How to get more Google love with photo keywords

Unlock the secret to using photo keywords for SEO...

Unlock the secret to using photo keywords for SEO…

Let’s be honest… when you’re adding content to your website, adding photos can seem like a big, time-consuming pain-in-the-butt job.

Chances are that adding a photograph to your new web page is the very last thing on your To Do list, and once you’ve done that, you can put your feet up for the day and do something fun. Like go out to dinner, or take the dog for a walk, or enjoy a nice relaxing glass of wine. Or crack open a nice, cold beer while you fire up the barbecue.

In short: adding photos to your website is something you probably want to get over with as quickly as possible… Am I right?

Whoa, slow right down!

Good photos not only make your website look more appealing, but if you use them in the right way they can also help improve your search engine rankings.

Many website owners I’ve spoken with over the years aren’t even aware that (a) Photo SEO (search engine optimisation) exists, and (b) that it can make a difference to your site’s rankings… but it can! 

Photo SEO: How to keyword photos

Here’s how to keyword photos. There are a number of different aspects to photo SEO:

1. Image file size

First things first… and that is, you need to make sure that the photograph’s file size is appropriate.

By ‘appropriate’ I mean that the photo should be large enough (in pixels) to display OK… you don’t too use too small a file, or it will look pixelated and grainy, which looks very unprofessional.

However, you need to make sure that the file size (in KB) is reasonable. Slow loading photos (and slow loading web pages) cause users to abandon your website, and that can actually decrease your website’s search engine rankings.

The goal is for your website to load fast ‘n’ snappy, with sharp looking pictures.

Bonus Tip: Whilst you’re using the image editing software, if the photo you’re using is your own (i.e. an image that you have taken yourself, or created yourself), then you might want to include your copyright information on it. I do this on the cartoons I draw and use on my websites, for example.

2. Photo file name

While you’re using your image editing software to re-size the photos, take this opportunity to re-name the image file.

Why re-name the image file?

So that you’re using your focus keyword in the photo file name, of course!

Example: If an image comes off your digital camera as ‘DSC1234.jpg’ that’s not going to tell Google very much about what’s in the photograph.

Instead, say your focus keyword for a web page is ‘plumber Auckland’, then use that for your photo keyword too. Re-name the image as ‘plumber-auckland.jpg’.

Why use hyphens to punctuate the keyword?

Punctuating a keyword with hyphens is a technique I learned at Search Engine Bootcamp a number of years ago: it’s been considered best practice for a while. I’ve been implementing this ever since, and the (many) photos I’ve keyworded in this way get really good visibility on Google. Punctuating with hyphens works!

If for some reason you’re using a website infrastructure that doesn’t allow hyphens (for example, it may use the underscore instead), don’t worry. It’s just a small thing, and I don’t think this one small thing in isolation will matter if the rest of your web page is optimised well with keywords.

What about using uppercase and lowercase letters?

Google isn’t case sensitive – i.e. if you do a search in ALL CAPS or all lowercase (or something in between), you’ll get exactly the same results.

So consequently it doesn’t matter if you use UPPERCASE, lower case, Sentence case or Title Case for your photo keywords.

3. Photo captions

I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about using photo captions…

For one thing, photo captions are twice as likely to get read as the body copy. So if you’re not using photo captions, you’re missing out on getting your message across.

What’s more, photo captions give you another opportunity for photo SEO. So be sure to include your photo keywords in the caption that you write.

Hint: If you’re struggling with writing photo captions, here are some articles to help you:

Be sure to write your photo captions so that they’re meaningful and interesting to human readers, first and foremost. Using photo keywords is just the icing on the cake!

4. ALT attribute

Think that your work with photo keywords is done? Think again… there’s still the ALT attribute! And this is something that many people miss out when keywording photos and images…

What’s the ALT attribute?

The ALT attribute (also known as the ALT tag) was developed so that blind and visually impaired people can interact with graphic elements on a web page. Visually impaired people use a screen reader that reads out the content of a web page. And when a screen reader comes to an image, it reads out the ALT attribute. So a well-written ALT tag lets blind people know what’s in an image, even if they can’t see it.

Google accesses the ALT attribute too, so if you use your photo keywords in the ALT tag, you’re not just letting visually impaired people know what’s in the image, you’re also letting Google know. So I’d suggest taking some time and care in writing a meaningful ALT attribute – whilst using your photo keywords, of course!

Using your photo keywords in the ALT attribute is an important part of photo SEO, but be sure to write ALT copy that makes sense to human readers, first and foremost.

You need to use photo SEO in combination with other SEO techniques

Don’t keyword your photos in isolation and expect a huge surge in your Google rankings or visitor numbers: you need to keyword the rest of your web page as well.

It’s the cumulative effect of all of these SEO techniques that will give you the best results.

Using photo keywords for photo SEO is a step that many website owners skip, so if you do this (as well as other SEO techniques), there’s the opportunity to make some gains on your competitors.


