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What You Ought to Know about Screenshots

What You Ought to Know about Screenshots

By Pat Flynn on

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:


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):


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:


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.


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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