, if you’re starting out a small business or blog, you can get away without spending a small fortune. There’s also plenty of online photography guides to up your technical skills. My best advice when it comes to taking photos? Make sure you’ve got good lighting!
What’s the best kind of lighting to use when taking blog and social media photos?
So what is the best kind of lighting you may ask? Well, it depends on exactly what you’re shooting and the effect you’re trying to achieve. However, in general, I personally feel that natural lighting simply cannot be beaten. This article by Cambridge In Colour is an excellent read if you’re wanting to learn about the different types of natural light based on the time of day.
Now although I opt for pure natural light 90% of the time, sometimes I do also use this ESDDI Softbox Photography Lighting Kit. These lights are great for beginner photographers as they’re not ridiculously expensive. They’re also nice and lightweight plus they give off a good amount of light. The light they give off is strong, white and works well at illuminating any area that may be seriously lacking in natural light. All in all, for what I use them for, they work really well.
How can I take my blog and social media photos to the next level? What kind of photography props should I use?
One way that you can take your website, blog and social media photos to the next level is by using props. I personally have a whole range of photo props on hand for my flat lay images. These are items that I use purely for image taking. You can use pretty much anything you like to jazz up your images but here are a few of my favourite things to use in photos:
- Real and faux flowers and plants. (My favourites are peonies, roses and succulents.)
- Wallpaper samples, wrapping paper, coloured card, patterned and glitter paper. (These work really well for image backgrounds.)
- Confetti, sequins, glitter, beads, wooden letters, scrabble style pieces and shells.
- Fancy patterned bowls, cups, chopping boards and placemats.
- LED lightboxes and peg letter boards.
- Candles and fairy lights.
- Fabric pieces, tea towels, scarves and garments.
- Trinkets dishes and various size trays.
- Books and magazines.
- Quote signs and plaques.
- Stationery like pretty pens, planners and notepads.
- Polaroids, playing cards and motivational cards.
- Beauty products, accessories and jewellery.
- Tech such as laptops, phones, spare cameras, headphones etc.
Where to buy affordable photography props:
- The Works – Great for craft style pieces like wooden letters and wooden beads. You can also find some super cheap books and they do some amazing patterned paper.
- HobbyCraft – They’re more expensive compared to The Works but they do some really great high-quality glitter and patterned paper books. They also have some lovely confetti tubes.
- IKEA – The perfect place to pick up affordable bowls, cups and plates. They also do some great faux plants, super cheap candles and placemats.
- Dunelm – Fantastic for faux flowers, plaques and melamine trays.
- The Range – Overall they sell some excellent cute homeware items that aren’t expensive. I recently managed to pick up some great coasters, marble style trays and even a wooden log effect decoration from the wedding section.
- Amazon – They do some wonderful craft pieces as well as things like mini lightboxes and pegboards.
- Home Bargains – You can pick up lots here without breaking the bank. They sell some super cheap wrapping paper, a good pretty stationery range, lovely homeware and some cracking seasonal pieces.
- Wilko – They sell some pretty little ornaments, trinkets, faux flowers, decorative bowls and trays as well as pretty kitchen linen.
- DIY shops like B&Q and Homebase – Wonderful for wallpaper samples and full-size rolls.
How to easily edit: PicMonkey, Photoshop Elements Express and Canva
Once you’ve snapped your pictures you’ll probably want to edit them. Now in the past, I used to upload images without carrying out any editing. However, those days are well over. Why? Well, I discovered that just by tweaking my images ever so slightly I could enhance them enormously. Obviously everyone’s style differs when it comes to photography but I like my images to be bright and popping. Over the years I’ve used many tools, sites and apps in an attempt to make my images look exactly how I like them.
For three years straight I had an annual subscription to the very famous PicMonkey site. I found the site straight forward to use and it did exactly what I wanted it to. However, in more recent times the editing tool has changed and as a result, I fell out of love with it. It’s not just that either. Although the site is free, certain features are only available on the paid-for yearly subscription. At £54 a year it certainly doesn’t come cheap, especially if you’re a new blogger or small business owner just starting out with hardly any budget.
Transform your images quickly and effortlessly in Photoshop Elements Express
So what do I use now? I use Photoshop Elements Express. This is hands down the best easy to use photo editing app that I’ve come across. In the app, you can very quickly and easily transform your images exactly how you want them. This app is available to download on the App Store, Google Play and on the Windows Store which means that if you’ve got a Windows PC, you can even use it on desktop as well as on your mobile on the go. Inside the app, you can do a whole host of things. For example, there are preset “looks” which are essentially filters.
However, if you’re looking to really play around with your images the corrections area is where you’ll want to head. Here you can tweak things like the lighting of your image. For example, you can increase or decrease the exposure, contrast and shadows. You can also mess around with the colour of your image. This means that you can change the temperature, tint, saturation and even the vibrancy of your image. Then there’s the effects section. Here you can play around with the clarity and grain. You can also dehaze your image or even fade it if that’s your thing. There are also sections on the app such as details, split tone and blur. These areas allow you to change things like the sharpness of your image as well as the balance and of course, the blur function is pretty self-explanatory.