  • Make sure image sizes are optimised for quick downloading – but without noticeably degrading the image quality.
  • Use your photo keywords in the image file names. Punctuate the file names with hyphens.
  • Write a meaningful photo caption that also includes your photo keyword.
  • Write an ALT tag that’s both meaningful and keyworded.
  • Photo SEO won’t boost your website rankings in isolation, you need to use other SEO techniques as well.


How to choose eye-catching marketing photos

When you’re choosing marketing photos to go with your copy, you need to think carefully about where you’re directing your readers’ eyeballs.

Discover why the Mona Lisa Effect is a no-no for most marketing photos, and why a Non Mona Lisa image will help your message to get across more effectively.

FREE Marketing Tips:

When you’re choosing marketing photos, there are 3 things you should look for.

1. The marketing photo should be aspirational

The photo should be positive and inspiring, so it creates an “I want that” factor.

2. If possible, use marketing photos with a person in them

People are far more drawn to photographs of people than of objects.

3. Pay careful attention to where the person in the photograph is looking

There are two main types of “people” photos:

1. The Mona Lisa Effect

This Mona Lisa style of picture, where the model is looking straight at you, is effective for magazine covers and other scenarios where the role of the picture is to get attention.

I call this style of photograph the Mona Lisa Effect, and it works well in crowded magazine stands. This is because the photos job is to make eye contact with you, so that you pick it up and buy the magazine.

So yeah, the Mona Lisa Effect is great for magazine covers. (But not so great for most marketing photos.)

2. Non-Mona Lisa

A Non-Mona Lisa photo is one where where the model is looking into a space.

What you do with that photo is to add a strong headline into that space. That way, your prospects’ eyeballs will be lured into reading your headline, as they’ll naturally follow the model’s gaze.

This is a technique that works on websites, brochures, advertisements… just about anything where you have a headline.

And this eyeball controlling technique really works! This has been tested with heatmaps based on where people are looking. So use this technique for marketing photos and really take your marketing message to the next level.


How to choose eye-catching marketing photosWhen you’re choosing marketing photos:

  1. The photograph should be aspirational and positive.
  2. It should have a person in it.
  3. The model in the photograph should be Non Mona Lisa, that is, looking into the copy space.
  4. Add a strong headline into that copy space.

This technique doesn’t take any extra time, or cost extra money, but it gets your prospects to read your message.

How to build trust online with your profile photograph

The purpose of profile photographs in business is to look friendly and approachable.Do you find that an out-of-the-blue interaction with a nice, friendly, cheery person can make you feel all smiley and glowy inside?

That’s how I used to feel whenever I parked in my favourite multi-storey car park in Auckland CBD.

For inside this grey, gloomy building was a cosy pocket of warmth – known as the payment booth. An elderly (and generously proportioned) Pacific Islander lady with white hair and a jolly disposition resided in this booth. It seemed that no matter which hour, or which day, I visited the car park, she was always there. And always knitting. And always ready with a big smile.

In fact, I always used to look forward to paying for my car parking fee, knowing that the jolly Islander lady would be there! A sincere smile and chat with her made my day.

One day it all changed…

One time I arrived at the car park to discover that the barrier arms at the entry at gone. And Pay and Display ticket machines had been installed. And – horrors! – the payment booth was covered in metal shutters. Ugh!

For me, the whole vibe of the car park changed instantly. Instead of feeling safe, protected and looked after, it now feels cold, impersonal, and almost creepy.

It’s the personal touch that makes a difference

It’s the personal touch that can transform a routine transaction into something more pleasurable. Maybe even a relationship of sorts.

After all, that’s why people like to do business with other people

We all know this, but in this world of computers and websites and email, many business relationships veer more towards the impersonal rather than personal, warm and friendly. Yet friendly faces make us relax, smile and feel good about ourselves!

Wouldn’t you like a bit more warmth and friendliness in your working day?

Here’s an easy way to make business communication more personal…

It’s easy… you use a portrait photo of yourself in your marketing communications!

But I don’t look attractive enough to use a photo…

This is something I hear quite often from business owners. They think that they’re not attractive enough to use their photograph.

But here’s the thing: no-one expects you to look like a supermodel. (Heck, it would be a scary, intimidating world if everyone did look like Heidi Klum!)

Rather, it’s about you looking friendly, and approachable – and like you. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less. Truly.

But I’m not very confident about how I look…

You and me both!

So before I had my profile photos taken, I spent some time with my beautician and hairdresser in order to look the best I could. And the photographer I engaged was excellent: she specialised in portrait photos (she’d even won some awards) and I really liked the shots in her portfolio.

How you pose in a portrait photo is important too, because the body language is so important. Here are my tips on how to pose for portrait photographs.

In short: with a bit of preparation, you’ll end up with shots that you will be happy and comfortable using.

You’ve got the photographs – now what do you do?

The photographs are no good sitting on a CD or on the hard drive of your computer, oh no! You need to use them!

Me personally, because I felt very uncomfortable about putting my photograph everywhere, I did it in stages.

