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Exactly What Is That Featured Image in WordPress?

I have been asked this question so many times. When someone installs WordPress and goes into their editor window, down on the right hand side they find this.

featured image wordpress

So what does is exactly do? Well, I wish it was as simple as that. Your featured image can play several roles. And it can be dependent on your theme or even a plugin.

Let’s look at the Twenty Twelve theme. If we add a featured image and no images in the post itself, the image shows up above the post name.

featured image twenty twelve

But if we add a photo at the top of the post like this:

featured image two

Now we get a post with two images. So for this theme if you wanted the image above the title, you would use the featured image. But if you want it below the title, you would insert it directly into the post.

featured image front end

Now let’s look at another theme. Here we are using the Genesis child theme Prose. The featured image works totally different here. If you have both a featured image and an image in your post, on y0ur blog page, it pulls the featured image in as the thumbnail.

feauterd image prose

And when you view the full post, you do not see the featured image, just the image inside the post. What this does it gives you the option to have a different image for your blog page thumbnail.

featured image front prose

And if you do not add a featured image to the post, it will pull the image that is placed inside the post as the thumbnail.

featured image prose 3

Now if we look at a widget that comes with the Genesis framework, you will see that one of the settings is specifically for the featured image.

featured image widget

Where does this leave you? As you can guess, it all depends on your theme. So if you haven’t explored how the feature image integrates with your theme, maybe it’s time to. You just might be surprised.

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37 Responses to Exactly What Is That Featured Image in WordPress?

  1. Kristinakathy August 21, 2013 at 3:55 am #

    Hi there. Really a great post. Keep sharing like this. :)

  2. Cesar Falcao August 23, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    Another great article by Bob Dunn. At first it looks silly to read, the feature looks obvious, but I learned one more thing about WP here. Thanks!

    • Cesar Falcao August 23, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      I dont know how my Rhino review’s page appeared in my last commentary, but it’s not related to the discussion. (You can visit it if you are curious…)

    • Bob Dunn August 23, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

      Hey Cesar, thanks. Another one of those WordPress surprises. And no worries on the link, I use a plugin that is called CommentLuv that let’s you link back to one of your posts, sometimes it does it automatically and no need for to to relate to the post here. Just my way of saying thanks for leaving a comment!

  3. Steve Daily August 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    Very helpful tips on featured images, Bob. Thanks. One thing I make it a habit of doing is maintaining a document where I record information on how my custom theme works with such elements as featured images, custom fields, etc. I could never remember it all.

    • Bob Dunn August 28, 2013 at 7:29 am #

      Steve, thanks, and yes, great idea on the documentation. I’m the same way, I cannot tell you how many times I have revisited a post or video tutorial of mine because of that simple fact ;)

  4. Holger October 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Hey Bob,
    thank you very much for this information!
    I’m going to test it with the scrollider-theme I’m using.

    Greetings from the “Ruhr-Area” in Germany,
    -Holger-

    • Bob Dunn October 14, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      Yeah, it can be interesting to see how a specific theme uses the feature… have fun!

  5. Snoop October 29, 2013 at 4:56 am #

    Thanks very helpful and solved one of my issues. I’ll share it just in case:

    I’m using WordPress for iOS in order to maintain my photoblog and since WP updated their app, they added this “featured image” on the main screen. At first, I thought that was a nice addition to make things faster (i.e. less clicks) to update a story.

    However, I did notice something very bad when using this feature: people visiting my photoblog with the mobile version mode, they couldn’t see my pictures… annoying for a photoblog!

    That means that I need to edit all my latest entries and “add a media”, not “featured image”.

    Thanks again!

  6. Bob Dunn October 29, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    Yeah, it’s a bit deceiving if you don’t understand how your theme uses them, or if they even do. Glad the video cleared that up for you… cheers!

  7. Marius November 15, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    I would like to do mine as per the Genesis child theme example but am using the Suffusion theme. Anyone know if it possible with that theme?

    • Bob Dunn November 15, 2013 at 7:44 am #

      Mmmm, good question. I remember a while back someone I know was trying to use it with Suffusion. The thing is that the option is there on posts and pages, but cannot remember if we were able to get it to work, or if Suffusion supports the featured image. Are there any insights on their forum?

  8. Lea January 4, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    If I don’t use a featured image, my blog posts page will only show article headings, and no thumbnails. When I add the featured to my blog page, it shows like I want it to, but it also adds the featured image above my blog post title, and I don’t want the two images. Is there any way to fix that problem?

    • Bob Dunn January 4, 2014 at 10:24 am #

      Hey Lea, I have actually seen that happen with some sites, and it’s usually theme specific… and I know, it can be a pain. What I have had to do in the past is contact the theme dev or support and ask how to resolve it. Typically it requires putting some custom code in that they will give you. Or if you are really lucky, it might be a simpler solution. Wish I had the perfect answer for you!

  9. Jason January 7, 2014 at 8:25 am #

    Hey Bob,

    I’m trying to find out if there is a plugin or way to see when an image was last used as a featured image, or many some way to see how many times an image was used as part of the featured image selection process.

    I know the proprietary Netitor CMS has this functionality for the college sports teams, but I can’t find it for WP.

    Any ideas?

    We have a pretty large image archive, and just want to keep our image choice fresh.

