How to Use Images in Your Small Business Blog Posts

Learn how to find and use images that strengthen your posts—and your business’s visual style.

When reading blog posts or articles online, you’ve probably noticed how images help get the message across. They can set the mood for a piece of writing, aid your understanding of the material, increase the visual appeal of a post, and break up text to make it easier to consume.

But images can also do the opposite. Just as you can tell when images are well chosen and effective, you’ve probably seen some that are pixelated, blurry, or don’t relate to the post in any meaningful way. Even if you don’t consciously notice, poorly chosen images can negatively affect your reading experience.

So how can you make sure your image choices are creating the best experience for your readers? A background in design is a great advantage. But even if you’re a beginner, there are tons of tools and resources available to create or source the perfect image.

Before you start choosing images, take some time to figure out what kinds of images will work best for your small business blog.

Determine your visual style

Mailchimp posts have a consistent visual style: a specific color palette, custom illustrations, and simple gifs to demonstrate app functions. Perhaps your business also has a strong sense of visual style. If not, now is a great time to think about it.

Take a look at other sites inside and outside of your business category and consider how they’re using images. What works? What doesn’t? Are there visual or artistic styles you really like and would like to emulate? Think about how you could use images to create a consistent visual style for your blog.

Consider what image types best support your post

The sort of images you use depend on what kind of post you’re writing.

For example, if you’re writing a how-to article, you might include screenshots or your own photos and videos to make it easy for your readers to follow your post. If you’re writing about a process, a flowchart or diagram can aid your readers’ understanding. Or, if you’re writing about a study you’ve conducted, then graphs, charts, infographics, and other forms of data visualization help bring those stats to life.

Choose your images

Sourcing images

Finding images online is easy, but there are some things you should know to stay on the right side of the law. Image licensing and usage rights can be complex. Just because you find you find an image online doesn’t mean you should use it. If you’re sourcing images, your safest bet is to use an image library.

Free image libraries

While you may opt for a paid library option like Shutterstock or iStock, there are also libraries which offer images free of charge. Some libraries require image attribution, or a written credit that links back to the site. However, permissions can change over time, so it’s important to check the license page before using any images from a site.

It’s also important to note the difference between an editorial and a commercial blog. Even if you don’t use your blog to sell or promote products, it could still be considered commercial. When in doubt, only use images approved for commercial use or consult a lawyer for more help.

Here’s a list of libraries which all offer free image options for commercial use. For each, attribution is not required, but it is encouraged and appreciated. Be sure to read the license pages thoroughly for guidelines that vary between sites.

Using your own images

If you want to create graphs or other visuals yourself, there are some great tools online to help. Canva is easy to use and offers both free and paid options. Plus, their video tutorials can help you learn everything from how to publish your design to how to create a line graph.

If you’re using photos you’ve taken yourself or other visuals that you have created, you don’t need to provide attribution.

Using screenshot images

Screenshots are a great way to walk your readers step-by-step through a process. There are a few ways you can do this. You can either use keyboard shortcuts, which are available on both Mac and Windows operating systems, or you can use external tools.

One available tool is Awesome Screenshot, a free Chrome plugin which allows you to quickly and easily take screenshots, add annotations, and blur sensitive information. You can also use it create screencasts (record a video of your screen).

Double-check your work

Because images can help or harm your blog posts, it’s important to review your visual choices for each post. Before you hit publish, ask yourself these questions:

Do these images set the tone for what I’m writing about? Are these images adding meaning to my content? Do they aid the reader’s understanding of the post? Am I comfortable with these images being associated with my company?

Finally, if you use images you haven’t created yourself, make sure you’re on the right side of the law. Check the license associated with the image and provide appropriate attribution.

Written by Hannah Smith for Mailchimp. Hannah is an expert in content marketing.