Step 1: Put your portrait photograph on your website

Putting your portrait photograph on your website immediately adds warmth and credibility – and builds trust. Visitors like knowing that there’s a real person behind the business: dealing with a faceless persona just feels weird.

The key pages to add your photograph to are:

  • Home page
  • About page
  • Contact page
  • Sales pages.

There were unexpected benefits of using my photograph on my website…

I must admit that I didn’t really think about how putting my photograph on my website would benefit or affect me. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what to expect – I didn’t think it would make a difference to me, only to my website readers. Wrong!

After I started using my photo on my website, I’d notice that when I met prospects and new clients for the first time, they were noticeably friendlier to me! Not that people are normally unfriendly, but because these people had seen my photograph (and read about me), they felt like they already knew me a little. It’s a huge ice-breaker and rapport building tool!

I’m shy by nature, so it makes a big difference to me when the person I’m meeting for the first time not only recognises me, but also approaches me with a big smile. It’s wonderful!

Step 2: Use your photograph in your email signature

I can’t remember who suggested this to me, but I was very uncomfortable about using my photo in my email signature. It’s not something that’s normally done in New Zealand, and it just felt a bit cheesy and attention seeking.

But whoever told me to do it must have been very persuasive, because I did finally do it. And the results were very unexpected!

I instantly received an email from an A-Grade client saying how much she enjoyed seeing my photo in my email. She said that it made her feel like she was communicating with a real person, and that it took the impersonal nature out of emails.

Example: Here’s my current email signature. I change and update the design quite often, but the photograph is the one constant:

Here's an example of using a profile photograph in an email signature.

Here’s an example of using a profile photograph in an email signature.

The wonderful feedback from my A-Grade client gave me the confidence to keep using my photograph in my email signature.

I’ve noticed that using my profile photo in this way is great for building rapport with new clients – just like it does on the website. That was one result I semi-expected, but I was in for another surprise.

The surprising thing I’ve noticed since using my photo in my email signature is that the replies I receive are somehow… nicer.

It’s not that I’d usually receive lots of nasty emails from people, no. But because people see my face when they’re writing a message to me, somehow their tone changes, just a little bit.

Seeing my photograph makes people aware that they’re communicating with a real, live human.

And this slight difference in tone makes a huge difference to my day. We all like to be addressed in a friendly, courteous manner, so this directly impacts my happiness at work.

One thing’s for sure: I’m no longer scared or hesitant about using my photo!

Step 3: Other places where you can use your profile photograph

There are other places where you can use your profile photograph too:

  • Other website pages: e.g. newsletter sign-up pages, download pages, etc.
  • Email newsletters: This adds a personal touch to your mass communications.
  • Business cards: This helps people to remember you long after the initial meeting.
  • Proposal documents: Put a friendly, personal touch to quotes and estimates. Think about it from the reader’s point of view, who may find the document a bit scary and intimidating – especially if it’s a high-value purchase. Wouldn’t a friendly smile on the cover page warm you up to reading it?
  • Sales letters: I’ll often include my photograph in sales letters to clients, as it adds that friendly, personal touch.

In short: you can use your profile photograph in the same places where you use your digitised signature.

Are there any places where you shouldn’t use your profile photograph?

I do think that it’s possible to take the profile photograph thing too far.

For example, a few years ago I received a fridge magnet for a mortgage broker with his photograph on. Do I want to look at his photograph every day when I’m making breakfast? Um, that would be a no!

We also received a Shopping List pad from a husband-and-wife real estate team (people we have no relationship or connection with). That went straight into the recycling pile.

While it’s good to use your profile photograph to build a relationship, there is such a thing as being too “in your face”, so some common sense is advised!

Remember, the aim is to add a friendly, personal touch… not to freak people out!

I wish that the multi-storey car park owners in Auckland CBD realised that their facilities now freak me out, and I park elsewhere that feels friendlier. 😉

Summary: benefits of using your profile photograph in your marketing

Benefits to your prospects and customers:

  • They trust your company/brand more quickly.
  • It helps to put them at ease and makes them feel more comfortable… dealing with people whose names and faces you know is nicer than dealing with an anonymous entity (or a machine!).

Benefits to you:

  • It can help to boost your sales conversion rates, or speed up the decision-making process, because your prospects trust you more (and do so more quickly).
  • It’s a wonderful ice-breaker and rapport builder for meetings: people will feel like they already ‘know’ you, which puts both of you at ease.
  • People may communicate with you in a more courteous manner. It is easy to be rude or vent to an anonymous entity than a person whose name and face you know!
  • It differentiates your business and your brand against your competitors. There is no competition to be you!


Cringe-free business portrait photos: How to pose for portrait photography

The purpose of most business portrait photos is to look friendly and approachable.For many of us, having our business portrait taken is something that’s as excruciating as going to the dentist. More so, even, because the results will be displayed in public on a website and other marketing materials for all to see.

So we drag ourselves in front of the camera; grimace as we smile; and hope that the result is usable.

