Judge a Story by Its Photos

Despite the age-old adage, pictures are in incredibly important part to a story. Strong visuals can give a story punch and encourage readers to continue reading. They islands of color in a sea of black and white words.

Weak visuals, or a complete lack of them, on the other hand can scare people away from ever beginning your story! There’s nothing worse than scrolling-scrolling-scrolling down a seemingly endless page of words with no pictures in site. It’s boring!

So how can you best use visuals in your posts?

DO: Break up large sections with pictures

The online essay below is boring, and worse yet, it’s intimidating! There’s likely some good content within it, but without photos to break up the long sections, it doesn’t look like a fun read. In fact, it looks like quite the slog. I don’t even know where to begin when trying to read it.

blah. blah. blah.

Compare that with this blog which uses photos to break up the monotony of reading.

Blah! Blah! Blah!

The splashes of color bring life to the page and make reading it feel more like a hobby than a chore.

DO: Match the photos to the subject matter.

If you’re writing about a traumatic event in your life, using this picture is likely to ruin the atmosphere for people who are reading it.

Pictures should compliment the writing. If the mood of your piece is out-of-line with the style of your photos, you’re likely to leave your readers incredibly confused.

DON’T: Spoil a part of your story with a picture!

Let the pictures you use compliment your story, but don’t let them give anything away about it too early! The second a picture begins to scroll up the screen people are going to stop reading, check the picture, then get back to reading. If that picture portrays an upcoming surprise then you’ve just ruined it for your readers!

For instance, let’s say you’re writing about the history of a little known music festival. The main action revolves around the team putting it together and the struggles to make the festival happen. The readers have no idea if this festival will ever get off the ground! The climax of your story is the long lines and sold out tickets.

You could ruin all that built-up suspense with one poorly placed photograph showing the long lines and crowded venue. As soon as people see that photo, the excitement is lost.

DON’T: Just use photos for the sake of using them

Again, the pictures should compliment the story and thought should go into your selection. While it’s important to pepper your story with photos throughout, people will notice if you’re haphazardly throwing them in there in hope of checking off the “Story has Pictures” box. Spend time finding photos that capture the feeling of your piece. Should they be black & white? Or would full color work best? Perhaps a Polaroid? There’s lots of ways to use photos to enhance your story and it’s worth the time to find the right ones!

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