So, what should I look for in my images?
If you’re writing a blog post about your newest product, you wouldn’t attach an image of a trash can (unless you’re in the business of building a better trash can). Why? It’s unrelated at best, and at worst can subconsciously give your readers a negative idea of your product.
Instead post photos and images that tie in or, preferably, give greater meaning to what you are writing. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so make sure it’s telling the same story as your copy.
The rise of tablets and smart phones has drastically increased connectivity. We are no longer bound to our computers to access the internet. However, this means that we also need to consider that visual content will be viewed across multiple devices as well.
The increase in connected speeds led to a similar rise in image sizes, especially for social network ‘cover’ pictures. From Facebook’s modest 851 pixel wide cover to YouTube’s massive 2560 pixel width many businesses have had to use very large photos. However, outside of these specialized uses, image sizes should be more conservative.
The reason you should refrain from using the largest photo available is simple, the larger the image, the larger the file size. What might show up instantly over a fiber connection, may not show up at all for a smartphone relying on a crowded wi-fi signal or at the edge of 3G range. Even if the user is well connected, they don’t necessarily want to use a large chunk of their data allotment looking at photos that could have easily conveyed their meaning with a smaller size.
So what size images should you use? Simple, one large enough to convey your message, and is legible if it has text, but small enough for fast loading. A good guideline is to keep images 1000 pixels or smaller on the longest side, this will show up well on most devices. But also check the file size, 200kb or smaller is a good goal to aim for. Social networks will resize as necessary, and a small file size will keep your website running smoothly.
Let’s start with an example. Consider the image below. Of the four choices, which cat is most appealing?
Though everybody has their own tastes, odds are that the bottom right is the one most would pick. Let’s consider why.
- Top-left: The lighting, which would normally be great, works against the subject in this case, making details impossible to discern.
- Top-right: The cat is obviously blurry, also the image would be improved with better lighting.
- Bottom-left: The biggest issue is that the image just isn’t well lit. You can see plenty of detail in the cat, but he doesn’t pop from the background.
- Bottom-right: The cat is well-lit, in focus and you can see all the furry details.
Even if you don’t study the rules of photography, you can still identify a good image. Make sure that photos are well-lit, in focus and that details are crisp. Keep them relevant and of a size that is easily viewable by audiences on a variety of devices and your images will work to enhance your content.