Chances are, the resulting image is far from ideal and makes us cringe every time we see it!

Why is the resulting image likely to be disappointing? Because all too often your discomfort at being in front of the lens will have come through on camera. Your face might have smiled: but did the rest of your body?

Body language is hugely significant in business portraits

After all, when a prospect sees your business portrait online, they will make assumptions based on what’s in front of them. And that includes reading details into your body language. What’s that conveying? At the end of the day, the goal of a business portrait is to make you look friendly and approachable. Is your business portrait doing that?

Here are some of the body language factors you need to take into consideration when planning your business portrait session.

1. Should you smile with your mouth open – or with your mouth closed?

Whether we smile with our mouths open or closed is something we often don’t stop to think about. Yet when your profile photograph is being used on marketing material, readers will observe a lot about you and your company based on your body language. And that body language includes smiling.

Let’s look at two examples to see the difference between smiling with your mouth closed and your mouth open:

So should you smile with your mouth open or closed? In most instances, it’s more appropriate to smile with your mouth open: after all, you’re putting your photo on your website to give your company a human face. And as you want people to contact you, it’s appropriate to look friendly and approachable.

The only instance I can think of where a closed-mouth photo might be appropriate is for a fiction author who wants to be portrayed as mysterious and elusive. Other than that, I’d recommend a pleasant smile with teeth showing any time. If you’re concerned about your less-than-perfect teeth, that’s easy to fix up in photo editing software. So go ahead and smile for the camera!

2. Should you have your arms crossed or uncrossed?

In many business portrait photos you’ll see the subject with their arms crossed… after all, arms are awkward things, as it can be hard to make them look natural in photographs.

Crossing your arms can therefore be instinctive: but think about the body language that that’s communicating. Crossed arms mean you’re closing yourself away.It’s a defensive gesture. It makes the subject look uncomfortable; angry even. Look at these examples and judge for yourself.

Both the models are in very similar poses; both have wide, toothy smiles; and both are similarly attired. The only difference is that one lady has her arms crossed, and the other one has her arms at her side. Which do you think looks more approachable?

In short: avoid crossing your arms in your profile photo!

So what should you do with your arms?

In a whole body shot, it can be difficult to know what to do with your arms. We’ve already established that you shouldn’t cross your arms… so what should you do with them? Let’s look at some awkward looking arms first of all, so we know what not to do.

Now we know that these arms look awkward in the photograph, we can figure out what to do about them.

How to deal with awkward looking arms…

(a) Crop the arms out of the shot

The guy above looks awkward because he’s standing unnaturally. In fact, showing this guy from head to thigh isn’t adding anything to this photo. So let’s crop the image, to get rid of his arms (and all that wrinkled suit fabric):

That’s better!

(b) Use action shots for whole-body photographs

If you want a whole body photograph, then consider making it an ‘action’ shot where you’re doing something. Here’s a great example:

(c) Hold something

If you’re holding something, it can make your hands look a lot more natural, and make you look more relaxed. You’ve already seen the actions shot in the previous example, where the woman’s holding a pen. Even holding a pile of papers or a file can be helpful.

Just be careful if you’re holding a piece of technology, such as a cellphone or computer. Technology design is evolving so rapidly, that such items will date a photograph very quickly!

3. Jacket on or jacket off?

Suit jackets are likened to a ‘suit of armour’ for good reason: they protect us, and give us an air of authority. Let’s look at some photographs you’ve already seen to see this in practice:

There’s no hard-and-fast rule about whether to wear a suit jacket or not in your portrait photo: you’ll need to decide for yourself if you want to come across as authoritative, or as being more approachable.

In my photo shoot, I took two different outfits along. One of me in a suit, in shots where I wanted to look authoritative. But I also took along a plain black top, for the shots where I wanted to look as approachable as possible.

4. Where do you look? Do you want the Mona Lisa Effect or Non-Mona Lisa?

Hint #1: not sure what the Mona Lisa Effect is? You can read all about it in the free eGuide I’ve written. If you want your marketing photography to be successful, I strongly recommend you read the eGuide.

Do you want your photographs to have the Mona Lisa Effect? Or Non-Mona Lisa Effect? Or both?

If you can have both kinds of photos done, that’s a good idea, as it’ll give you plenty of flexibility in your marketing materials.

For example, here are the Mona Lisa Effect photos from my own photo shoot:

And here are the Non-Mona Lisa photos from my photo shoot:

By having both Mona Lisa Effect and Non-Mona Lisa photos, I can choose whichever is the most appropriate for the marketing piece I’m working on. I recommend that you do the same.

Hint #2: Don’t be surprised if your photographer hasn’t heard of the Mona Lisa Effect, or that they think it’s weird you want some photos where you’re not making eye contact with the camera. Many portrait photographers (even very good ones) aren’t familiar with what makes a good marketing photograph. When I got my Non-Mona Lisa photos above done, my photographer thought I was wacky, but humoured me. And now I get lots of comments on my cool Non-Mona Lisa photos…! 😉

By following these tips, not only will you have some great business portrait shots, but because you know what sort of outcome you want, you’ll feel more confident working with the photographer, too.


