There was once a time when plain stock photos, low-quality cell phone images, and clipart were considered acceptable imagery for your blog. However, times have changed, and those same images will not only lower your rankings, but also decrease your credibility.

As a blogger, you can win half the battle of gaining readers by simply using high quality images to supplement your text. According to research from Web Marketing Group, 90 percent of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. As a result, it’s processed 60,000 times faster than text.

In other words, your images will have a much heavier impact on your conversions than text, and that must translate into your imaging efforts. Don’t rely on plain stock photos and low-quality cell phone images for your blog. Instead, use these recommendations for taking excellent photos.

1. Get a Good Quality Camera and Know How to Use It

Though some bloggers still use their smartphones to take pictures and use various editing apps to improve their quality, there’s a tangible difference between a cellphone photo and a camera photo. Cameras on phones are steadily improving, but nothing beats the tech of a professional-quality camera with high pixels and adjustable settings.

2. Rely on Lighting

Lighting is key in developing excellent images for your blog. With the right lighting, you can make an image appear far more appealing. Natural lighting is typically best according to today’s image trends, since artificial light will almost always cast a yellow or blue tint over the item being photographed.

“Your goal should be to use as much natural lighting as you can, while relying on the camera’s flash as little as possible,” says a post from Green Residential, a property management company specializing in marketing. “A camera’s flash, while capable of illuminating a dark room, ultimately cheapens the image. Natural lighting shows off the… best features and eliminates unsightly shadows and reflections..”

Choose a few spots in your house that have the best lighting, and repeatedly use those areas to take your photos using different props and backdrops. Don’t forget to do a little editing when you’re done to increase the sharpness of the image.

3. Put the Object in Context

Give a little context to the photo’s subject in order to make it more enticing. If you’re looking to increase engagement and subscribers, a contextual photo can take your efforts the extra mile. For example, you might place a pair of sunglasses and a beach towel inside a slouchy bag you’re selling on your blog.

To further this discussion, let’s look at an example KISSmetrics uses when showing the benefits of putting an image in context. They use the example of Netflix, who uses an advertisement on their website showing a mom, dad, son, and daughter cuddled up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and a TV remote. “This is what Netflix is about,” the post says.”It’s the end user experience of their service. This is not an image of a person selecting a movie or writing a review for a movie. It’s about sitting on the couch with the family watching a movie. Netflix is showing their product being used and how it makes people feel.”

Giving a photo context can be what drives consumers to purchase one of your products, subscribe to your blog, or share your post with their friends. Never underestimate this element’s power.

4. Find a Good Editing Software

Your photos are really only as good as your editing software. You won’t need to spend inordinate amounts of time on this, but some basic edits are essential for showcasing a great photo.

The more serious bloggers will use Photoshop, but it’s an expensive investment and takes time to learn, so if you’re just starting out, using a few free editing programs like Pixlr, GIMP, and Picasa can be useful alternatives.

At the very least, find a photo-editing program that will allow you to sharpen the photo’s edges, increase the contrast, adjust brightness, increase saturation, crop, and tilt. You might even find that these photos can be edited with your computer’s default photo gallery, but you’ll likely achieve a better result with a more advanced program.

The process of delivering high quality blog photos won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. You’ll soon see engagement increase and readership grow, all because you took the time to give your blog a higher quality finish.