By: Marilyn L. Davis
Use Images to Engage the Reader
“Visual art and writing don’t exist on an aesthetic hierarchy that positions one above the other because each is capable of things the other can’t do at all. Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating.” ~William S. Burroughs
Each person writing an article today has more opportunities to convey their point of view, share their knowledge, or offer helpful tips and hints on a broad range of topics.
Whether it’s Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go, or Yahoo, online searches opened up the world to instant access to information. Researching on those sites helps writers broaden their posts, supporting their position with additional evidence. Not only are we able to write articles on subjects that interest us, but we can validate our perspective with scholarly research.
Unfortunately, many writers fail to take this same deliberate approach when they search for images and photos that enhance and inform.
People Relate to the Image
“A picture is worth a thousand words” irritates many writers who know that their descriptors are relevant, exciting, and informative. Regardless of content information, we can also enhance our reader’s awareness with efficient use of corresponding images and color choices.
Rather than be irritated that an image captured the reader, a writer today needs to understand that adding a bonus image reinforces the words and can often reduce that complex narrative into a single image.
From Complex to a Simple, Colorful Image
If we look at the definition of a circle: a round plane figure whose boundary (the circumference) consists of points equidistant from a fixed point (the center).
Well, that describes it using the correct words, but how much easier is this image of a circle for the writer and the reader?
When we use white space, relevant pictures, and other visuals, it improves our reader’s experience. With these additions, we create meaningful articles on several levels.
What Does that Color Mean?
Colors influence a reader’s perception of an article as well. Cultural, socioeconomic, gender, and age differences will affect how readers view the writer’s choice of color and image.
Therefore, it is necessary to know the reading audience when selecting images or colors. Understanding reader influences will help narrow options so a writer can better determine which image, color, or photo to include.
I Like Red – You Like Green
How does color influence the readers’ experience? People have personal preferences for colors in their living environment, clothing, and even the color of the car they drive.
When we use color in our media inserts, we send a subtle message with our choice of color. These colors influence our readers as much as the words. Modern color psychology uses six principles:
- Color can carry specific meaning
- Meaning based on learned or biologically innate
- The perception is up to the person seeing it
- The visual process forces color motivated behavior
- The color usually exerts its influence automatically
- Color meaning and effect has to do with context as well
Studies in the United States have shown that specific colors convey a particular intent, action, or emotion and that colors have both a positive and negative connotation.
We First Learned the Picture
People think using pictures. We are drawn to the image. In his book Ways of Seeing, John Berger, a media theorist, writes, “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.” Most of us could identify a cat by the picture long before we understood that the black squiggly lines spelled C-A-T.
Dr. Lynell Burmark, Associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development, said, “…unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Our short-term memory processes words. We can only retain about 7 bits of information (plus or minus 2). This is why, by the way, that we have 7-digit phone numbers. Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.”
So, I could emphasize this article with a cat picture or move on to the next point. Frankly, a photo of a cat, regardless of how appealing, might confuse my readers. Unfortunately, when readers are confused, they often leave. So we have to be mindful of what images we select.
Make Interesting Image Choices
Francis Davis, an adult educator and media education specialist, captured it well when he said, “…in our culture pictures have become tools used to elicit specific and planned emotional reactions in the people who see them.”
For instance, I’m writing about soccer.
1. I could use a picture of a black and white soccer ball. It’s an appropriate image. I’d then leave it up to the reader’s imagination to fill in the intent. However, It is essentially a dull image.
2. I can give them another black and white soccer ball. Maybe one with dirt, cleats, and a human image. This visual shows the reader more about the element, but it still does not capture certain aspects of soccer that are perhaps the most significant benefit of the last ball in the illustration.
3. A third choice is a soccer ball representing how many countries play soccer.
This image reflects the universal appeal of the game, making it more globally recognized. While this image lacks a human element, it still manages to convey the global human teamwork and competition with the inclusion of flags from many countries.
Colors Reinforce your Content
Visuals are not only excellent communicators but also quickly affect readers psychologically and physiologically. A conscientious writer takes the time to find visuals that reinforce their content. It is this correct combination of the two that ensures that readers stay engaged.
If you want a post that your readers will remember, combine excellent writing, images, and other visuals that effectively illustrate the words. Click To Tweet
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