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Visual Cues: 3 Best Practices For Images

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Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and even Twitter; what do they have in common to this blog post? All are either purely image based or becoming increasingly reliant on photos and other visual posts. Posts with images on Facebook get more engagement overall, and according to a Hubspot study, even links attached to photos get more clicks. With a new timeline design, photos now appear inline, a photo posted to Twitter receives up to four times the engagement of a text-only post.

So, what should I look for in my images?

Relevance

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.

Size Matters

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.

Composition

Let’s start with an example. Consider the image below. Of the four choices, which cat is most appealing?

Speaking of Size, this image was a 750 pixel square and came in at only 163kb.

Speaking of Size, this image was a 750 pixel square and came in at only 163kb.

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.

About

Jennifer Waller has been with Social Media Pathways since late 2011. She handles a variety of both client accounts and technological needs. She creates many of the graphics used for client Facebook Cover Images and Facebook Contests. She also assists with minor website changes and alterations. She has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from New Mexico Tech and is an independently published author.

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