What You Ought to Know About Screenshots

A screenshot is a snapshot of something you see on your computer screen. If you’re doing any kind of online business or blog, more than likely you’re going to want to use a screenshot for some reason.

I use screenshots a lot. You can see a number of them in my last post, where I took screenshots of my statistics from Google Analytics to support the information in my post. Whenever someone emails me and asks me how to do something, I often take a screenshot of the process and drag that into the email itself.

If you have a virtual assistant, and you want to make sure they do whatever it is you want them to do correctly, there’s no better way than to have them visually see a step by step snapshot of exactly where they are supposed to go and what their supposed to click.

Why You Need to Make Screenshots Pop

If you’re publishing screenshots, whether it’s in a blog post, an eBook, a newsletter – whatever, if you simply paste a square image, it’s going to look dull. Plus, if there is a lot of white space in your image (or a color in your image that matches the surrounding color of the “canvas” you will be publishing on), it can drastically change the look of whatever it is your working on. Take for example, this screenshot here, which is a screenshot of me writing this post in WordPress:

screenshot1

The undefined edges make it a bit uncomfortable for the eye, and the extra white space at the bottom makes things look uneven. The graphic almost gets lost on the page, if that makes sense.

Now, let’s see what it looks like when we put an actual border around it (which can be done via Photoshop, or even in your site’s CSS):

screenshot2

This is better. We have a clearly defined edge now, but we still are lacking any “pop”. What do I mean by “pop”? Here’s an example:

screenshot3

A simple drop shadow takes the screenshot “off the page” and puts it right into the face of whoever is looking at it. What’s cool about this is that you’re creating a border without actually creating a border, and it’s most pleasing to the eye.

Take a good look at the lower right hand side of the image. There seems to be a line at the border of the image, when really there is no line at all. It’s white next to white. It’s a trick that your eye plays on you to fill in the gaps created by the shadow.

As you can see, some of my design background from working in the architecture industry and rendering drawings is coming out. I miss it sometimes.

Putting in a little bit more effort into your screenshots can drastically change the look and feel of your entire publication.

Like I mentioned before, you can utilize programs like Photoshop to add a drop shadow to your images. There’s a program called SnagIt (they just came out with a mac version too), which I’ve used and is pretty awesome because not only can you capture screenshots with it, but you can mess around with the borders (including shadows), you can add arrows and text to your screenshots, and even crop and export your images in a format that you’re comfortable with, all from one program. Pretty cool.

Experimentation

I’ve been toying around with a new way to show screenshots here on this blog. After taking a screenshot, I drag and drop it into Pages for Mac, which allows me to easily place some cool effects on it. Here are some examples:

sc-3-1sc-3-3Some of these are obviously better than others, and what works best for you or your blog depends on your style, and the type of content you write about.

The purpose of this post was not to get you to convert to Mac, or purchase Photoshop – but to simply think about taking a little bit of extra time to think about not only what you publish but how it’s published too, because just a little bit of extra care can take things to a whole new level.

Which one of the above effects catches your eye the most?

Thanks everyone, and have a great weekend!

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  • http://rulesoptional.com Andrew

    I prefer the first example and the last example

    Depending on the use of the screenshot, rotating it about 30-45 degrees, then cropping it back into a rectangle can yield a nice effect. A lot of the monotony of of normally framed screenshots comes from their parallel relationship to the text and everything else on the page. Obviously, this doesn’t work well if someone needs to really read the text, but if you’re just giving the example of the look of something, it can visually break things up in a nice way.

    • Pat

      Hey Andres, rotating certain items is a great tip! I actually saw a screenshot of a blog’s homepage on another site the other day, and it was a bit skewed and rotated and looked really cool. Thanks!

  • http://blog.kreci.net KreCi

    That is amazing!I love the fourth example from “Experimentation”. I would like to know a tool for Windows that could help me doing it… Do you know any?

    • Pat

      I believe SnagIt, the resource I mentioned in the post, is able to do something similar to a burnt edges or torn page look.

  • Natasha

    KreCi I am with you on the fourth example and needing a program in Windows that will allow for the same kind of creativity when adding screenshots.

