No Suitable Featured Image?

Try creating photo illustrations using ‘grizzled’ apps

VISUALS, no doubt, can hook a reader’s interest, be it in the book cover of a little-known author, or the featured image of a story, article, poetry, or editorials whether in print or online.

Available as ebook on Amazon KDP

A book cover (see examples, left and right photos) conveys just one message – what is the book about.

Available as ebook on Amazon KDP

A featured image, on the other hand, is either a visual summary of the text or the most important takeaway in the story or article.

In today’s digital world, featured images are almost always photographs. And why not? Many have access to gadgets that take beautiful photos, and there are several photo applications to choose from to make those pictures more appealing. There is also no dearth in astounding photos available online, and thousands upon thousands of these are free provided the owner of the photograph that was featured is duly credited. (You may want to check Pexels and Unsplash for free images.)

There are instances, however, when photos that are available on hand or from online stock photos are not suitable or applicable to the story. This is a challenge, no doubt, to the writer (or the editor) who has a deadline to meet.

Most readers pay attention to photos, especially featured images, and they will notice when a photo used does not convey the message of the story. They will take note of this after reading the piece, but a grumble about the photo-bait might ensue. And readers’ negative feedback on a dissonant featured image could not be a good thing.

Spot illustrations

Which brings us to spot illustrations, that “old-fashioned” artwork which is tailored to highlight the message in the story or article.

Spot illustrations highlight the takeaway from the article or story. Left: the author being chased by a donkey with her dogs inside the gate. Right: Story title indicates “a good omen” in the note being read by the protagonist. Photo source: S Magazine, 7 March 2021

Long gone were my days when I could waltz into the art department (from the editorial) and ask a staff to do a spot illustration. Those days were really cool, but did not miss them until I started a blog (yes, this blog) and could not find appropriate photos and images to feature. I became nostalgic (just a little) of the days when I had a “blank check” to ask artists to do spot illustrations.

Photo illustrations

With the lack of suitable featured image to use, resourcefulness and creativity should come into play. Consider the wealth of photographs posted on social media belonging to you, the writer, and your friends. Somewhere among this great resource would be a photo that is suitable for the following:

(a) creating an illustration,

(b) stressing a focal point, or –

(c) accentuating a message within the article or story.

Just make sure to ask the owner of the photo for permission to use, and document this permission.

Spot illustration vs. photo illustration

The big difference between spot illustrations and photo illustrations is that the former is tailored to the writer’s specific description of what the artist will create while the latter is more dependent on one’s patience and burst of muse and creativity.

By patience, I refer to searching for a suitable photo to feature (could take ages, this) coupled with how exactly to inject relevancy to the chosen featured image on the story.

Below are a few of the practical methods I used to create images to feature:

*Take your own photos, separately if necessary, edit and create*

Picture on the right shows an image featured in my story Masks. Photo collage shows (1) mantle with clock set at 7:05, (2) cropped picture [of my hubby]; (3) framed the cropped picture; (4) framed photo on the mantle.

I used PowerPoint app to assemble the finished photo illustration above, then saved the slide as JPEG file.

*Place the teaser on the photo itself*

Featured on My Happy Place Is a Colour-Blind Society; photo credit to the model, Vivien Allen, and Chalk Photography-UK.

Again, I used PowerPoint app to insert the teaser, then saved the slide as JPEG file.

*Create a montage of animals with dialogue balloons*

Tips: Using cute photos of furry friends is not only fun, it draws attention and traffic to the site. The photo illustrations below (and more) can be found somewhere in this blog. 🙂

For photo editing, I used MS Word (to remove background), MS Photos (to flip image) and PowerPoint apps. Pretty grizzled apps but they still serve well towards my purpose of creating simple photo illustrations.

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A slightly different version was first published here.

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