  • Smile with your mouth open.
  • Will your arms be in the shot? If so, keep your arms uncrossed – and find some way of making your arms look natural in the photograph, e.g. by holding something.
  • Decide whether it’s appropriate to have your suit jacket on or off, or both.
  • Decide whether you want your photos to have the Mona Lisa Effect, Non-Mona Lisa, or both.



Do you need more tips on how to get cringe-free business portrait photos?

How to plan a photo shoot for your profile pictureIf you’re nervous about having your photo taken, my eBook ‘How to plan a photo shoot for your profile picture’ shows you how to get the best possible results. The whole process is broken down into manageable steps:

  • How to choose a good portrait photographer.
  • Body language issues to consider. Do you want to look friendly? Approachable? Authoritative? You need to think about this in advance.
  • What to wear on the day of your photo shoot.
  • Must-have makeup items for ladies (even if you don’t like makeup, you need these two items).
  • How to make sure you’ll be happy with the final photos.
  • Where to use the profile photographs in your marketing.

This eBook is available exclusively as a Premium Bonus with my eBook ‘How to Choose and Use Eye-Catching Photographs for your Marketing’.

When you buy the Premium Edition of 'How to Choose and Use Eye-Catching Photographs for your Marketing', you'll also receive 'How to plan a photo shoot for your profile picture'

Stop being nervous about portrait photographs, and get a photo that you can be proud of!

See details of this eBook and buy online →


Understanding Features and Benefits and how to use them in photo captions

Do your photo captions address what your customers really want?

It’s important that you realise which Benefits and Features matter most to your customers.

In the last post on writing photo captions we touched on incorporating a feature and benefit of your product and service in your photo captions.

But what’s the difference between a feature and a benefit?

Knowing the difference between a feature and a benefit is Marketing 101, but I’ve many small business owners struggle to differentiate between features and benefits when it comes to their own business. So if you’re not clear what the difference is, you’re not alone… and by the end of this article you should have a better idea of how this works for your own business.

Once you’ve got that sussed, it’ll help you with many aspects of your marketing – not just photo captions!


Features are fact-based, but by themselves, they’re pretty boring. Here are some examples of features:

  • Car: does 50 miles per gallon.
  • Dog food: contains 20% vegetables.
  • Fountain pen: has a flexible tip.
  • Accountant: provides clients with monthly reporting.
  • Window cleaning service: uses chemical-free products.

Viewed in isolation, most of these statements promote a “so what” response… so what if a dog food contains 20% vegetables? So what if a pen has a flexible tip? Features by themselves don’t make for exciting, compelling or memorable marketing. You need to put the feature into some kind of context.

Benefits put features into context

And that’s where the benefits come in: they put the feature into context, usually by drawing on some kind of emotion. For example:

  • Car: Because it does 50 miles per gallon, you can spend your money on more fun stuff.
  • Dog food: nutritionally-balanced to keep your pet fit and healthy for longer.
  • Fountain pen: the flexible tip enhances your hand writing.
  • Accountant: monthly reports come with easy-to-understand commentary so you know if your business is healthy – or in the danger zone.
  • Window cleaning service: not only will your windows be clean, but the products we use are allergy-free for your family and pets.

Do you notice something about these emotions?

Sometimes the benefit draws on happy emotions (doing fun stuff; having a fit and healthy dog), but other times the benefit draws into a more negative emotion. For example, this fountain pen might appeal to those who are ashamed of their handwriting. And the accountant’s service taps into the fear that entrepreneurs may have of business failure. And so on.

So should you tap into a positive or a negative emotion? There’s no hard and fast rule here, it depends on your product or service, and it depends on your industry. But most if all, it depends on your target customer’s needs and desires. (And to do that, you need to really get to know what motivates your customers. How? Asking them is the only sure-fire way to find out.)

Customers have a mix of emotions going on inside them

Often people will have a mixture of emotional drivers, but at the time of purchase one is often stronger than the others, which is why they’re taking the plunge to buy from you.

How does this tie into marketing – and into photo caption writing?

To market your product or service successfully, you need to hook into those emotionally-based buying decisions. And to do that, you need to recognise that your product or service has two levels:

  1. The basic need, which is where the logical stuff comes into it.
  2. The augmented need, which is where your heart and emotions start getting involved.

20% of buying decisions are based on logic [brain: basic need]... 80% of buying decisions are based on emotions [heart: augmented need]


In short: there’s a difference between the things we need, and the things we want. We may not need that new dress we’ve just splurged on, but we want to feel good about ourselves.

Let’s just look at these emotionally-based augmented needs in a little more details, so you can understand just how far you can go with stating the benefits of your product or service.

The classic example of the drill manufacturer…

Have you heard the saying that people don’t want to buy a drill, they want a hole?

