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Photos on Your Writer's Website

Photos are essential.
Make them pertinent to the text,
big enough to appreciate
but small enough to download fast.
Always include captions!

Web writing needs photos. Many professional travel writers (for example) learn photography just so they can supply the essential photos with the text they write and submit to editors.

When it comes to photos on your website, there's good news and bad (mostly good).

First the Good News
ou needn't be a pro to take good photos for your website. They need not be prize-winners or works of art. They need not be high resolution (in fact the versions you put on your web pages should not be high resolution). You can use photos you already have, or you can take new ones, and even an inexpensive digital camera will provide most of the photos you'll need.

The Bad News (Not All That Bad)
If you have lots of slides and/or prints, you'll have to digitize them. You can buy a scanner and digitize them yourself, or you can have them digitized by a shop or company specializing in photo scanning. Costs are moderate.

You'll probably end up digitizing a lot of your old images. The more pages you have on your website, the more successful it's likely to be. Lots of pages = lots of images.

Optimize, Optimize, Optimize!
Digitized photos usually need to be optimized for the web, meaning they should be in JPEG or GIF format, at 72 dots-per-inch resolution, of a uniform size (in at least one dimension) as small as possible without sacrificing the "feel good" quality you get when you look at a picture. This assures that they won't take forever to download to a user's computer over a dial-up Internet connection.

On my Turkey Travel Planner website most images are no greater than 250 pixels in the larger dimension, except in the Photo Galleries, where the larger dimension is 450 or 500 pixels. The Photo Galleries are meant to be picture-gazing places, so my website's users will probably be willing to wait a few seconds for the photos to download.

You should learn how to optimize photos, and get the software needed to do this (you may already have some), because you'll be optimizing photos from now on. I use Macromedia Fireworks (part of the Studio MX web designer suite) which is somewhat expensive and complicated, but powerful.

Adobe Photoshop is also expensive and difficult to learn, but powerful. Far cheaper, easier-to-learn programs are also available, and can easily do the simple tasks required to optimize your photos for the web.

Make Them Relevant
Pertinent! Not just pretty. If it's of a museum and there's usually a long line for admission, try to show the line. If the sea is choppy, try not to show it as calm. Infuse your photos with meaning.

Captions Always!
Search engines can't look at pictures, they need text. Always add ALT tags ("alternative" text metatags) when you put an image on a web page, and make it descriptive rather than cute so search engines can accurately find your photo (and the page it's on). Did you know Google has an image search service?

It's also a good idea to add a caption of several sentences which describes (or at least refers to) the photo. (See the Photo Galleries in Turkey Travel Planner for examples.)

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7 Reasons for a Writer's Website

What is Your "Platform?"

What is the Purpose of Your Website?

Who is Your Audience?

Weblog or Website?

What is Quality Content?

Should You Have an Online Forum?

Site Index: Find Everything Here!


Tom Brosnahan