Adding eye-catching images to your blog can make a difference between a visitor coming to your website and hitting the back button instantly, or staying for a bit longer. Attractive graphics will also help bring visitors to your site from places like Pinterest and Facebook.
Pinterest first got my attention about a year ago, when one of the images on my recipe website got pinned and I was suddenly getting huge (by my standards) amounts of traffic: over 5,000 hits per day. The traffic explosion didn’t last very long, but it surely caught my interest and I was anxious to see where all the visitors were coming from. When I discovered they were coming from a website called Pinterest, I wanted to learn more…
In case you think I took some amazing photo or paid a talented designer create a beautiful graphic – neither was the case. It was a pretty photo, and it was taken by someone else. It was a photo I found on Flickr.
At that time I was not taking any photos for my blogs (looking back now, I’m not really sure why). I also had no idea what Pinterest was. Needless to say, I quickly signed up for the service to see what it was about, wanting to learn how I could use more of this traffic source. I also decided to get more comfortable behind my camera taking photos for my health and food websites. Up to this time, I’ve only used it to take family travel snapshots.
Since that day, I’ve taken thousands of photos and created hundreds of images and photo-collages for my websites that bring thousands of visitors each month from Pinterest. As I compare my early images to the ones I take today, I see how I’m improving all the time. I believe these graphics are making a huge difference in how my sites are perceived by the visitors, and I hope – as I keep improving – they will help me bring more traffic to my sites.
I own a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, and I often use Photoshop, but even if you don’t have these expensive tools, you can add sizzle to your site by simply using an inexpensive camera (point and shoot, or more advanced, bought second hand) and free tools available online. These days, every blogger can create fun graphics for their site, without the need for expensive equipment or graphic designer.
Even if your photos are not great (especially in the beginning – although you’ll probably improve with practice), using the tools and resources that I’m recommending below will help you take even lame shots and turn them into fun little pinnable masterpieces.
Graphic Design Toolbox for Bloggers: Free Tools & Resources
Find free, public domain photos on Flickr.com
Honestly, I think everyone should be taking their own photos, so just get over your fear of camera. Especially if you have a site that’s related to food, health, fashion, home, etc.; but any topic, really, will benefit from photos that illustrate what you’re writing about, or, if that’s not possible, reveal some of your personality. With all the inexpensive cameras and tools available, I really don’t see why anyone would not use their own photos or spend money on stock images.
However, if you insist, Flickr.com is a good place to find quality photographs for free. To search for shots that you can use on your website, go to “Advanced Search” and check “Creative Commons” box. This will filter out the “All Rights Reserved” images that you are not allowed to use. Make sure you read and comply with the licensing terms of each photo (click on the license link to read it).
Find Fun & Fabulous Free Fonts at Dafont.com
I recently discovered this free source of fonts, Dafont.com, and I felt like a kid in a candy store: I think I downloaded at least 100 fonts (or more). There must be thousands of them on this website. You will need to follow instructions provided on the site to install the font on your computer.
Then, you’ll be able to use the font to enhance your text documents (like your PDF ebooks) and images, using whatever software you currently have that allows you to enter text: graphic editing programs (such as Photoshop), text editors (Word), presentations (PowerPoint), and other. (You will not need these fonts if you use the free photo editors that I’m recommending below. They provide their own fonts.)
Quick Screen Captures with Jing.com
Jing is a terrific little application for quickly capturing anything you have on your screen, adding some comments, pointing with arrows to the area of interest, etc., and posting them to your blog, using in your ebook, or wherever. For example, I used it to create some of the screenshots for this post. On the left are the tools that you can use to point viewers to specific information on the screen (arrows, boxes, text boxes, etc.).
Use Cool Photo Editing Effects and Create Photo Collages
I discovered these programs after literally spending hours on creating a few collages for my recipe ebooks in Photoshop. I’m quite proficient in Photoshop, but when it comes to collages – it just takes too much time to put them together: all that cutting, cropping, adjusting, etc. With Picmonkey, it only takes a few minutes.
To create a collage with Picmonkey, have your pictures ready on your computer, go to their website, choose “Create Collage”, open photos on your computer and upload the editor. Then simply drag and drop them into a selected collage format. Don’t worry if there are not enough slots in the pre-defined layout that you choose – simply keep dragging and dropping them, as there are no virtually limits to the number of photos and the layouts that you can create. You can move the images around and adjust the size to achieve the result that you want. You can also leave some white space or add a swatch if you want, change background colors, adjust spacing, etc. Save the file to your computer, making sure the size is not too large (you can choose the resolution that you want).
Then, you can open the collage in the editing mode. (You can also edit images individually in the Editor, but I find that if the photos were taken in the same conditions, then adjusting them all at once in the collage works well enough).
You can change the brightness, contrast, and colors, if needed. You may also add text. I usually play with a few filters – they are so much fun!
Once you think you have something that looks decent, save it to your computer (usually I save a few versions as I go), and post it to your blog or social sites.
(Creating collages in iPiccy is just as easy – check out this tutorial here).
On your website, make it easy for the visitors to pin your stuff. I have a Pinterest plugin that places a “Pin it” button directly on the picture (it displays when you hover over the image):
Make sure you pin them to your board, too!
Note: If you want to see the pins from your site, go to https://pinterest.com/source/yoururl/, so for example, http://pinterest.com/source/greenreset.com/ will show Court what people are pinning from his blog.