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Stephanie Wolden
April 30, 2018 | Stephanie Wolden

WHY WE LOVE PICTURES: How to use photography to pull at heartstrings

Whether you’re curating images from stock or creating your own with a camera and editing software, choosing the right image is essential to your message. A photo that doesn’t provoke a response can result in an ineffective campaign.

That said, scrolling through a couple hundred images can be tedious. Knowing your brand and your audience helps focus your brain to see with those eyes, and to find images and themes that align with your brand. When you finally see the one you’ve been looking for pop up on your screen, things actually start to come together more quickly than if you’d just chosen the first relevant image and forced it to work.

“I’ll know it when I see it” is a curator’s mantra. It’s the sudden inhale when an image makes the connection you’re waiting for. But there’s more to it than just a visceral reaction. Here are three boxes to tick when choosing imagery for your brand:

  1. Mood
    An overall mood or tone is usually what grabs your attention. Is it a fun, lighthearted brand with a snarky sense of humor? Or is it a high-end brand that exudes elegance and a sense of mystery? Either way, if it makes you react there’s a good chance it will do the same for your audience.
  2. Orientation
    Horizontal, vertical, or square? Does it matter? It usually does. If you’re lucky, one image can be cropped/tweaked and repurposed for use on an email, website, and your social media platforms. A photo with this versatility usually starts as a horizontal image with lots of copy space. Otherwise, using similar photos with the same subject matter can create the same continuity across channels.

  3. Technical Properties
    In order for an image to convey anything of quality it must be technically sound. The most obvious defects are blur and resolution. If the subject of an image is blurry or a person’s eyes are out of focus, it’s probably not a good choice. The same with an image that’s too small. Making it larger will result in a pixelated photo which is just as bad as a blurry one. Other things to look for are noticeable retouching or over manipulation, noise, artifacting, bad exposure and so on. These are all distractions that take the viewer out of the image and out of the experience you want them to have.

Once you’ve found your “voice” and the imagery that resonates with your audience, it’s important to stay consistent with your selections in order to continue the story. Again, we want our brains to see with the eyes of our brand so spending some time with past images before starting a new search is helpful. Getting into character, so to speak, will trigger the emotional response you need in order to find the right image. You might even find that the image chooses you.


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