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How to get illustrations for your dental blog

Written by Rob Johnson | Apr 25, 2017 10:30:00 PM

(This article is a 10 minute read)


1. Why you should use an image on every blog post

2. The correct size and shape for images online

3. Three ways you can source unique images at low cost

The one thing that will make your dental blog stand out against all others is the pictures. I’ve worked in publishing for more than 25 years. I can tell you, if you get the images wrong, you lose the vast majority of your readers. Of course, the content has to be there as well. But the way you illustrate will determine if anyone will try reading your content in the first place.

I look at a lot of dental websites (it’s my job, after all). Many of them don’t use images at all on their blogs. Others use pictures of teeth, or scientific images, or images from suppliers. The blog content for dental practices is all there, but it’s let down by pics that make it look unappealing.

On your dental blog, size matters

Before I get to your options for finding good images, I’ll clue you in on the other mistakes people make. That is running images that are too big or too small, and making them the wrong shape.

If the image is too big, it will have an impact on the speed your page loads up. If the page is slow to load, many people will click away. Also, if it’s slow to load, Google will take that into account when serving up search results.

OK, you think, I’ll make the picture really small. But that’s a bad idea too. If it’s too small, it will look strange on the page. And if you make it too small then artificially enlarge it, it will be all grainy and pixelated.

The ideal size for your images is around 1024 pixels wide, at screen resolution (which is 72 dpi).

If you read that last sentence and thought, what-the…?, don’t worry. Not everyone has the software to be that precise. But most imaging software will show if the image is small or large, and whether it’s for printing or for emailing.

You want your pictures to be about the size of a normal photo when you print it out, and saved for screens (not print).

One last thing: always, and I mean always, use landscape-oriented pictures. As in, longer than they are high. Not square ones, and not portrait ones (as in, taller than it is wide). Your blog will be read on screens. Screens are horizontally aligned. Make sure your images are too.



Three ways to get unique images

Now you’ve got your head around why you need images, and what type of images you need. Next step is to get the actual images. You want those pictures to be as unique as possible. You can achieve that aim by either taking them yourself. Or sourcing them from stock libraries. Or getting an original illustration done.

Many dentists are keen amateur photographers. You take images for work all the time, and there’s a good chance you have a decent camera. So using your own photos for your blog posts is a good, cheap option.

However, if you use images taken for work, you’ll run up against privacy problems. Plus, they’ll be pictures of teeth and mouths, which aren’t always appealing.

How to use your photos in your dental blog

To illustrate any one blog post, start by reading it. Often, somewhere in the post, you will use some kind of metaphor to explain a complex idea. The image you use can also be a visual metaphor. For example, you might be writing about root canal. Instead of using a cross-section of a tooth, you might use a picture of a hollowed-out tree stump. Or if you’re writing about tooth whitening, you might use an image of someone silhouetted against a bright light, or against the sun. Don’t use a picture of hydrogen peroxide, by the way. That will freak people out.

Thinking in terms of visual metaphors for your posts will not only give you unique content. It will be fun for you.

Once again, remember to keep all your photographs in landscape-orientation if you’re going to use them on the blog.

Alternatives to your photos—someone else’s

There are many stock photo libraries online. Some of them are free. The free ones will mostly be crap. For the paid ones, you can either buy individual photos, or buy credits. If you know you’ll be using a lot of pictures, buying a package of credits will always be cheaper.

Stock libraries offer different types of licenses for reproducing photos and illustrations. You want to buy royalty-free photos, because they are cheaper and you can use them for longer.

The illustrators and photographers who make them can determine how they want their pictures to be used. Many good editorial shots can’t be used for commercial purposes. Because your blog counts as ‘editorial’ usage, you will have a wider range of pictures to choose from. So that’s a good thing.

The downside is, any photo available to you royalty free is available to everyone else too. Also, many of the dental images in stock libraries are a bit, well, naff. So you can spend a lot of time trawling through pictures and never find the exact right one.

Also, the cost of stock images will always go up. Like every other cost in the world. So if you’re using a lot, know that it will cost you money.

Commission a cheap illustration

Local illustrators get well paid for their work, as they should. In fact, they should be paid even more than they get. But that’s another discussion for another day. The point is, an Australian-based illustrator pays their living expenses in Australian dollars. They have to buy their work tools and software in Australian dollars. And Australian dollars are expensive.

The same is not true of an Indonesian-based illustrator. Or a Lithuanian one.

It’s vitally important thatthe words on your website are written by local writers. Not only because they are read by local readers, but search engines are good at reading, understanding and classifying them.

The same is not true of illustrations. Illustration is an international language—an idea can be illustrated from anywhere. Also, Google can’t ‘read’ illustrations yet. So you can have a photo from Bulgaria, but if it’s tagged the right way, the search engine will see it as local.

How does this benefit you? Freelance sites like Fiverr have many illustrators and photographers who will do a one-off job for you from as little as $14. If you tell them you want a bulk order, they may even vary the price a bit.

If you scoot over to the Fiverr site, tell it you’re looking for illustrations and graphic design, you’ll see a world of styles you can choose from. Pick an illustrator whose style appeals to you, then contact them directly through the site.

There’s only two downsides to this approach. One is, it will take you a little time to find an illustrator whose work you like, and whose price is right. The other is you will have to provide a pretty specific brief. It’s no good saying to an illustrator, “Get me something to illustrate my blog”. You will have to think of the content of the picture in metaphorical terms. Like I suggested with taking photos. It may be, “I’d like an illustration of a football player with a broken tooth”. Or “I’d like a picture of a dentist parachuting into a cake”. That’s just an example. My point is, the more specific your brief is, the better the illustration will be.

In conclusion

Unique images on your dental blog will make the whole process of marketing dentistry more rewarding. The images you use will make your blog stand out from the pack, and reinforce your brand. They don’t need to look like your brand to do that. They just need to be unique.

Choose either your own photography, stock images, or illustrations from a freelance site like Fiverr to bring your blog posts to life. And it makes the whole process of marketing your dental practice a lot more fun for you.