    • Bob Dunn January 7, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

      Mmmmm, nothing comes to mind. Imagine that might be a custom job creating that functionality…

  10. manish January 12, 2014 at 5:12 am #

    Thanks…i am new to wordpress..it help me a lot…i want to ask SEO effect of featured image..description used in images…thx again.

    • Bob Dunn January 12, 2014 at 7:10 am #

      I am not a SEO expert, but I can imagine the the name of the file and the alt title are just as important in any image. Words that are descriptive and and keyword friendly.

  11. RituKT January 15, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    I have been blogging for sometime now and still wasn’t sure about Featured Image. Thanks to you, now I know what it is and how to use it!

    • Bob Dunn January 15, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

      Yeah, one of those things that are on the page, and is easily overlooked, or just makes you wonder, what the heck is that for. Love WordPress but not always the most intuitive… glad to hear this was helpful!

  12. Joe Wickman February 5, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    Bob, I’ve connected with you on Twitter before, and you’re always generous with your help. Today when I googled, “WordPress featured image” this helpful post popped up.
    I’m now going to get your emails.
    As always, thank you!

  13. Michael March 11, 2014 at 5:18 am #

    Hi, very helpful post, thank you. Do you know of any windows-based blogging software that allows you to update the Featured Image as part of the blog post? I can’t work out how to do this anywhere except in the back end of WordPress. Thank you very much.

  14. ali April 22, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    Thanks for that Bob… I have been wondering about it for ages.

  15. Amy @ Wildflower Ramblings May 2, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    Thanks for writing. My problem right now is that the first image in the post is not showing up as the featured image. Is there a code to make this the case? Or do I have to manually make every first image the featured image? Thanks so much for any help (I’m not a “coder”)…. :)

    • Bob Dunn May 2, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

      Yeah, unfortunately each theme has a mind of its own when it comes to using the featured image. I am guessing that yes, inserting it into the post is your option. I wish there was a method to the madness, but we just have to work with how the theme decides to use it. :)

  16. Jhoveleen May 16, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    I’ve been researching this topic for months now ‘coz I really want to know the real essence of the featured image. Now I know that different themes have different presentations.

    • Bob Dunn May 17, 2014 at 10:08 am #

      Glad you found it useful. It’s a little bugger …. and has a life of its own. I cannot tell you how many times someone has switched themes and, well, they wonder, now where did that featured image go “)

  17. Mick May 25, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    Yeah thaks for this well-described post. Ive been struggling with Featured Images for a few days now because of some problems I’m having. Your post caused the penny to drop, and made me realise my problems are something entirely different.

  18. Carol May 27, 2014 at 6:53 am #

    Hi bob. Im still a little confused :( I have changed each page to a featured image – but I still get the thumbnail that I do not want? If I put /services after the web address then that’s ok – but I don’t always want to do that. I have also downloaded Default Featured Image plugin – but that doesn’t appear to help me either? I am using Third Style Theme. The way I test it is to type the web address into my Facebook post and up pops the image – but the ‘wrong’ one! Any help you can offer?

    • Bob Dunn May 27, 2014 at 7:02 am #

      Hi Carol, unfortunately every theme works with the featured image differently, so it’s hard say offhand. Does the theme have documentation? If so, you may want to revisit it and see how the featured image works. As far as the plugin, if you aren’t using a Featured Image already it should work, but as with some plugins it may not be compatible with your theme or has an issue with another plugin :)

      With Facebook, that’s a crapshoot. Just when I think I know which image FB is suppose to pull in, it changes. I have yet to figure out a hard and fast rule with them. Typically it will always pull in the featured image first, but I’ve see that go wonky. Also, I have noticed with Facebook, when you put in your post and it pulls the wrong image in, going back to your post and changing things on that post doesn’t help. It appears once they have pulled it in it sticks… weird stuff.

      • Carol May 28, 2014 at 1:24 am #

        Thank Bob – that’s made me feel even worse now! I checked the theme and it hasn’t been updated for 2 years!! Im so sad – as it’s only a little site and Ive worked so hard – in fact not even knowing what I’m doing – and have managed to create something from nothing and now fear its going to fall apart…. oh no :( I have contacted the theme publishers to ask if they can help – not holding my breath! thanks anyway. Carol

        • Bob Dunn May 28, 2014 at 7:16 am #

          Sorry :( But yes, the fact that they haven’t updated it for 2 years, that could be part of the problem. I am guessing it was a free theme? Unfortunately it may come to the point that you will need to change themes. Also, you might try tweaky.com. They do little fixes and it might be all it needs.

  19. Maria June 13, 2014 at 4:36 am #

    Great post! What happens if I have always used the featured image of the theme I bought and then I decide to change my theme? For instance, Genesis theme? What happens to the thumbnails?

    • Bob Dunn June 13, 2014 at 7:33 am #

      Hey Maria, great question. Typically if you have a featured image assigned to any posts or pages, it will stay there no matter what new theme you are using. Also, of course, they still exist in your media library as well. Now how your new theme uses them, that is all dependent on the theme. But in any case, they shouldn’t go away.

  20. Nuthan October 5, 2014 at 1:51 am #

    Yes, I do agree. I was bit confused earlier regarding this an everything is clear now. Thanks.

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