Actually, that’s wrong. They don’t want the hole: they want to hang a painting, or put up some shelves. And there are emotions around that seemingly straightforward desire to have a hole. The customer might be feeling:

  • One-upmanship: they want to show off their new art to friends and family.
  • Nesting: they want to create a cosy, comfortable home.
  • Frustration: they’re fed up with the house looking a mess, and they doing something about it by putting up shelves. (Or maybe they’re frustrated with the lady of the house, who keeps asking for shelves to be installed!)
  • Procrastination: they don’t like home maintenance.
  • Fear: they don’t like using power tools… but know they have to.

Let’s look at some photo caption examples to give you an idea of what works and what doesn’t work, so you can see how to tie in emotional benefits into the features:

This caption makes me think, “so what”? Just stating a feature does nothing for me. Is a 1.5Ahr battery good or bad? I have no idea!

This is better! Notice how this caption incorporates a feature (the 1.5Ahr battery) as well as a benefit. It makes it clear to the reader that a 1.5Ahr battery is a good thing to have.

Let’s look at a service-based example too: a real estate agent

The basic, logical need that a real estate agent fulfils is that to sell a house.

The augmented needs (emotional drivers) around the desire to engage a real estate agent might include:

  • Wealth-driven: wanting to get the highest possible price for your house.
  • Fear: some people hate negotiating and want someone to do that for them.
  • Convenience and time-saving: having someone else take care of viewings.

Let’s look at a poor example of a photo caption, so you can see what to avoid writing:

This caption attempts to state a benefit: but without a feature to back it up, it’s wishy-washy and provokes a “so what” response. Essentially it’s just a bland statement.

A better example is as follows:

Again, the good example includes a feature as well as a benefit. By including a specific statistic, the statement comes across as being more credible. It packs punch. (You can read more tips on using numbers in your copy here.)

You need to include the logic as well as the emotion

Just because buying decision are 80% emotionally-based, it doesn’t mean that you can forget about the 20% logical (feature-based) element. Consumers will need some logic when justifying the purchase either in their own minds, or to their spouse or friends.

Example: justifying a purchase in your own mind

“I can justify buying the top-of-the-range drill with the extra powerful battery, because I can get those chores done more quickly.”

Example: justifying a purchase to others

“Yeah, I know the car looks quite flashy, but it actually does 50 miles per gallon, so it’ll pay for itself in no time.”

…or the more common line of: “I needed to buy this dress, honey. It’s so versatile I can wear it for work and your business dinner. And it was 50% off in the sale, you know!”

In short: your marketing need to address the features AND the benefits of your product or service. One without the other will not work!


  • Features by themselves are boring and provoke a “so what” response.
  • Benefits by themselves can be wishy-washy and may also provoke a “so what” response.
  • Benefits put features into context.
  • Benefits should draw on emotions: either positive or negative.
  • You need to draw on the strongest emotion that your customer is likely to be feeling when purchasing your product or service.
  • It’s important to still state the feature in your marketing, because consumers will need this to justify their purchase (in their own minds, or to other people).
  • Combining a feature and benefit in photo captions gives it maximum impact.



How to choose and use eye-catching photographs for your marketing

This eBook is packed with tips to make your marketing materials more effective!

Are you looking for more ways to make your marketing photography more effective?

Discover more tips on making your marketing photography more persuasive in my eBook ‘How to Choose and Use Eye-Catching Photographs for your Marketing’.




How to write photo captions that’ll get remembered

A good caption does more than just tell the reader what's in the photograph.

… And in this article, you’ll discover the techniques to write great photo captions for your marketing.

Have you ever played a memory game with a group of friends?

You know, the kind where everyone adds an item to the list, and you have to remember what everyone else has said, as well as adding your own item to the list. It gets quite hard, very quickly!

Imagine if you only had to remember one item… it would be a very dull game, for sure, because it’s too easy. Anyone can remember just one item.

With photo captions, it’s good that people are able to remember one item

When you’re writing photo captions, you want people to remember just one thing. Yes, just one thing.

You don’t want readers to try and remember more than one thing, or they’ll get confused and forget. (Remember, you’re trying to get your message across, not play memory games!)

And there’s more to writing a good image caption than simply stating what’s in the photograph. While you do need to put the photo into context, just saying what’s in the photo will generally leave readers confused and thinking, “so what?”

Here’s an example of a photo caption that creates a “so what” response:

Photo caption example: Premium quality dog food.

Simply stating what’s in the photograph is a missed opportunity: you can do better than that!

To write a better caption, you need to incorporate a benefit

To write a more powerful photo caption, you need to incorporate a benefit of your product or service.

So for the dog food photo caption example, what benefits do you think the premium quality dog food may have?

Begin by brainstorming the different benefits of the dog food. (And we’re talking benefits here, not features… we’ll look at the difference between features and benefits in the next blog article.)

