A guide to implementing the best imagery for your promotions.
When creating any kind of content for your business, a combination of elements is vital for the content to be seen and help resonate with your audience and of course, potential audience. Imagery is one of those key elements, which can really make the difference to the conversion rate you will experience.
Whether you are creating a social media post, getting a brochure created, or working on a banner to take with you at your next networking meeting or exhibition, standing out from the crowd can depend on having impactful and relevant images in your content.
This article dives into considerations you should have when using imagery for your next campaign, and the options available to you to help get the best out of your promotion.
One of the main places that people turn to when looking for imagery is via google image search (other search engines are available). Whilst this is a great avenue to browse images on a certain topic for inspiration, you need to be cautious, in that the search engine will display nearly every image on that topic. This may seem great, as you have lots of images to choose from right? Wrong. 90% of these images will be owned by the content creator and therefore copyrighted to them, so just grabbing an image and pasting into your content will be in breach of the copyright and could land you in trouble. You may think ‘no-one will never see it’ but you never know who is looking and could stumble upon it. So, it is best to not use them at all.
We have heard stories of people copying or downloading an image from google, seemingly in a harmless way, and using it on their website, only to be sent a letter from the owner (in this instance one of the big boys of stock sites) demanding a large payment for unlawfully using the image. So please be careful.
As you will see later on, there are plenty of viable options to source imagery.
Relevance & Clarity
This may seem like an obvious one, but you would be amazed how many times we have seen content where the imagery has absolutely nothing to do with what they are trying to say.
It is always best to use an image which is linked to your content, enforcing the message or simply supporting it. The ideal situation is to use actual photos of your location, products or even yourself, depending on what you are promoting. Obviously, we realise that this isn’t always feasible and in that instance stock imagery is a good go to – providing you choose something relevant.
Using an image which has no relevance to the content will confuse the viewer and give them a negative reaction to your message, which of course you don’t want.
This is something that we experience quite often. Clients providing us with initial content to create their artwork, which has been taken straight from their social media profiles or website. To anyone who isn’t involved in design, this may seem like a great idea.
The problem is, that graphics that are designed to be displayed on a screen, are much lower in resolution (72dpi*) than images that are needed for printed purposes (minimum of 300dpi*). Therefore, using a web optimised image for print purposes, will result in the image displaying as blurry and pixelated, which really doesn’t give the best impression to a potential client or customer.
Whilst this does occur quite often in our business, we also understand that this probably isn’t common knowledge to someone who doesn’t work in the creative industry. We try to explain and educate our client in using the right resolution for the media which they are adopting.
* dpi – dots per inch.
Most people know that images can be supplied in portrait or landscape format (or sometimes square but this is less common). Both can be utilised in the design process and both usually look their best applied in their native orientation. If an image is high enough resolution, it can be cropped to the alternative orientation.
For example, if you have a portrait website graphic (remember 72dpi) and want to import and use a portrait photo (which you have at 300dpi), you would be able to use this cropped, providing that the cropped visible area works from a visual perspective.
A common mistake that we have seen is a portrait image being used in the middle of a landscape canvas. This then leaves blank areas either side of the photo and can make it look unfinished and not optimally designed. If that image is high enough resolution, then it should be possible to crop the image so that it fills the landscape canvas.
In an ideal world, if you have access to professional photography, then you should use it. The quality will be optimum for any use you may need it for, you will be able to choose what you want taken (a good photographer will assist you in choosing the right photos to take) and best of all they will be bespoke and individual to you. Having these benefits make the images really standout and speak to your audience, conveying a professional and personal message.
We do understand however that as a small business owner, many decisions come down to cost. Professional photography is going to be the most expensive option on this list, so it may not be for everyone.
We always advise that if you can afford it, then get your photos professionally done. You can tell the difference with a professional profile or product shot.
This leads us onto the next option available to you…
Taking the photos yourself
If you have either cost or time restrictions, then the next best thing may be taking the photos yourself. The benefit here is that you are in control and can turnaround quickly and free of charge. With smartphones getting better every year, you now have a fantastic camera right in your pocket.
Of course the downside here is that the responsibility for creating the perfect shot lies with you. Lets be honest, fingers creeping onto the lens and an unsteady grip can occur when taking photos yourself. With this option you also don’t have the expertise of the professional photographer to suggest poses, lighting and other important considerations, so you may not be getting the optimum set up and therefore shot.
