Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

How to Wow Your Audience with the Right Image

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Barry Pearman who lives in Auckland, New Zealand.  Barry blogs about Spiritual Formation and Soul talk for Mental Health. You can follow him on his blog and connect with him on Twitter.

There was something about this picture that grabbed me. Was it the black and white starkness? Shadow’s hinting of something unknown? Male or female? Poor or rich? Going unnoticed in a crowd to a home of loneliness?

Create Wow with the Right Image

Photo credit: SpaceShoe (Creative Commons)

Something grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Images can have a spellbinding effect and shape our thinking. They can trigger off memories of past events and places. Images speak the words we never thought we could say.

When I saw this image it triggered off a Jim Wallis quote:

Only those willing to stand close enough to listen will ever hear those closest to the problem.
–Jim Wallis

I have stood close to those who have been wrecked and interrupted by Mental Illness. I have listened to the stories. Images of suffering seared into my mind that keep me grounded to a reality unknown to most.

Pictures have power

What thoughts and feelings were triggered when you saw this image for the first time?

A group of young people gather around a large block of wood. With hammer and nail in hand the first contestant comes forward. How many swings of the hammer will it take to drive that nail home. The count is taken with the winner being the one that has mastered both strength and accuracy.

I want to make one point in my writing. Every tap of the keyboard needs to hammer that one point home.

If you give people too much to remember they won’t remember anything.
–Andy Stanley

The image is a big hit of the nail. I place it at the start where there isn’t much friction yet between the nail and the blockheads, oops people, who read my material.

Where to find the right photo

Finding the right image for your article, webpage, or slide presentation requires a little digging, but it’s worth the result. Here are some places to look (depending on your budget)

  • Personal. With photos of yourself, family, holiday, office you literally invite the world to ‘come on over’ and ‘pull up a chair’. You are inviting them into your life and to be friends. Just a word of caution here, make sure other family members are ok with this world famous exposure.
  • Bought. Stock images are available from many different sources such as istockphoto. Stock photos do make your blog feel more professional, but you have to ask yourself if this is what you are aiming for. Also, you have to be careful here as sometimes the same image can get over used and you don’t get that ‘Wow’ effect because you’ve seen it before.
  • Free. I use mostly free images from Flickr. The amount of photos available is enormous. The photos are generally of high quality and have can have an arty feel to them. Compfight is a search engine that can search through Flickr’s library and also has a gadget for WordPress users. Using Flickr also enables you to support and encourage other artists like yourself, just make sure you give proper attribution to the artist.

Here are some practical pointers

Now that you know where to find your images, here’s how to choose the right one:

  1. Look for an emotional connection. Look for an image that emotionally connects both with you and the reader. Whatever grabs you will most likely grab others.
  2. Use photos that attract attention. Try to find pictures that scream “Look at me.” No more nice boring cliche clips. Just as your writing comes from within you, the story behind the picture needs to also connect with something of you.
  3. Remember the size of a thumbnail. The first time your picture will most likely be seen will be in the size of your thumb. If you want people to hit your thumb it has to stand out and beg to be hit.

What sort of images grab you and why? Share in the comments.

About Barry Pearman

Barry Pearman lives in Auckland, New Zealand.  Barry blogs about Spiritual Formation and Soul talk for Mental Health. You can follow him on his blog and connect with him on Twitter.

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  • Tesha Munn Fritz

    I love images that convey the same message to the eyes that we hope the words send to the heart. It is difficult to find those kinds of images, but it is so worth the search when you actually find it. I’ve been thinking alot about images lately. This post is right on time.

    • Krithika Rangarajan

      Me too! 😀

    • Thanks Tesha. You may like to keep a library of images for later use. You see an image and you grab it. Also if you see an image that stirs something in you then go on and write from that image. Create a story, find that central point and nail it. thanks for the comment.

  • On a scale of 1-10 in terms of usefulness, this post gets an 11! Thanks Barry! I blog at http://www.lettersfromthetrench.com and I can definitely use better imagery.

