Using Photos to Embellish Copywriting

embellish copywriting with photosCopywriting is best when it tells a story, paints a picture, or otherwise appeals to the emotional undercurrent of the mind. Give a reader something they can see clearly in the mind’s eye and they’re hooked.

The easiest way to add spice to your writing, besides learning a few copywriting basics, is to include photos in your emails, blog posts and articles and even press releases. 


People respond to images online the same way children do to pictures in books. I’m thinking of a certain young man in my house who groans when he picks up a book with no pictures. It takes every bit of focus and personal energy to get a foothold on the first page. A book with pictures however, is like a sailboat with full masts, wind blowing. It moves along almost of it’s own will.

A web page with all text is OMG boring! Have you ever landed on one? How fast did you click away from there?

A blog post that runs on and on with no visual elements to add flavor is truly unappealing.

I’m not saying they won’t read it. If they’re motivated enough they’ll choke it down. I’m thinking of a couple of blogs whose authors have such interesting content that I dig in almost every time, even though they refuse to give me some eye candy. 

But most online readers, especially those new to your message, will take one look at all those words and their brain stalls out. 

It’s the Internet, for crying out loud. One click and they’re outta there! On to greener pastures. They’ll get to you later. 

That’s the way it is.  You need pictures to get (and keep) people reading your stuff online.

Stock photography saves the day…kind of. 

No problem. You can just buy the pictures and pop them in. But a word of warning about using stock photography in your posts… 

A recent article justifiably had some fun with some of the more ridiculous stock photos you can buy. I’d pile on here, except that I’ve used similar images myself. 😎  For filler; fun stuff to break the droning effect of “nothing-but-text.” I’m guilty (once or twice).

stick guy stock photothumb guy stock photoThe little stick guy, the thumbprint guy, does anyone really connect with them? Probably not. But even they serve a function: They get a point across and contribute to your subject. 

Here are tips for using obtaining, formatting and positioning photos in your content for maximum effect: 

In most cases you can buy the stock photo at the smallest size and price point. Even then, you’ll probably want to resize it to fit your blog post. Some plug-ins do it for you, but why take a chance on slowing down your page load time?

Shoot for around 300 pixels wide for a picture within a blog post or email.

Where to buy stock photography? 

Four easy go-to sources for photos (although there are many more…) are:

1. BigStock Photos: I like this company because I almost always find something that will work. They are the least expensive site for stock photos that I’ve found. They also frequently send discount pass codes and give away random free photos to subscribers. Extra photos are always nice to beef up your collection. 

2. iStock Photos: A lot of these photos are higher quality because they are generally more interesting. You’ll find images that you won’t find on BigStock, however you’ll pay more. You’ll find many of the same or similar pictures as the ones on BigStock, but it seems that the really interesting photos are 3 or four times BigStock’s prices. Sometimes it’s worth it. You’ll have to decide for yourself. Visit each site and do a search. You’ll see what I mean. 

3. Flickr: I’ve been a member of Flickr since 2005. While I rarely store photos there anymore, I still keep my account open because I like to peruse photography and I search the Creative Commons (CC) group photos for my blog. Many photographers — some very talented ones — will allow use of certain photos on commercial sites  as long as you credit the source and the photographer. On top of that, they’re free. I use them because they are usually more interesting than stock photos. (See the credit below for this perfect photo found on Flickr.)

By the way, a generous CC contributor gave me some tips once about using and sourcing CC photos in your work. Here’s why you MUST look into this amazing resource.

4. Your own photos: The most engaging pictures are the ones you take yourself. Sometimes of course that’s not possible, but when your’e writing a story about something personal or something tangible within your business, then snap a quick pic with your phone and post that.

Where to place the photo: 

Put the photo at the top of the blog post or article. Move it off to the right so your text width is short and your reader has a chance to quickly scan the first paragraph while absorbing your photo. I got this tip from Derek Halpern and I think it works better than just loading up the top of the email or post with an image only. (Derek has a great infographic on the anatomy of a good blog post, which is floating around out there. I couldn’t find it on his website, though, so I’ll just hook you up with Derek’s website directly — because he really deserves the credit!)

If your post is long, meaning if your reader scrolls past the top of the fold, and you’re asking him to keep reading for awhile, you may need to break up your text with another photo or graphic. Even a separating line or web element like a button or a quote in a different font within a box; works to give the reader some relief from pure text. 

Some other considerations about photos: 

Don’t get in a rut. If your email subscriber knows exactly what they’ll find in every email or blog post, why would they keep opening them? 

I won’t name names, but there’s a cupcake place here in town that makes scrumptious cupcakes. I’m on their email list and receive somewhat regular emails from them, like every time a new cupcake flavor is announced or a holiday is coming up. Sadly, they never seem to wow me with photos: it’s always a picture of a tray of cupcakes.

cupcakes stock photo

What would make the cupcakes more interesting? People! More pictures of the adorable airstream trailers they sell them from around town. Someone getting a cupcake fix in a rainstorm (ok, so we’re in a  draught right now)…but something other than their admittedly lovely looking cupcakes on a white background. Maybe a still from a video they made? Love those cupcakes, but there’s got to be more behind the curtain there… 

Get my drift? 

Along those same lines, why not switch out your email template or banner periodically? If you’ve been using the same one for over a year, it’s time to call your graphic designer and whip up a new one. 

Branding: Good!

Branding that sits on the shelf too long: Not so good! (That’s called “blanding” and your customers deserve better.) 

I realize there are ads and informercials that are so effective at getting people to remember and/or purchase products that they haven’t been changed in years. But your email subscribers and blog readers might appreciate you mixing it up a bit.

The right photo’s out there. Keep your eyes open for stylish ways to fill in the blanks your copy leaves out and give your reader’s eyes something to feast on.

The photo above is from Flickr, Creative Commons: “Street Painter,” pedrosimoes7

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