What Does Your Header Image Say About You?

What Does Your Header Image Say About You?

What does your header image say about you? Is it a car? Nature? An animal? A lot of thought should go into the choice of a header photo. Some people choose their photo very carefully, while others do not appear to pay the issue any heed. The fact is that a header image can say a lot about you, especially to the new visitor to your site.

Choose Your Header Carefully

These days, most blog templates come with a photo for their header image. Many people elect to change their header image for something they prefer or choose a photo they feel is symbolic of their blog’s purpose.

What does your header image say about you? As most of you know, header photos of cars have become quite popular since John Chow used a picture of a red Corvette Z06. I would imagine that John chose the photo based on the fact he liked the car. Other than that, what else can a car say about you? …that you like cars? …that you travel in the fast lane? …that you aspire to great wealth? — the cars depicted are not jalopies!

Aston Martin DB9

When I first started my blog, I didn’t put a lot of thought into the choice of header image. I have always liked cars and admired the success of John Chow, so I thought I would emulate his site, johnchow.com and use a car photo of my own. I chose the Aston Martin DB9 because it is a classy car that is not too extreme. I thought the car communicated a sense of power while the surrounding countryside represented tranquility. Other than these reasons, I didn’t put much thought into what that photo said about me or my blog.

Recently I decided to put more thought into the choice of header image, which has caused me to define more carefully the purpose of my blog and to decide exactly what I want the image to communicate. The photo I am using now reflects more accurately where I am at in life and what I seek to convey in my blog.

Two Roads

Which Road Would You Take?

As you can see in the header, there is a picture of two roads, a highway and an exit, separating to form two distinct paths. No one is present on the highway, which to me conveys freedom and mastery. The beautiful sky and terrain are inviting, suggesting limitless possibility. I feel like that is where I am at in life right now: more than any time previously, the master of my fate, cruising at a good speed down the road of progress; as always, there are different routes to take: one must choose carefully. I have heard the photo described as “evocative,” which means “to bring strong feelings to mind.” I agree that the photo has a kind of “dreamy” state to it; over the past several months, my life has often felt dream-like. To me, this photo also says, “There is no one path to success.”

Find Great Header Photos

An excellent place to find great photography for headers is SXC.hu. That is where I source most of the photos for my blog. A great thing about SXC.hu is that the photos are all royalty-free and absent the cost of stock photography. They have an incredible collection of stock photos in high resolution.

Tips on Choosing a Header

  1. I would advise you to stop using stock header images. Thousands of people use the same header image. Do you want your blog to be confused with other, similar-looking blogs? I know that when I go to a blog that looks unmodified, my first reaction is that the blogger has nothing unique to say because s/he didn’t take the time to change its look.

    If you don’t know how to change your header photo, then ask someone to help you. (I would be happy to offer assistance here.) It is actually VERY easy and can be done in as little as five minutes.

  2. Use an eye-catching photo to get people’s attention. Remember, this is usually the first image people see when they get to your site. If it is not eye-catching, people may not even read your content because your site did not catch their attention. Don’t settle – choose a GREAT photo!
  3. Select your image for reasons other than you just like the photo. Photos communicate information on many levels. It is important to put serious thought into what your photo says about you.
  4. Consider using a photo of yourself in your blog. I think there is a lot of power in putting a “face” to your blog. One key way of improving your blog stickiness is to make yourself more familiar. If readers see your face and read your writing more than twice, they will start to feel as if they know you. That is key when trying to build strong readership.

    I recently added my photo to the top of my header and have already noticed my subscriber count go up. Like I said, there is a lot of power in becoming familiar to people; a photo of yourself helps accomplish that.


Put Some More Thought Into Your Header

Readers of this blog know that I believe that everything we do says something about who we are. One of the first things we see when we visit a new blog is the header image, so doesn’t it make sense to put serious thought into what it says about you?

If you are going for a more thought-provoking header image, make sure to ask your friends or family what they think your choice says about you. You can even ask me! I would be more than happy to help you select a good header photo.

50 thoughts on “What Does Your Header Image Say About You?”

  1. This article rocks. It says so many of the right things. First of all, kudos to your for jumping off the runaway Chow train and doing your OWN thing when it came to designing your header. I am seeing more and more cars in headers and to that effect, it is getting old and creating a sort of blindness on my part.

    Your new header is much more powerful. It actually IS one of those pictures that says a thousand words. I’m in awe.

    BTW, love SXC. I have some pictures of my own on their site. πŸ™‚

    1. Interesting piece, I mean usually we just pick what looks good..but I guess it’s important to realize the symbolism behind what you choose.

  2. Great post. One question I had that I’d love to get your view on, is what is the ideal size (kb) that a header image should be? It was something that I was thinking about a couple of weekends ago since I figure it’s important for those not furtunate to have high speed internet connections.

    Any thoughts?

  3. Sorry to be controversial, but couldn’t you just not have a cheesy stock image at the top of your blog, speed up the load time and get to the content without wasting space? Sure, if you run a photography blog, have crop of a cool photo you took at the top. If you have a graphic design blog, put a crop of a sweet design at the top, but don’t just stick a large stock image on the top of your blog because “most wordpress themes have space for one”. It’s not like you don’t have the coding skills to remove it! Maybe it’s just me.

    1. In principle what you say is true — a picture occupies real estate that may otherwise be allocated to content. However, readability is enhanced when text is punctuated by images. If visitors are not stopping to read what you say — or are not returning — as your site is unappealing or visually uninteresting, then you have lost sight of the “prime mandate” — communicating your message!