    • Wow, thanks Janiece, I just checked out your imagery and I enjoyed the art work. Keep up the good work

  • Barry, your word picture of hammering the nail with accuracy and strength resonated with me. Thanks for a strong post.

    • Thanks Debbie, one nail, one point, and hit hit hit. Keep on tapping.

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Alas, while I LOVE photographs, I don’t have an ‘eye’ to pick the quality ones or the ‘talent’ to take good pictures. But I enjoy casual photos that capture the ‘authentic mood of the moment’. Filters are well and good, but a picture that depicts the uncompromising reality of life is immensely memorable!

    • I totally agree, Krithika. 🙂

    • Great comment Krithika. Authentic is the way to go. I am increasingly using my smartphone to take my own raw images. In my latest post on my blog, I used, with permission, a photo from Instagram of a news feature. It grabbed my attention when I first saw it on Instagram and it fitted perfectly with my blogpost. Happy clicking

  • Thanks for a great article, Barry! I’m a big fan of using a photo or graphic with every blog post as well. It was good to read your take on it and to get some more tips on choosing the right photo. Thanks also for the referral to Compfight. Definitely going to start using them.

  • I love pictures because I am such a visual person. Also, because I am more of a storyteller than a blogger, I like to use fun pictures that capture certain elements of my short stories that break up the serious parts by picking up the funny parts. But it is quite time consuming to locate just the right graphics. Your photo on this post is great and inspiring. Photography is another art I’m just beginning to explore.

    • Thanks for that Kiki. Something I am enjoying is using my smart phone to take pictures. Its simple, cheap and available. As I heard David Molnar say ‘The best camera is the one in your back pocket’

  • Janice Corbett

    Thanks Barry for this post. I always enjoy your blog and find your writing both inspirational and practically helpful. Your point about hammering home the point, reminds me of what I find myself doing most of when I teach 9-10 years how to write from their own life experiences. I explain the impact of focusing on teasing out the main moment of the experience, not what they had for breakfast or ‘…and then I went home to sleep’. Thanks.

    • Thanks Janice. Perhaps a nail hitting competition for your class would be a good idea.

  • You’re so right. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, we as writers, should take more time in selecting the perfect photos to accompany our blogs, etc. I need to not make this so much an after thought. Thanks for the lesson here today.

    • Thanks Marcy. There is certainly a lot of power in those pixels.

  • sandi

    Thank you. I have included my own personal photos that interpret my writing. The only problem is, how do i enlarge them within the blog? They come out Thumbnail. 🙁

    • Hi Sandi, thanks for the comment. What blogging platform are you using? WordPress? Check out the size of the of image you are uploading. Let me know if I can help further. 🙂

      • sandi

        Will experiment with my next blog.

  • Eddie Paley

    It is just amazing what pictures can do sometimes. Totally agree. Thanks for the great article, Barry.
    And please, if you can visit my brand-new blog, that no one has visited there yet, I’d be so grateful: eddiepaley.wordpress.com

    • HI Eddie, thanks for the comment and all the best for the blog. Checked it out and great start. Well done.

      • Eddie Paley

        Thank you very much! You’re like doubled the views of my blog.

  • THANK YOU! I appreciated the whole article! I learned from what you wrote – and from the picture. This blog I will keep for reference!

    • Hi Voni, thanks so much. I enjoyed sharing this with you.

  • Hey Barry, thanks for the informative blog post. I have a website http://www.fearlesspassion.com to help creative people be successful in life. I connect with what you said about using Flickr to encourage artists. It’s a great idea! I’ll try that. Going to try Compfight too.

    Currently, I’m using Canva.com to create illustrations for my websites. But sometimes, I think photos work better for some posts. So I’m glad to read your post! 🙂

    • Thanks ‘Nerdy’ :). Glad you found the post helpful. I use picmonkey for my image work .

  • Dick Stannard

    Very helpful post, Barry! The thing that grabbed most (though, I have heard it before) is to try to make an emotional connection. I need to concentrate on that more on my blog. Also appreciated the Flicker/Compfight suggestion. I have been too used to Google Images.

    • Thanks Dick, what I like about Flicker and Compfight is the ability to provide the original artist the appropriate recognition. thanks once again