Prepare Perfect Pictures for Pinterest

How to make your blog post images work better on Pinterest. Simple tips. | jessiecostin.com

I’m no social media or web market expert. Frankly, I hate it. If social media stops being fun, I stop using it, no matter how many people tell me what I should be doing.

But if there are things I can do that are simple, I will (usually). But seriously, if part of what you do involves sharing things on the web, then forming a few good habits when it comes to your images makes sense.

Pinterest is something I use all the time – it’s like falling down the rabbit hole, for me. See you in a few hours/days…

And during my Adventures in Pinterest-land, I have found countless wonderful blog posts. For certain things, I use Pinterest more than Google! So making my own blog images pin-able is something I do (mostly) make an effort to optimise. It’s something I appreciate when I’m pinning, myself. And to do it for my own blog is pretty simple – the effort-reward ratio is worth it.

So I’m sharing a few basic tips for making your blog post images work harder on Pinterest. And most of it includes things you do already – like creating the photo, saving it & uploading it. Just paying attention to a few extra details in these steps goes a long way.

Bonus: these steps will also improve your image’s effectiveness for being found on Google etc as well.

So, first things first:

Creating Your Image

Make it something pretty of course. But other than that, a few other things to know:

1. Size

Apparently, the ideal Pinterest image has a 2:3 or 4:5 aspect ratio.

The reason it’s talked about in ratios, is that Pinterest resizes images to a specic pixel width, and then the length depends on the original dimensions.

In basic terms, this means images that are a bit longer than they are wide work best. Think the shape of a portrait photograph. If you do want to use a landscape image, don’t make it too skinny.

Bonus points: keep in mind the cover photo crop areas (see image below). In short, keep the prettiest and most important info in the centre of the image for the best look. But at the end of the day, don’t stress too much about size.

Image Dimensions for Pinterest | jessiecostin.com

Have a look here for more detailed info on image dimensions for Pinterest.

2. Add your WEBSITE

I see so many images on Pinterest that are un-watermarked, and it’s a lost opportunity.

The one thing you can control on Pinterest, once your image has been shared around countless times, is the image itself. The original description and even the attached link can get lost or broken in the shuffle. But if you put your website on the image – just a simple address in the corner, it doesn’t need to be obtrusive – then no matter what, people will still be directed to your website.

It also stops people taking your image and using it as their own.

Including your website should be standard practice for every single image you upload to the web.

Bonus Points: Add other text – the title of your blog post, a quote, instructions – some detail about the image.

You don’t have to do this on every image. It depends what it is – some are just meant to look pretty or be purely visual. But if you want people to click through to your website from the pin, then text gives them a reason to do so.

A pretty picture of a bookshelf is pin-able, but a pretty bookshelf with the text “How to Style Your Bookshelf Like a Pro” is pin-able AND clickable.

I use Pixlr a lot for editing and adding text to images. I do have InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and there are a million other options available – but for a free, easy, fast way to edit & save basic images, I keep going back to it. I’m not affiliated, I just love it!

Saving your Image

1. Save for Web

Smaller photos mean less file space and faster web page loading times. So controlling the file size should be standard practice for all your blog images.

Most editing, photo management programs (e.g. Picasa), or image previewing programs (e.g. Preview) have some sort of export function that lets you choose the file size, often by means of adjusting the ‘Quality’.

resizing jpegs for blogs and pinterest |http://www.jessiecostin.com

Adjusting jpeg quality, and file size, using Export in Preview on Mac.

If you were saving images to print, then quality would be an issue, but for websites and sharing, even the lowest quality is usually plenty big enough.

2. Choose a File Name

image_02393.jpg tells us nothing about what the image is. This matters because it tells search engines nothing as well. This is not specific to Pinterest – you should always use keywords in your image filenames. Something as simple as how-to-style-shelves.jpg is simple but way more effective.

(If you forget to name your file something descriptive, you might be able to change the title in your blogging platform (such as WordPress) when you upload it. See next step…)

Uploading your Images

1. Alt Text

This is a super important one. If you only take away two bits of advice, make it watermarking with your website, and this.