The benefits of the premium dog food might be:

  • Nutritionally-balanced for maximum energy
  • Gives the dog healthy skin and coat
  • Quality ingredients promote longevity
  • Keeps teeth clean and freshens breath
  • Supports joint health
  • No flatulence guarantee

… you get the idea!

Now you need to pick one benefit

Yes, pick just one benefit – and it needs to be the one thing that is most likely to motivate customers to buy. This benefit needs to address the biggest worry or concern your target market might have.

While things like glossy fur and clean teeth are nice things for a dog to have, the biggest concern a dog owner will usually have is longevity. Dog owners get very attached to their pooch, yet the dog may live for just 10 to 15 years… not nearly long enough, for something you love so much! So a product that (realistically) promises a long and healthy life is something that’ll tug at the heartstrings of dog owners, motivating them to buy your product rather than your competitors’ offerings.

But before you write the caption, there’s one more thing to address. And that is, to make the caption believable.

Making the caption believable

Notice how I’ve alluded to the fact that a caption must be believable? You can’t just go making wild promises without backing them up. For example, the following caption is totally unbelievable:

Photo caption example: This premium dog food will help your dog live for longer.

This caption would most likely be met with a skeptical, “yeah, right”, and you need to avoid that. You need to make your caption believable.

How to make your caption believable

To make the caption believable, you need to tie in the feature that corresponds with the benefit you’ve chosen.

In the dog food example, it would be the nutritional aspects of the food that help to justify that claim.

But again, pick just one feature, not a bunch of features, or it’ll get confusing.

With your one benefit and corresponding feature selected, you can now write your photo caption. Example:

Example of a good photo caption: The premium dog food is nutritionally-balanced to give your best friend a long and healthy life.

Ta-da! There’s your ideal photo caption.

Of course, you could tweak the caption further, such as:

  • Your best friend can enjoy a long and healthy life, thanks to this nutritionally-balanced dog food. Or:
  • Your dog will get all the nutrients he needs in this premium dog food, so he can enjoy a long and healthy life. Or:
  • Because this premium dog food is nutritionally-balanced, your dog can enjoy a long and healthy life.

There are a number of ways in which the message in the caption can be phrased, there’s no one single right answer. But notice how all these caption ideas incorporate just one benefit, and the one corresponding feature.

Sidenote: A photo that would be more appealing than one of dog food would be a picture of either (a) a cute, healthy-looking dog enjoying eating the dog food, or (b) a cute, healthy-looking dog running through a flowery meadow – the perfect picture of good health.

But the reality is that we don’t always have the perfect photo to work with, and when you’re a small business owner, it’s often about making the most of what you’ve got. So for now, focus on writing great captions for the photos you’ve already got… but do make it part of your plan to obtain better photos if you need to.

How to give your caption the breath test

Before you finalise your choice of caption, give it a quick breath test.

What’s the breath test? This is about making sure you can say your caption in one breath. If you can’t say it in one breath, it’s also too long for people to remember it. (After all, this is meant to be an easy memory game for your reader, not a complex memory test!)

Here’s an example of a caption that’s too long:

Example of a photo caption that's too long: The premium dog food is nutritionally-balanced and packed with natural fish oils to give your best friend a long and healthy life by protecting his cardiovascular system and improving joint health.

Phew, that’s far too long and cluttered! Do not use captions this long: you’ll be out of breath, and your readers will be confused.

But what about writing captions for a service?

The example so far has been product-related, i.e. to dog food. But what if you’re selling a service? Exactly the same rules apply. Let’s look at a quick example to see photo captions for a service in action.

The service we’ll look at is also canine related: we’ll use a dog walking service as an example. This caption is too short and gives us the “so what” factor: Dog walking service.

Using a caption that just talks about a feature gives a “so what” reaction too: Our dog walkers have been police checked.

Instead we need to talk about a benefit; specifically, one which addresses the prospect’s primary concern. And if you were looking at a dog walking service, your primary concern may be that the dog walker treats your pet responsibly and with good care. In short, you want them to take the same good care of your dog as you do. Someone that’ll be kind to them and keep them safe.

So a good caption might be: You can be sure that your dog’s getting good care when you’re at work.

And to make the caption even more believable, you could add in a feature to justify the benefit, e.g.: You can be sure that your dog’s getting good care from our police checked dog walkers.

(Sometimes this adding of a feature is necessary, other times it isn’t… it depends on how believable your benefit is by itself.)

And let’s look at an example that’s far too long and confusing, and fails the breath test (so you know what not to do): Our dog walking service is convenient if you work long hours, plus our dog walkers are police checked and have pet first aid skills for your peace of mind.

To help you visualise the ideal caption for the dog walking service example, here’s a visual:

Caption example: You can be sure that your dog's getting good care from our police checked dog walkers.

With this particular photo, it would be even better to put the text next to the image, so that the dog’s looking at the words. This would create a nice, compelling Non-Mona Lisa effect. (Not sure what the ‘Non-Mona Lisa effect’ is? Then you need to grab the Free eGuide, ‘How to Choose Eye-Catching Photographs for your Marketing’, which explains this.)