  • http://subject2.com [email protected]

    I love this post! I do a lot of screen shots to prove a point of prove my statement and I love that you can do something cool with the screenshot, now, all I need to is figure out how to use pages for mac :)

    • Pat

      Hehe, here’s the simple rundown – I should of posted it in the post itself.

      Step 1- Drag and drop a plain ol’ screenshot into Pages for Mac. (Make sure your view/zoom is at “actual size”, so it’s not blurry on your screen.

      Step 2 – Click on the Inspector Tool

      Step 3 – Within the inspector tool, go to the graphic tab (it’s the one with the two shapes, a circle and a square).

      Step 4 – Under “STROKE”, highlight “picture frame”. This will put a border around your screenshot. Then, you can mess around with the different styles of frames to get the effect you want!

  • http://www.poshblogs.com Digigirl

    I like #4, which looks like a “torn paper” style to me. Very attractive.

    Great points, Pat. I’ve noticed that screenshots aren’t very good looking when I’ve used them before, but for whatever reason, just never thought about prettying them up. Thanks for the kick in the pants!

    • Pat

      Anytime Valarie!

  • http://www.joshwhitford.com The Real Josh

    Looks pretty good, I with there was a magic wand in wordpress to add pop inserted images. Perhaps in version 10 or 12 ha.

    • Pat

      Haha – I totally agree. They are pretty good at putting in the tools that bloggers need. Maybe we’ll see this in the future.

  • Omar

    Hey Pat,

    Thanks for the resources! I had emailed you on this a couple days ago. This post goes into more detail and has been really helpful! I really like the burned edges one! Can you do that on snag it?

    Keep up the good work!
    Omar

    • Pat

      Hey Omar – yes, you can do something similar on snagit, where it actually looks more like a torn page, instead of a burnt edge, but it’s close to the same effect.

      By the way, your email inspired me to write this post. Thanks for that!

  • http://www.betterlearningbetterearning.com Steve Churchill

    Pat,

    Nice tips. Really. One of my older posts really needs this help. I’ll try some of these things. (see: http://bit.ly/D4al1)

    • Pat

      Wow, there’s a ton of screenshots in there. I think you can definitely spice it up with some of these techniques. Great list of free tools on that post by the way!

  • http://experimentsinpassiveincome.com Moon Hussain

    Oh I really like #s 1 and 4 (Pages by Mac). I really need to find effective tools to make image manipulation easy for my own blog!

    • Pat

      There are tools out there, we just gotta find them (or create them) ourselves! If I find more, I’ll def. let you know.

  • http://www.StrugglingInvestor.com Scott Costello

    I like the 1st one the best, but the simple drop shadow does wonders as well. There has to be a photoshop plugin that can duplicate those styles. Anyone know of one?

    another tool I like to use on my blog to take screenshots is Jing. It is quick and uploads the screen shots directly to screencast.com and then you just have to past the src into your blog post. Jing can also do short 5 minute screen recordings to post on your blog as well. Great for how tos.

    • Pat

      Scott – I was actually looking for one the other day, but I couldn’t find it. I’m not sure how to create “action scripts” in photoshop, although I use them for some of my eBook cover designs. I may do some research on this, so I can get an action script that simply adds a drop shadow, like you said (or maybe even some of the other effects too!)

      If I do, I’ll definitely share it with you guys. Jing is pretty sweet too for sharing stuff. I do it all the time with people in my mastermind group :)

  • http://www.freemanlegacyllc.com Ms. Freeman

    I prefer examples 1 & 2. It is amazing what imagination and the right tools can create :)

    • Pat

      Totally agree! Quick question, has blogengage been a good tool for you and your blog?

      • http://www.freemanlegacyllc.com Ms. Freeman

        Yes, it has brought me quite a bit of traffic and commentators that have something to say. The only problem I am seeing with BlogEngae is that there are folks that are just voting on articles, but aren’t actually clicking through to read them. Which is okay if all one wants is votes.

        I definitely recommend using BlogEngage also because they have a free forum that is pretty active with users that care about building a community ! :)

  • Daniel Mesa

    Hi, Pat!

    SnagIt works quite good for this matter, and you can also record video of your activities and even edit it afterwards. Pretty amazing, I can’t work without it!!

    Cheers,

    Daniel.

    P.S: I don’t work for the SnagIt guys, just a happy user here. :)

    • Pat

      Haha, no need for the disclaimer Daniel. Even if you did work for them, I’d totally agree with you, because it’s a great little tool. Thanks!

  • Robert Hagstrom

    Thanks for the tips, Pat! Again, good timing. As I’m developing my beginning content, I didn’t think about screen shots, but that will work well for some of what I’m trying to convey. What is your preferred way to capture screenshots before editing? Do you use SnagIt from start to finish? What is the alternative way to capture them?

    • Pat

      Hey Bobby! SnagIt is great because you can capture and edit all in the same program (like adding arrows, text and whatever). it’s very user friendly. The alternatives are to take screenshots with a pc (using the print screen button), or on a mac (command+shift+4), and then putting those into photoshop or some other photo manipulation software. I think you can even paste or open files that you screen capture in microsoft paint, but you can’t really do more than just draw on top of it, which may be useful for some.

  • http://www.crazycreekquilts.com/ Shelly

    Awesome! I had no idea this was possible. I always use “Snap N Drag” and my pics are boring! I can’t wait to check out “Pages for Mac”. Thanks for the tip!

    • Pat

      Hmm..I never heard of Snap N Drag. I’ll definitely have to check that out. Thanks for the resource!

  • http://www.personalfinancenotebook.com Patrenia

    Thanks for sharing this. These are some awesome examples that help an article come to life. I’ll print this for future reference:-).

    • Pat

      Interesting you say that. I’m wondering how many people actually print my articles, and if I should include something like an easy print button in my posts. Thanks Patrenia!

  • http://leadersofthefreeworld.org Andrew

    The drop shadow on the left/lower part of the image looks great. This combined with say wordpress’ lightbox plugin would allow you to click on the image or a thumbnail and it enlarges for clarity.

  • http://www.healthmoneysuccess.com Vincent

    Hi Pat,

    The first impression leaves the deepest impression. By brushing up our presentation in our blog posts can definitely leave a great impression with new readers. Which in turn may turn out to be our subscribers or future customers.

    Cheers,
    Vincent

  • http://www.innovativepassiveincome.com/ JadeDragon

    Very helpful guide. You rock Pat.

  • http://www.azadshaikh.com Azad Shaikh

    I had been using FastStone Capture for my screenshots. I like the different effects you just posted but i am a MS Vista user. Now i will use these effect on my blog post images. Thanks for sharing.

    Azad Shaikh
    http://www.internetgeeks.org

  • http://platogo.com Robert

    Screenshots are nice, to pep up the article. I always use em. Thx for your article. He helped me. :-)

  • http://gruber-tom.blogspot.com/ Tom

    You can frame your screenshots also with this online tool: http://clipyourphotos.com/framer

    • Pat

      Great Tip Tom! Thanks!

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  • Jon cooper

    And that’s why I follow you on twitter :). This post is a great example as something “evergreen” – the content doesn’t get outdated. I’m putting together my first legitimate piece of linkbait at the moment, and I’ll definitely give this post a shoutout, as I’ve been looking for info on creating better finished screenshots.

    P.s. My blog will be down for the next 24-48 hours because godaddy screwed me, so please don’t remove any of the links to my blog for the reason that they’re broken. Thanks Pat!!

  • http://www.nurturedscills.com Sylva

    I prefer the first. Looks real cool.

  • Lisa

    Great post. Where are these effects in pages? I have been using pages for years but I am not familiar with these effects. Would love to know where they are. I have looked through the inspector but don’t see anything.

  • http://alex-goddard.com Alex

    Hay Pat.
    that was a great bit of teaching about sceenshots I learn something new every day.
    Thanks for sharing all this great information.
    I hope you and your family had a lovely Christmas.
    Happy 2012
    all the best
    Alex Goddard

  • http://www.myinnerg.com Justin McClelland

    Awesome post. Your site is a wealth of information. This is just what I needed. Thx!

  • http://www.MyHelpSource.com Guy

    Thanks for the excellent ideas, Pat! I appreciate your work and inspiration.

    Onward!
    Guy

  • http://www.tutsplanet.com salman

    dear folk i read an article here or probloger i don’t remember rightly titled as tools of trade about blogiging in which stats the screen recording and screen shots software can anyone please point me that blog

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