cameraAs the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But the wrong photo can hurt your story more than it helps. How do you choose the right photo for your blog, article, or advertisement?

It can be difficult to balance headlines, photos, and text, so let’s focus (ha…focus!) on selecting the right image to help tell your story. Professional publications like newspapers and magazines hire a photo editor to make decisions about proper image selection. How do you make a photo really stand out on your company website or business blog? Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Know the story (or at least, read the story.) The photo should complement the story—adding to it. Not just repeat visually what the headline already says. But, it shouldn’t distract from the story.

    A story about the local city council meeting should probably include a picture from the event, unless the story is highlighting a concern, like public safety, that was the focal point of the meeting.

    If you have a great picture, an interesting story, but a long-winded or boring headline, have a chat with the author or editor about changing it. A punchy headline or title helps grab attention, too!

  2. Follow visual-interest rules. While the photo must complement the story, it should also be interesting on its own, so choose photos with interesting angles, intimate close-ups of responses, shots from far away that offer surprising perspectives on a situation.

    Boring Meeting
    Now, there’s a snoozer.

    A suggestion: unless you’re making a point, steer clear of people sleeping or yawning; mouths open while taking a bite (that one is my mother’s specialty at family dinners); or picking at something personal.

  3. Choose a photo with emotion. Capture a heated moment, an outburst of laughter, someone weeping, a cry of anger—and most readers will want to go on to the story. Just make sure the emotion really captures the intent of the story; don’t use it merely for surprise or shock value.

    drama city council
    Hmm…what’s going on here? I think I’d read it to find out what the drama is all about!

  4. Don’t crowd the photo. Let the photo speak for itself. When you want a photo to stand out, give it a little white space in your layout so it stands on its own. Make it large, and drop your headline in, if appropriate. Make sure that any caption, call-out copy or the headline supports the image and does not compete with it. While you don’t want the photo to distract from the story, you also don’t want surrounding text to distract from the photo.
  5. When possible, use a GOOD quality photo. And, for heaven’s sake, one that is in focus.  DO NOT use a low resolution, “I downloaded it from the internet or my lousy cell phone” picture, PLEASE. Poor quality photos often compromise great stories. And, increasing the size or resolution only makes the picture quality worse. Just sayin’.

Whether you post your own photographs or use pictures from a stock photo agency, make sure the images you select to illustrate your article support your story.

Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN /