One compositional technique that I teach in Digital Photography is to give your portrait subject space to look into when framing your shot.
You can see it in the image below – but the basic principle is that if your subject is looking to one side of the frame – position their head so there is more space on that side of the frame – giving them ‘space to look into’.
Here’s an example (source image):
OK – now the reason for this ‘rule’ (and remember rules are meant to be broken) is that when you leave space like this you not only give the subject space to look into (which gives an image compositional balance) – but you also give the viewer of the image room to participate in the shot.
When a subject looks out of frame like this the viewer of the image is left wondering what they’re looking at, it adds a little intrigue to the image and it can add an unseen point of interest to the photo. Don’t you just wonder who or what the old guy in the shot above is looking at?
In a sense this technique draws the viewer of an image into it – evoking their imagination – engaging them in the photo.
OK – so what’s this got to do with blogging? Have I finally published a post for his photography blog on the wrong blog?
Leaving ‘space’ in your Blog posts for Readers to ‘look into’
As I pondered the way that including ‘space’ in an image can draw those who see it into that image I realized that a similar principle can apply in writing a blog post.
In my first year or two of blogging I worked under the assumption that the more comprehensive my blog posts were the better they would do. As a result I worked hard on providing my readers with every single piece of information that I could come up with on a topic before I hit publish. This resulted in very comprehensive (and often long) posts.
However in time I began to notice that it wasn’t these longer and comprehensive posts that got the most interaction from readers – sometimes it was the quick, half baked ideas and less comprehensive posts that actually seemed to engage readers the most in terms of generating comments and incoming links from other blogs.
In a sense what I was finding was that more comprehensive posts left less room for readers to add something to the conversation – so they didn’t – whereas posts that left room for others to add from their experience and knowledge drew readers to do so.
How to Add Space for Readers to Participate in Your Blog
Now I’m not suggesting that we all only write posts that are rushed, ‘half baked’, not thought through and second rate simply to get more comments – but I do think that there are ways that you can be more intentional about creating space for readers to participate. Here’s a few methods to try:
Reveal What you Don’t Know – sometimes as a blogger it is easy to fall into the temptation of presenting yourself as someone who knows everything there is to know on your topic. While expertise is a good thing to have – I find that readers actually respect you when you admit what you don’t know on your topic. This makes you more relatable and enables your readers to feel that there’s room for their own experiences and expertise on the areas you’re not so good on.
Ask a Question – the simplest way to create space for readers to interact with your posts is to ask them a direct question. This can be tied to something you don’t know (see above) or be a question that focuses upon their experiences, asking them for examples of what you’re talking about, asking them to add points that you’ve missed etc. We’re all wired to answer questions – so include them regularly in your posts and you’ll find you end up with a more dialogical blog.
Run a Poll – polls are a great way to get reader interaction because they allow readers to respond and participate – without having to really put themselves out there in a public way. I find that the polls here on ProBlogger are responded to by a larger number of people than those who comment and I suspect this is because many readers do want to have a say – but like their anonymity.
Invite a Response – there are other ways that you can engage readers than questions and polls. Call your readers to some other type of action including to write a post on their own blog, submit a guest post or to enter a competition and you involve your readers in the activities of your blog. Every time they participate they become a little more loyal to your blog – having invested something of themselves into it.
Create a Space for Interaction – one of the lessons that I’ve learned over the last year or two at Digital Photography School is that sometimes your readers are just waiting for you to create a space for them to take their participation in your blog to the next level. I discovered this when I added a forum to the blog. In adding it I found that a community sprang up almost overnight. I didn’t need to promote it heavily, people just wanted to connect, share and have a say. They could have done this in comments – but they wanted more and when I gave it to them they responded.
As you’ll see from the above – none of these things mean you can’t write comprehensive posts that show off your expertise. To me it is more of an attitude or an issue of the ‘voice’ that you use in blogging. Some bloggers come across as being more closed and unapproachable than others.
I’d be interested to hear examples of how you’ve worked at creating room for readers to participate in your blog.