Photoshop Elements Express is a fantastic FREE app
The app also has a cropping section which allows you to instantly crop your images to fit the recommended dimensions on various social media sites. For example, say you create an image and want to use it as your Facebook cover photo, the app has you covered in a simple click. There’s also a free size cropping option as well as options to rotate and straighten your image. There’s also a spot heal fix which can be used to fix minor blemishes. For example, there might be a stray crumb in the perfect shot of your beautiful rainbow tower cake. Or perhaps you’ve taken a top-notch selfie but there’s a little blemish on your face that you’d rather wasn’t there. This is what the option is for. There’s also a red-eye removal option for both people and pets which is always handy to have.
How to brighten and make your photos pop in Photoshop Elements Express
After reading my thoughts on Photoshop Elements Express and taking a look at the app you might be thinking “What settings do you actually use?” Well, the honest truth is that it varies from image to image. However, as a rough guide, here are the settings that I usually edit photos to. It’s also worth noting that the mobile app does actually give you the option to save any “look” you create for quicker future use which is quite handy. Although like I said, each image can vary due to things like lighting. Therefore I feel it’s best to play around with the settings each time you import an image into the app. Saving your “look” can be an excellent base for your image though. Anyway, enough chit chat, here are the settings I use:
- Exposure: +20 to +40 (This really depends on how bright the image already is but it’s great for brightening your image)
- Contrast: +20 (Great for adding depth)
- Whites: +10 to +20 (This further adds to the brightness of the image)
- Blacks: -10 to -20 (This is excellent for adding furth depth)
- Temperature: -5 (This gives the image a slightly cooler tone. If you want your image to be warmer in tone, opt for a positive number)
- Vibrance: +60 (This makes the colours in your image really pop)
Struggling with Photoshop when it comes to your graphics, logos and advertisements? Try Canva!
If you’re looking to create some graphics, rather than photos, a lot of people swear by Photoshop for creating amazing images like logos, text graphics and advertisements. It’s undeniably one of the best tools out there. However, Photoshop can be a confusing tool for beginners, not to mention the fact that it’s also expensive. If you’re looking to create some good looking social media graphics or a simple logo, check out Canva. This free to use tool is super easy to use and contains a whole range of templates and format options that can be customised almost effortlessly.
One thing I will say is that Canva does contain some paid-for content such as specific graphics and photos but on the whole, you do get a decent range of free content and tools to use on the free version. It’s also worth noting that the app version of Canva can be a bit temperamental in terms of editing and saving. Because of this, I tend to stick to using the desktop version.
Don’t forget your alt text when it comes to your blog and social media photos! These are essential for accessibility!
Once you’ve created your images you want to add in that all-important alt text. Some of you may be reading this and you might not have a clue about alt text or its purpose. Or maybe you have a rough idea but you skip adding alt text to your images? Well, I’m here to tell you exactly why it’s important.
Firstly if you’re unsure about what alt text is, alt text is basically used within HTML coding to describe the appearance of an image. This alternative text has many different purposes. The first and most important purpose (in my opinion) is that alt text makes your images accessible. If there’s someone browsing your content who’s visually impaired and they’re using assistive technology, without alt text how can you help them to understand what’s going on in your image? By adding a detailed clear description to your image you are optimising your content assistive technology such as screen readers and braille displays. Thus, you make your content more accessible by helping others to understand what your image is all about.
As well as making your website, blog and social media photos accessible, alt text can also help in terms of search
Another reason alt text is useful is that it provides better image descriptions for search engine crawlers. This means that your content can be indexed better and you might perform better in search as a result. One thing I would like to make clear is that often online a lot of people abuse alt text and use the alt text to stuff keywords. Please don’t carry out this black hat SEO technique. This is not ethical. The feature is there to help, not to be used as a way for you to abuse to try and cheat your way to the top of the SERPs. Lastly, alt text also helps in the event that an image file cannot be loaded. Instead of seeing a big blank space, the text will be displayed to help the reader.
Alt text isn’t just something that can be added to blogs and websites, it can also be added to images uploaded to social media. For example, on Instagram and Twitter, you can manually add in alt text to help users. On Facebook, they use automatic alt text. This means that object recognition technology is used to auto-generated a visual description of the image. However, if you wish to add more detail to further help users you can override the automatically generated description so that it’s replaced with your own much more in-depth description. My advice when it comes to alt text and images? Please try and get into the habit of adding it in. I know it’s time-consuming but if it can help just one person to have a better experience, surely it’s worth doing?
Still struggling when it comes to your website, blog and social media images?
Maybe you’re finding it difficult to come up with image ideas? Perhaps you’d like a little guidance? Don’t hesitate to drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org We’ve love to hear from you and help you with your online journey.