How to Draw Attention with Images: No Artistic Skill Required

What if I told you that adding one simple image to your web page or printed piece could increase the time and attention people pay to your marketing?

You’re already spending time writing your web pages, brochures and emails. Why spend time on images?

They’re important because:

  • Combining an attention-grabbing headline and an arresting image stops web surfers in their tracks
  • Social media speaks in images: between the oversized Facebook timeline cover image, to image-centric Pinterest, social media runs on images.
  • Eye-catching images are shared more often, meaning your web page, blog post or product image will spread more easily if it features a strong image
  • Images help to communicate more than words alone, especially with today’s short attention spans
  • Well-chosen images make or break slide presentations, webinars, web pages and ebooks

Our Brains on Images

Image processing happens in a different part of the brain from where words are processed, so putting them with your words will engage more of your viewer’s brain. That’s worth the extra effort, don’t you think?

Images are especially effective vehicles to activate associations. If you spark an experience or memory with your image, you can convey meaning that goes well beyond the picture itself.

As a matter of fact, whole businesses have sprung up around the idea of using images to facilitate communication. VisualsSpeak is a perfect example. It helps people create new stories about themselves and their organizations using the power of images.

What if You’re Not Artistic?

Anyone can develop an eye for effective imagery. It takes practice and you’ll get better over time, so why not use these posts to get started today?

Need to Communicate? Think in Pictures.

To get the maximum impact from your images, choose simple forms like the ones below. They translate best at any size, so when your social media platform of choice reduces your photo to the size of a postage stamp, for example, it will still be understandable.

Use literal images like product photos, portraits or locations when you need to get specific about what something is or does.

Literal imagery is perfect for:

  • Showing your company’s history with a timeline, or in a slide show
  • Demonstrating a technique in a tutorial
  • Showing how your product is installed or used

Use abstract images when you want to evoke an emotion. Before you choose, think about what kind of emotion you want to create in the viewer: curiosity, joy, fear, surprise, concern, or something else?

Get Your Feet Wet in a Moving Stream

A great place to try your hand at using images effectively is in social media.

Let’s face it: that photo you post to Facebook moves down the streams of all your friends as the day goes on, so it’s a great place to experiment and get immediate feedback. Strong images will get likes and comments. Ineffective ones might not get any reaction at all.

This week, experiment with images on the social networks you use. Use the resources here to learn more, and commit to mastering the power of  well-chosen imagery.

Question of the Week

What do you enjoy about using images, and what do you find confusing? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Many thanks for the Flickr generosity of Easa Shamih (eEko) | P.h.o.t.o.g.r.a.p.h.y85mm.chNeil KremerVinothChandarPink Sherbet Photography whose photos I found using

wd-15-3D-transPamela Wilson here. If you enjoyed this article, why not get the free Weekend Digest newsletter? Every other Saturday, you’ll receive one email that’s chock-full of information about the intersection of business, branding, design, and marketing. Join us.


  1. says

    Well, you succeeded! Your well-chosen image got me to click through and read, especially since you gave such a great preview yesterday on facebook by teasing us with this adorable photo! My posts are quite photo heavy, and I think that’s what accounts for the great open rates and click through rates I have at my site, and of course following your great advice helps, too :)

  2. says

    I can’t believe how timely this post is – how did you know?

    I really struggle with images, graphics, colour schemes, layouts… and my efforts so far have been clumsy, frustrating and very time consuming. I’ve made a decision today to invest some time in building skill and judgement. I know it’s going to take me a while but it’s definitely holding me back.

    One interesting observation about my own attitude: in my mind, it doesn’t feel like work. So I have to convince myself that I am actually working and not just playing around. That’s a prejudice that I only apply to myself, not other people. I don’t know if that acts as a brake on other people too.

    Thanks so much for this – it’s a great starting point for me.

    • says

      Oooh, it’s always great when the reader/writer ESP kicks in! 😉

      You know, I went to four years of art school to develop my eye for what works visually, and it’s the hardest I’d ever worked in my life. So even though you enjoy it, don’t let yourself believe that building skills in this area isn’t work. It’s a really valuable skill, and it’s one you’ll only build through practice.

      I’m really glad the post helped, Andrew. Thanks for your comment!

  3. says

    Great post, Pamela! I actually read a post recently that recommended NOT putting in images in blog posts from stock image sites – the argument was that readers would just be confused. The post advocated instead taking photos of your customers, your office, your site, your products … I can’t agree that stock images aren’t helpful in any situation, though. As you’ve demonstrated right here, a GOOD stock photo, one that’s chosen with some humor especially, will only add to the appeal of the piece. And with FB shares showing previews, that image is all important now! Love the resources – shared this post with my readers on the Stage Presence Marketing FB page and will definitely include this post in the next newsletter. Very helpful – which, well, I wouldn’t expect anything less from you or this site. 😀

    • says

      There’s an art to choosing stock photos, that’s for sure. I’m in the “thinking” stages on a product I may develop that’s all about using images in your marketing, and “how to choose great stock photos” would definitely be in there.

      There are lots of ways to handle images, and the advice you read isn’t bad, it’s just not applicable across the board.

      Thanks so much for sharing this, Annie. I really appreciate it!

  4. says

    One of the things I love about my current branding is that I get to use food pictures. Sometimes they border on food porn, which definitely lights up the brain in important ways. Most of my images are stock images, but I get a LOT of positive comments from readers about my choices. And sometimes, perusing the stock image sites help spark ideas for new posts, too!

    • says

      That’s a great idea, Tea: perusing photo sites for post inspiration. I’ve done this, too.

      It’s one of the reasons I like to look for an image before I’m too deep into my post, because sometimes the perfect image will change the direction of what I write.

      Thanks for your comment :-)

    • says

      Oh totally! I try to stick to the freebie sources just to save a few bucks for most posts (I splurge on the bigger projects, of course) but I often find inspiration from searching the paid sites, even with their weekly “free files.” I’ll download them, tag them, note them in my planning Notebook (Circus Ponies) and brainstorm some ideas on how to use ’em.

  5. says

    Another advantage of using an image near the top of the page is that if a searcher uses the Preview on the Google results page, your page will look far more interesting than everybody else’s, and so s/he’s more likely to click on it.

    • says

      So true, Gina. The Google preview image is what a lot of people use to decide whether or not to visit your page. Best to give them something interesting to look at!

  6. says

    Thank you for this great article about the power of pictures for blog articles.

    I think that the saying “a pictures says more than 1000 words” brings it all to the point. Choose your words and your images carefully and everybody will win. I use flickr since almost 3 years now, but I never tried to add great photographers as contacts and follow them for hopefully great partnerships. Thanks for this inspiration.

    I also read some other posts from you (@Pamela) yesterday and I really like the style you are writing and the topics you put your focus on in the articley I found from you. I am always looking for blogs and writers who help me to develop my writing technics and you are definitely on my radar and in my bookmarks now!

    Thank you :-)