The Alt Text on an image you upload to a blog or website is what displays if for some reason the image doesn’t load. It is also what shows up as the default text in the description box under the pinned image on Pinterest.

Alt Text appears as the description on Pinterest | jessiecostin.com

Often people will pin without changing this description, especially if it contains useful information they want to remember. So write some descriptive Alt Text and include your website here.

Make it personable, not just a bunch of keywords for the sake of keywords. If it sounds a bit more like it was written by a real human being for other real human beings, people will be happier to leave it as is.

E.g: Great tips for magazine-worthy bookshelves | awesomewebsite.com

Below is a screenshot of what the image detail section looks like when I upload images to this blog on WordPress. You can see the Title field for editing the filename, and the Alt Text field.

Screenshot 2015-05-07 14.11.45

Bonus points: include a hashtag in the Alt Text. This is not essential, but you may want to consider it. It comes into use if anyone shares the image via Twitter.

So that’s it, in a nutshell. You can find a lot more advice, and more technical instructions, all over the web, but these are the basics that will make your images more user friendly and sharable.

In A Even Smaller Nutshell:

  1. Make images a little longer than they are wide
  2. Watermark with your website
  3. Save for web with small file size
  4. Save with a relevant filename
  5. Add descriptive Alt Text incl. website

Now, if I was making this really Pinterest-worthy , I would have made this into an infographic. But the baby is up from her nap… Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Any questions? More tips?

Why a year without Buying Clothes had nothing to do with The Clothes

A Year Without Buying Clothes Experiment | jessiecostin.com

When I decided to try going a full year without buying clothes – not even second hand or op-shopping – it was motivated by a discovery. I came across a small cupboard in my house. It was in the living room. At the time, it was serving as a makeshift TV stand. Even though my husband and I had been teachers for a few years at this point, we still hadn’t graduated out of impoverished student mode, where your furniture is mismatched and make-do, and not infrequently claimed off the side of the road during hard rubbish season. (Which I still do, anyway…)

So I’d like to point out, that even at this stage, I was living within my means. I didn’t consider myself a materialistic person.

But then, in the process of packing up the house to move, I came across this small cupboard. And apparently I hadn’t opened this cupboard in a while, because I had completely forgotten what might have been inside it. I think that’s why it shocked me. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the discovery of this cupboard’s contents. I wasn’t even aware I could forget my own possessions so entirely.

And before your imagination completely runs away with you, the cupboard contained… shoes. Perhaps ten pairs of shoes.

**crickets**

I know. Not a big deal?

Firstly, I already had a cupboard of shoes I didn’t wear. That on it’s own was a conscience prick – how much do I really need these things if I could forget them for months and not miss them? But it’s not just that I’d forgotten the number of shoes I owned.

And by many standards, it was not an excessive number. I’m certainly no Carrie Bradshaw.

What really made me pause was a story I’d just read.

There was a man who owned only two pairs of shoes. And then a friend, in trouble and needing help, came to him with none. No shoes. His feet were bare. So this first man gave away one of his two pairs of shoes. And the second man, the recipient of the shoes was a criminal. And one who was in trouble with other criminals and on the run.

And then I open my cupboard and see my shoes. My (in comparison) excessive collection of shoes.

And that was it. I couldn’t get this story out of my head. And I started looking at my whole wardrobe full of clothes and wondering.

Wondering, what is all this stuff compensating for?

Because clothes are never just clothes. Excess is never just about the stuff.

Why did I think I needed all this?
How could I still go to my wardrobe and declare I’ve got nothing at all to wear?
If someone in need came to me without shoes or a coat, would I give them mine?

Would anyone even come to me? Did I even know anyone in need?

And so it began…

The year-without-buying-clothes-experiment was born of a pricked conscience and a desire to explore so much more than just an overstuffed wardrobe – but the clothes was a practical place to start. The only place I knew to start.

Everything else was just murmured whisperings at the back of my brain at this stage, unarticulated but unrelenting.

The actual experiment itself ended up being entirely unscientific and life had it’s own plans – as life tends to have.