The decision to take the photos yourself as opposed to hiring the services of a professional photographer, will also come down to what the photos will be of and where they will be used. In most cases, it wouldn’t be logical to pay for a photographer to create photos for uses on social media. Whilst you can repurpose professional photos on these platforms, we feel that a photo taken on your smartphone of a highlight of your day, will be more than adequate here.
Ok so, now we are onto stock images. There are many libraries online where you can access and download imagery to use in your projects. Some come bundled with DIY design applications, some are free and some are more premium and therefore command a fee to access the service.
Stock imagery can be very much a ‘you get what you pay for’ resource.
Saying that, there are some really good sites which offer commercial licensed photos for you to use the for anything you like. It’s worth checking though as some of the free sites do require you to credit the creator of the image in some form (check the individual sites’ terms and conditions to find out how to do this correctly).
Here are some terms that you will come across when looking for free images:
- Creative Commons is a nonprofit organisation that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. There are several licenses that range from allowing any type of use with no attribution, to allowing only certain uses and no changes.
- Public domain images are those where the copyrights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. Please note – Finding something on the internet does not mean it is in the public domain. The images are free to use in whatever way you wish, although again always check the license terms on each site.
- Often people think that the term Royalty-free means that the images are free. This isn’t necessarily the case. Most of the time, you’ll have to pay a one-time fee to have the rights to use the image. Once you have obtained the rights, you have unlimited use the of the image. Many people fall into this trap, but the reality is that the “free” aspect of“royalty-free” means that you do not have to pay royalties to the owner of the image every time you use it (just initially!).
With any stock sites, you may need to spend a bit of time looking through the images to find exactly what you are after. The free sites can contain some really useful photos, but you may also find some random shots where you wonder ‘who would actually use these?’ but they are free so we can’t really grumble. Most photos are available in a really decent resolution too, which is a bonus.
Some sites offer free images, but only for personal use, (so for hobbies and non-profit activity) so if you are going to be using the image for business, make sure it allows for commercial usage.
Some sites even offer vector images and videos.
There is a wide variety out there, simply search for commercially free images, but here are some that we recommend:
Should you find the need to require a) a bigger range of photos, b) generally a better quality of photos or c) the need to have access to photos on a more regular basis, it may be worth looking into one of the middle of the range stock sites.
Most offer credit packs, where you pay more credits per photo, depending on how big you need it to go and its resolution. For example, if you want a photo for your website, you may be paying 1 credit, but if you need the image for use on an exhibition stand, you may have to pay say 4 credits to be able to download the higher resolution file that fits the purpose.
For regular users, these sites also offer monthly subscriptions where you pay a monthly fee via direct debit, and in return this gives you a certain number of downloads per month or annually. In most cases, you can use your downloads on any size image, so it makes sense to use it on the largest size, as you can always resize down, but can’t resize up.
With these sites, you can also get videos, however this is treated as a separate subscription.
Here are some of our recommendations:
Adobe stock – stock.adobe.com
Adobe as you would expect, offer a massive library of fantastic images. They offer credit packs and monthly subscriptions. Whilst they may be one of the more expensive options on this mid-range list, the content quality and quantity can’t be argued with.
Example monthly plan: £47.99 per month (ex.vat) for 40 image downloads.
Shutterstock – www.shutterstock.com
As with Adobe, Shutterstock also have a great range of high quality images on offer. They also offer both credit packs (fewer options here) and monthly subscriptions, where the more you pay a month, the lower the cost per photo is.
Example monthly plan: £59 per month for 50 images – annual commitment, £75 per month for 50 images – monthly rolling contract
Envato elements is a particular favourite of ours. Not only do they offer some really nice stock images (at current time of writing around 900,000) but with your monthly fee of just £25 you also get access to loads of other resources, all with commercial licenses and unlimited downloads. What’s not to like!
Included in your subscription in addition to the photo library are graphic mockups, presentation templates, fonts, stock video, music tracks, sound effects and even access to tutorials (plus much more)! As if £25 a month isn’t good enough value already – if you switch to annual billing you can save unto 50% – wow.
We are an affiliate partner with Envato (as they are the primary resource we use for content), so using the link below will give us a small kick back (but won’t cost you a penny more).
The final group of stock image providers are the premium band. These platforms lend themselves more towards larger companies and design agencies, as the pricing is pretty high per image. The content is second to none and the libraries are huge, but probably more for the larger corporations, with bigger marketing budgets.
We hope you have gained some value from this article, and you have had more options opened up to you when choosing the imagery for your next project. If you would like to speak more about imagery options or would like any help or advice, please feel free to email me at simon@SC23.co.uk.