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Why a few well chosen graphics will turn your report from dull to dazzling?
Have you ever been transported to another time and place by just a smell? It might be the fragrance of a rose or the sweet fug of apples cooking with cinnamon. For all the wonders of digital production we don't yet have scratch and sniff reports (to my knowledge).

So a report usually relies on words to convey the messages. Words can conjure images in our minds, emotions in our hearts and provoke actions of all kinds. You only have to look at the tweets about the riots in London, UK, last week, to see the power of words.

Yet it was the images of burning buildings in those riots that sent shockwaves round the world.

On their own, words have to work hard. Add the right image and you immediately add more omph to your report. It makes it more appealing, easier to read and you are engaging people in several ways at once.

Put some thought into images in your reports.
Images in a report can help tell the story, emphasise key points and break up the text. As a person who is more comfortable with words, I've always felt ignorant and ill equipped in the graphics department. Yet we all know how we feel when see an iconic image.

See the earth from the moon and feel super tiny and insignificant.

Quick tips and tools for adding graphics to your reports.
Begin by reading through your report and marking up the points that you could show graphically. Think beyond charts and tables. Consider, photos, illustrations, cartoons, simple diagrams which you can easily create in Microsoft Word or Pages for Mac.

Stimulate ideas
Start to think more visually by noticing graphics that grab your attention.
bookmark business websites with graphics with the wow factor
notice cartoons that makes you laugh, how did they do that?
carry a camera with you and build your own image library
keep an image journal: start to link concepts with graphics, sketch it out or describe what should be in the graphic - it's up to you
improve your drawing or cartooning skills

Make more of your own photos
If you run a farm based tourism or food business, capture the seasonal changes by taking photos at every opportunity. To get more out of your images, follow these simple tips:
crop photos tightly
take outdoor shots in late afternoon or early morning sun
use close ups of animals and faces for maximum impact
think about colours and textures
think about humour in images, incongruous shots are attention grabbing
use an image to show another meaning

Manipulate your images
If you don't own Photoshop or other professional photo editing software, you can still edit, crop, add effects and re-size with desktop photo software such as iPhoto for Mac or free photo editing tools like Gimp or Web Photo Resizer for sharpening and shrinking images.

There are plenty of image sites if you don't have suitable photos of your own. A couple I've used are:

iStock photo - paid for images
Wylio - free to use as long as you credit the photographer. So be nice and do that.

For more information on using images in blogs and sources of free images, see this blog post from Blogging, the beginners complete guide.

All photos should have captions. Describe the photo or make a point.

Take the first steps and develop your confidence with graphics.

Go now and mark up your report with notes on the graphics you're going to add.
Contributor: Juliet Fay @

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