When I decided to do this, it was near the end of 2011, so I planned to start in January, 2012 just for the cleanliness of the deal. But once I’d decided to do it, I couldn’t just ‘stock up’ in advance. That would defeat the purpose, if I just did 12 months of shopping in one weekend. So it really ended up being about 15 months in total.

But, also, pregnancy happened. So I broke my rule for a few stretchy skirts and maternity pants. But then add into that: horrible morning sickness, exhaustion and the fact that I couldn’t buy normal clothes anyway, and shopping was really the last thing on my mind.

And all the grand experiments and additional projects – or even blog posts – I’d envisioned went out the window.

So I don’t even know if what I did qualified as an experiment. It was just, kind of, life.

And it affected everything…

In the way that nothing is ever just one thing, this was the start of rippling change through every part of my life.

It turns out I’m not the life-experiment type. Not in the way that some bloggers are, starting projects and following them through, with actual rules and accountability and all that jazz.

Set plans and me, well, we don’t jive.

But my whole life is a social experiment. Isn’t everyone’s? And even the failed, fizzled projects that don’t seem to go anywhere have profound effects on our future. Even if it takes years to see it.

From here, from this vantage point of the future I couldn’t even imagine back then, I can see how it was my mind and not my wardrobe that was going through the biggest changes.

Since that time, we (the Mr and I) have have shed our skins – metaphorically, emotionally (and, well, literally but don’t think about that…) – in so many ways, so many times over.

Downsizing, unpacking, lightening the loads. We have moved from a four bedroom, two-storey house to a two bedroom flat. We have donated, sold or thrown out trailer loads and trailer loads of our stuff.

And still we look around and wonder why we have so much that we really don’t need.

We are still in process.

And then, we are going to be moving back to the bigger house we still own… but with a lot less stuff and a completely different lifestyle.

And the real issues appear…

Because in the middle of this process we are realising, it isn’t even the stuff that’s the issue. Stuff is just an outward symptom of what’s going on beneath our skins. The emotional baggage we are shucking is a whole ’nother thing.

And at the same time, exactly the same thing. Everything in life is intertwined, inextricably. Too many shoes, too much fat, too much negative thinking, too much unprocessed trauma. It’s all the same thing.

Cause and effect isn’t as simple as we think it is.

Life is the big experiment. We don’t know half of what we think we do. But at the same time, we are in tune with far more than we think. And in every moment we are doing our best, even when our best looks like someone else’s worst.

So, you want to try and stop buying clothes? Be prepared to feel like your whole life doesn’t even make sense any more.

Want to deal with that emotional pain? Be prepared for that shopping addiction you didn’t know you had to rear it’s glitzy head.

If you’re actually doing somethng right, everything might just feel like it’s all falling apart for a little while.

Just let it be. The destruction has to come before the reconstruction. The demolition before the rebuild. Sometimes you have to take something apart to put it back together the right way.

And your life is a complex construction. It’s never a simple process. Every thread, every cog, every coil of experience, personality and belief is wound and tangled with every other. If you start picking at one thing, get ready for everything to feel a little raw.

But don’t go digging. That’s the best part. You don’t really even have to do anything most of the time. You don’t have to have a hundred-point, colour-coded, five-year plan with sub headings.

You just have to be willing to live one moment to the next.

And be open. Just be open. Be open to the little promptings and signpost in your life, one step at a time. The things that need to come to the surface, will – in their own time. In their own way.

When I responded to the prick of conscience over my forgotten shoes, I thought I was just assessing my spending habits. Maybe my generosity – or lack of it – if I dug a little deeper. Maybe my social awareness underpinning that.

Little did I know I was follow a thread that would lead to the unravelling and reworking of my entire philosophy of life and existence. (Several times over.)

But that was the way it was meant to be. I wasn’t ready then to think about everything I’m navigating now. I was ready to not buy clothes for a while. And the next step and the next, and the next, followed naturally at the right time. Like peeling an onion layer by layer. (With just as many tears.)

So take your next step. Even if that means donating one piece of clothing this week. Or clearing out one cluttered cupboard. Or learning one cake recipe without sugar. Or meditating for one minute tomorrow morning. Or reading one book on that topic that’s been playing on your mind but you’ve been too afriad to think about it.