  4. I love the new header image. I find that cars are very over-used on blog header images, since John chow’s.
    I’m considering putting a photo on my blog, as it definitely seems to improve stats. It’s great to hear that it’s helped you.

    1. I defintely agree that cars are way overused. I like your new header image.

      Now I gotta go find myself a new header image πŸ™‚

  5. My headers always have something to do with the New England Patriots.

    I love this site’s header. It’s kind of trippy.

  6. Nate,
    This is exactly what I was saying to your friend Josh the other day. His choice of a Porsche to me seemed a bit too much like John Chow’s bravado without the numbers to back it up.

    I try to have a t least one post a week that I call a WAYS post. A What Are You Saying post. It still amazes me how we all forget about the statements we make when we do not think. My experience with Seth Godin shows that I am still vulnerable to this error.

    I like your rods picture. I instantly thought about the great poem by Robert Frost The Road Not Taken. There are many in this world who take the big fast road, opr so they think it is faster. I prefer the road not taken by the majority.

  7. This is a great post with some good points! First of all, I like the new picture at natewhitehill.com, better than the car one. However, Steve Pavlina is still one of the very best examples, that design is not the most important factor. But surely it can have good effect, if everything else is as it should be.

  8. First of all, great header image. A picture says a thousand words…

    My site uses a very mimimalist WordPress theme that I’ve been slowly but steadily modifying. A friend created the logo in the upper left corner from a photo I took while living in Africa. It’s a baobab tree outside my house. My photo is on the About page, but not anywhere else.

    Two questions: Do you feel that a header image is always necessary? A lot of people probably just follow my blog in their RSS readers. And do you think bloggers should put their own mug on every page of their blogs?

    Just curious. Keep up the great writing!

    1. Hey Patrick,
      To answer your question… whether a header photo is always necessary – I don’t think a photo is a must. However, all modern, functional sites are comprised of a header, content area, and footer. So, some kind of header image is always a good thing to have as it is usually the first thing people see when they visit your blog.

      As far if bloggers should put their mug on every page – this comes back to how familiar you do or don’t want yourself to become. Obviously, the more people recognize you through your MBL avatar and from your site – the better. Why does Coca-Cola spend billions on advertising? To become more familiar. I think the concept of branding applies to us as bloggers. I decided to put my picture on every page because I want to become well-known and recognizable in the fields of business, blog and web development.

  9. The new header image looks really good. Says a lot!

    Course, the Astin Martin wasn’t too shabby either. Easily the best car header out there.

  10. Hmm….I chose a car too, but not the car as such…but its speedo dials..I want my life to be fast, thrilling, filled with wealth (its a mercedes speedo)….stature and royalty that comes with it….

  11. I’m not big into photography, but any regular visitor to my blog will know that I enjoy it, as my random header images suggest.

    I love the contrast of your new header image Nate; quality!

  12. Great . . . . so now i have to find a new header . . . i thought my face was good enough, but i guess maybe that’s why my subscriptions have hit a wall? hahhaa

  13. It is a very distinctive photo you have. When I see bloggers with a sports car, I immediately think “John Chow copycat” so it was a good move to be individual

  14. I’ve been thinking about using an image of myself on my blog. I’ve heard that it is a good thing to do to really connect with your visitors. Hopefully I’ll see some good results from it.

  15. Many of the guys still fear to put their photos, as they do not want to be seen. Maybe they are afraid to be beaten seen in the streets because they are selling junk with the name “make more money” πŸ™‚

  16. I was recently just looking for a header image to create i nice header with. Thanks for the website resource I have already found some good options for my header image.

  17. hi!

    i stumbled upon this article through john chow’s site and it opened my eyes on some of the things i’ve overlooked – the header image.

    i never thought this was important as up to now i’m using the default header for a WP theme i implemented in my blog the first time it was setup… i honestly find it a bit confusing to change it since i’m not a WP expert.

    at any rate, i find your suggestions very good and i think i’m going to experiment a little since i have observed that one of the things many readers see before reading your posts is your site’s header image. thanks for the info.

  18. Nate,

    This is exactly the type of article I needed to read. I’m currently in two (or more) minds re: my blog, which until now has been unfocused, and covering 4-5 various topics. One thought which had come to mind (after a discussion with Armen at alphablogdesigns) is to focus on my journey down the design road, which has just begun. I’m not sure if sharing my ups and downs would make for a good read, however! If I do decide to go this way, a more unique blog design will be required – header image and all.

  19. Yeah, I need help with my site graphics too. I am definitely artistically challenged. The graphics look very crisp. Different that most pictures/headers I’ve seen on other sites. Are they a special format or resolution?

    FYI, thanks for the link too!

  20. Nate, great post. I am glad you didn’t stick with the car simply because John Chow chose one for his blog. The header is an important part of a blog because it draws so much attention.

    You have definitely selected a great picture. Also, that link to SXC.hu will definitely come in useful as I’ve always been worried about copyright issues of pictures that I want to use.


  21. The tips are awesome! You are right the header can capture the reader’s attention. Good header and appropriate image is the very thing that makes us pay attention to the article.

  22. I liked your header image, it says there are many way to get success. isn’t it?
    And one another is that tree one also would be the best to feel some relaxation. Make yourself a tree under wide open sky to feel relax by your blog designing services on web.

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