Whether to use images in a legal blog post is a serious decision to make. On the one hand, an image can enliven the post for the reader by splitting up an otherwise intimidating wall of text, and can even draw in new readers from social media. An image can also score a few points on the SEO front, too.
However, images can be a minefield of legal issues, if you’re not careful. Using an image that contains a trademark is shockingly easy to do, and can lead to a lawsuit. Violating someone’s copyright can also lead to legal action that is awkward for a law firm, and can even hurt your SEO.
These mines can be negotiated, though, especially if you fully understand the appropriate image licenses. A more practical issue lawyers can face is how to find a good image without wasting too much time.
The Increasingly Difficult Task of Finding a Good Image for a Legal Blog Post
It’s an unfortunate reality that photographers have bills to pay, too, so the number of free and useable images on the internet is underwhelming. Add to that the facts that legal blogging is a common online marketing venture and many law firms have already decided to use images for their posts, and it’s easy to decide that all of the legal themed images out there have already been used. Gavels, Corinthian columns, police cars, angry spouses, and the backs of nondescript models in handcuffs are so ubiquitous that using them for your legal blog can feel tacky.
It’s easy to get caught up in the problem. Scrolling through image databases looking for that “perfect” image for your legal blog post is something that most lawyers who write have done numerous times in the past. The only pictures that “fit” your blog post about res ipsa loquitur or drug possession have been used so many times you actually recognize them from someone else’s legal blog. But the other images seem only tangentially related to what you wrote.
The result: Precious minutes spent scrolling through images, getting frustrated.
Selecting Images Based on Topic v. Content
We’ve been maintaining the Myers Freelance blog for over three years now. One thing that we’ve decided about images is that they don’t have to go with the post’s topic. Instead, the images just have to go with the post’s content.
This is a nuanced but very liberating thought. Just because you’re writing about drunk driving does not mean that you have to use an image showing a driver, or keys and a drink, or someone going through a field sobriety test. All you have to do is use an image that associates with whatever you write about in the post – including any tangents or hypotheticals you use to explain your topic.
You can literally write an image into your legal blog post by making it relevant through the content you use. Because you’re the master of your post, you never have to feel trapped by the internet’s lack of images, again.
2 Ways to Write Yourself Into a Great Legal Blog Image
First, you can select an image based not on the specific legal issues you’re writing about, but on the fundamental policies behind those decisions. By “zooming out” on your topic, you can conduct a vaguer search for images that is far more likely to lead to something that fits your needs and that has not been completely overused by less creative legal blog writers and attorneys.
Basically, you become less picky about your image by opening your search to pictures that deal with the fundamental emotions, feelings, and interests that lie behind your legal topic.
We’ve used this idea a few times in the past:
- Not having a law firm website forces people to search for signs of your reputability
- Reader metrics are created by, well, readers
- Claiming a specialty in an area of law is like crowning yourself king
Utilizing this strategy comes with a bonus: You can select an image that actually adds meaning to what you are writing about by drawing out, visually, the fundamental problems or issues at play.
Second, you can “zoom in” for your image selection decision by not choosing an image based on an application of your legal topic. For example, if you’re writing about the Castle Doctrine, you can use an image of a front porch. This gives you the opportunity to create the need for a particular image that has already struck you as something you want to use in your blog post, or get away from a category of images that you think have been overused.
We’ve also used this idea in a few older posts, as well:
- We added an example of adaptive search so we could use this old-timey baseball photo
- Anything that is misleading can be called a red herring
- Using idioms like “putting lipstick on a pig” are great ways to pull in images that one would rarely find on a legal blog post
- There’s an HTML in-joke about teapots
In the end, the important thing is to open your options to images that you might not have thought of while you were writing your legal blog post. There are plenty of images out there. The only ones that have been overused in the legal field are those that are distinctly trapped in it.