Pick the Perfect Image for your Blog Post or Slide

Five Strategies to help you Pick the Perfect Image

The other night I gave a presentation to a WordPress designers meetup. One person came up afterwards to ask about the images in my slides, and I thought, hey, there's a post on my site about that. But it turns out, there's a slide deck, not a lot written about it.

So here are five ideas that highlight some of my image selection strategies.

1. Choose an image that creates Confusion

The strategy here is to create some cognitive dissonance that only you (and your words) can resolve. So if you want to talk about partnership, don't pick two people shaking hands. Instead, pick two women on skates during a roller derby match elbowing each other. That way you can talk about the need for partnership even though we treat our partners like competitors some times.

2. Choose an image that highlights Irony

The brain loves the unexpected so make it work. Give it a puzzle. The moment you put that image on the screen, you'll see people trying to “get” it and the pleasure they'll have when they do will be worth the work of finding the perfect slide. Here's a sample you might like.

3. Select an image that lets you Tease

If I tell you in advance that you're about to see some nudity, you might sit up straighter (either upset or excited). But then I click to the next slide, or you click on the blog post title, and you get two old men with bare upper bodies and the effect is clear. I pulled you in, but it was a tease. Now, I'm not saying you do this on every post or in every deck, but it's a useful strategy.

4. Select images that are a Play on Words

Part of the challenge is that we're all getting images from the same place. So when we hear “six pack” we think good looking guy with great abs. But it's an image that everyone has used. So don't do it. Go the other way. Instead, look for an image of a guy holding a six pack of beer in front of his abs. That will get an extra second of focus and attention, and often, that's all you need.

5. Select images that Surprise and Shock

I have a classic image of two lovers on a bench, but one of them has his arm going behind her back and holding hands with his other lover on the other side of the park bench. I use it a lot. And every time it takes people a second, but then they love it. Here, take a look.

When people see it, you can watch them process it. But if I'm talking about you getting hosed, or betrayal, or back-channel agreements, this slide is useful and powerful – because it surprises.

So those are five of my strategies. What are yours?

So that's how I pick my slides and my blog post images. Did you want to see my slide deck from the other night? Here it is – on SpeakerDeck.