Just do that one thing, and let it be. Don’t pre-empt where you’ll go next. Don’t beat yourself up for what you should be doing, or compare your life to someone elses.

A short exercise:

Don’t censor yourself. Don’t think too hard. You can change your mind later and it doesn’t have to be noble, lofty or world changing – no-one’s assessing you. Ready?

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Pick up a pen and a piece of paper. (Or the digital equivalent.)
  3. Now I want you to write down the first thing that you skim off the surface of your mind in answer to the following question:

What’s pricking your conscience right now?

Just let that sit for a while. I want you to think about how you are feeling about that thing you wrote down. Are you feeling guilty? Tired? Annoyed? Agitated? Afraid? Like you need to do something?

I want to tell you right now, you don’t have to do anything more with this. You don’t have to act on it. You don’t have to start a project. You are not supposed to feel guilty. You are not obligated to care about it at all.

If you do act, if you do care, let it come from a place of freedom and choice.

If you’re not ready to make any changes yet:

Let it be. Let it percolate or simmer. Let it come into your life or fade away as it needs to. Just wait. Just live.

If you are ready:

You can. You have permission. You are allowed to have this passion, this desire, this energy to act. You are allowed to fail. You are allowed to succeed. You are allowed to enjoy it. You are allowed to take a step then change your mind. You are allowed to make big plans. You are allowed to experiment, make mistakes, learn the hard way and start without knowing what the hell you are doing.

And you are allowed to be great.
In fact, you already are. You just might not know it yet. And that’s okay.

Life is a great experiment. We hope, we dream, we imagine, we create – but we never quite know. And so we trust our gut, we read the stars, we make lists, we weigh the options, we play the odds. But it’s all an experiment.

And big or small, whatever is in your focus right now in life, it’s yours to play with. It’s yours to discover. It doesn’t have to make sense or seem sensible to anyone. Not even yourself, sometimes. Because not even you know where this next little step might take you. Not even you know the extent of the intertwining parts of your life.

But trust yourself. Trust your instincts. Trust that little whisper that tells you this is something you need right now.

Be open. Let it be. Live.

How to Organise your Computer Desktop (+ free wallpaper)

Being a ‘creative type’ like I am, chaos tends to follow me around. So one of my goals for this year is to get more organised – life, house… and computer. The length of time it takes to me find where I’ve saved things and remember what I’ve filed them under is ridiculous. My mission is to streamline things, to have a strategy so when it comes time to save files and categorise them I’ve got a plan in place. This stops me making up a creative new failing filing system with every new project and every new document – that seems perfectly obvious at the time, but makes absolutely no sense at all a few weeks later when I’ve forgotten what on earth I was thinking…

My computer desktop is the first step in this new regime. That tends to be my default dumping ground for new files, web clippings, screen shots etc. so it can easily become a mess of overwhelming icons on the screen. Previously, I’d get sick of the clutter  and so just to get it it out of the way, dump every file into one folder labeled “To Sort”. Future Jessie will deal with that. Except I am Future Jessie, and I still wasn’t dealing with it.

I think computer organisation is hard for me, because I can’t just lay everything out in front of me then sort it – that’s what I do with the physical things in my house when I’m organising. So I needed a better system. That’s why I love desktop organiser wallpapers. (Free ones at the end of this post.) Continue reading

Colour Psychology for Your Writing Space

Colour Psychology for Writing Space

Colour can have physical, emotional and psychological effects on us. How you think, feel and behave, your creativity, clarity and motivation. All kinda important things for a writer.

Now, painting your room orange is not going to magically conjure a story where there is none, or instantly turn a procrastinator into a go-getter. But it does have an influence. Your space is definitely important.

Colour is just one aspect of your space, but it is a relatively easy one to control. And there is psychology behind it – it’s all about how the different wavelengths of light from different colours hits your retinas, converting to electrical impulses that go to the part of your brain affecting your endocrine system (hormones) and much of your activity.

It doesn’t take much to introduce colour. Painting walls is the obvious one, but if you don’t want that much of a commitment, then you can also bring it in through artwork, flowers, furniture, cushions… even the pen your write with.

So what colour should you choose for your writing space?

Continue reading