Summary checklist for caption writing

A good caption includes the following elements:

  • The caption makes it obvious what’s in the picture, or puts the picture into context.
  • It tells the reader something extra in addition to the obvious, i.e. you avoid the “so what” syndrome.
  • You state just one benefit: ideally this benefit will be your prospect’s biggest motivator.
  • You use one feature to back up the benefit (if it’s needed).
  • The caption passes the breath test; you can easily say it in one breath.

If you work through this process when you’re writing captions for your own photos, you’ll be able to create something compelling that’s also easy for readers to remember… no memory games required!



How to choose and use eye-catching photographs for your marketing

This eBook is packed with tips to make your marketing materials more effective!

PS. Imagine how dull this article would be without the graphics!

That’s why photos and captions are so important: they help to lock in the learning.

If you want your clients to remember what you’re telling them, be sure you’re using all the tips in my eBook, ‘How to Choose and Use Eye-Catching Photographs for your Marketing’.

The eBook has a whole chapter on writing memorable photo captions, plus other little-known tips on making your marketing materials more effective. For example:

  • Where you can find quality photographs – on any budget.
  • The importance of where the model is looking in a photograph.
  • How to choose a photo that won’t date too quickly.
  • Why photographs with white backgrounds are ultra versatile
  • How to combine words with images (captions are just one of the techniques you can use).
  • How you can create drama with photographs through size, positioning, angles and borders.

See details of this eBook and buy online →

How one measly sentence could double your readership

Photo captions are twice as likely to be read as the body copy... so you can double your readership with just one sentence!

Photo captions are twice as likely to be read as the body copy… so you can double your readership with just one sentence!

A dentist I know uses the catchline ‘only floss the teeth you want to keep’. Yes, dental humour is quite, um, unique, but I guess the dentist was fed up with his clients complaining that flossing is a tedious chore that they forget to do.

Flossing is one of those chores that we know we should do, but it’s just not very appealing.

These non-appealing chores aren’t limited to dentistry; they exist in business life too.

A complaint that I often hear from my clients is that it’s tedious to write captions for photos in marketing materials… but the same kind of logic applies as the dentist uses:

“Only write captions for the photographs you want readers to remember”

Eh? What have photo captions got to do with memory? A lot, actually.

It’s been proven that readers are twice as likely to read a photo caption as they are the body copy of your marketing piece.

What’s more, the combination of photo plus caption gives your marketing piece really strong visual branding. The photo and caption combo help to lock your message into the reader’s brain. It captures people’s imagination far more than words alone do.

Photograph + Caption = Visual Branding Extraordinaire!

This visual branding is something I’ve been testing myself

The eagle-eyed readers amongst you will have spotted that not every article on my blog has an image (gasp!). It’s a work-in-progress: I’m gradually adding images (usually cartoons) for each article.

Naturally, I want to promote the articles that I’ve written. (Even the ones without images.) So I’ve got a neat gadget on my website that automatically posts links to my blog articles on Twitter every couple of days. And I’ve noticed that it’s the blog posts with images that are getting more “re-tweets”, more mentions, and more web traffic.

A coincidence? No, I don’t think so. The articles without cartoons are just as well-written and insightful as those without cartoons… but the visual imagery of the cartoons creates a far stronger visual impression than words alone. And yes, the cartoons have captions.

But I don’t have time to write captions…

You don’t have time to write one little sentence? Really? That’s all that a photo caption is: one sentence! And remember, this little sentence is twice as likely to get read as the whole page of blurb you’ve just written. So I strongly suggest you take the time to write that one measly sentence!

But photo captions look ugly; they ruin the design…

Admittedly, sometimes photo captions don’t look so hot. If that’s the case, you need to have a wee word with your graphic designer. Or if you’re DIYing, get a graphic designer to help you, or else look at materials that do make good use of captions, to get you inspired.

Remember, your marketing piece is there to sell, not just to look pretty. Insist that captions are used; it will be worth it!

Like the idea of captions but don’t know how to write them?

Stuck on how to write photo captions? That’s something we’ll look at in the next blog post. We’ll look at what should be included in a photo caption, so that you can write photo captions with confidence.

After that, you’ll be able to confidently write photograph captions for every photograph you want your visitors to remember. So be sure to keep an eye out for the next installment of this blog! (Or get Marketing Tips like this emailed to you directly… here’s where you can add yourself to the list.)


  • Photo captions are twice as likely to get read as the body copy of your marketing materials.
  • Photograph + Caption = Visual Branding Extraordinaire.
  • The visual branding helps to lock in the message you’re communicating.



How to choose and use eye-catching photographs for your marketing

This eBook is packed with tips to make your marketing materials more effective!

Want more tips on how to use photographs to help increase sales?

Then check out my eBook, ‘How to Choose and Use Eye-Catching Photographs for your Marketing’.

The eBook has a whole chapter on writing memorable photo captions, plus other little-known tips on making your marketing materials more effective.