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Choosing and using images effectively

Words are powerful … but sometimes it’s the image that truly defines a message. Whether it’s a photograph online or an illustration in print, a carefully chosen image can reinforce messages or simply serve to convey feelings or emotions that words sometimes cannot.Images can also draw people into a story, improve aesthetics of a layout or bring attention to a message’s call to action.

The key to using images effectively is to understand what makes an image impactful. Images should be strategically chosen based on how they affect and play off of the text on your website, in a brochure or wherever your small business will be using them.

Effective images are also integrated across multiple communications channels and marketing efforts to add consistency and reinforce messaging and brand identity. Images aren’t limited to photographs, either—they can be infographics or logos, too. Try tying your direct mail marketing pieces to the images used elsewhere in your communications efforts. For maximum effectiveness, make sure your business’s images follow the most basic guidelines of photography, including the following:

  • Point of interest
    Every good image has a specific idea, topic or subject to which a viewer’s eyes are attracted. Other elements in the image should support and focus attention on the point of interest so it alone is emphasized.
  • Subject placement
    In photography, the basic rule of subject placement is called the principle of thirds. This rule is based on the fact that the human eye is naturally drawn to a point about two-thirds up a page. Good images include the point of interest located around one of the intersection points, rather than in the centre of the image.
  • Perspective
    Perspective is essentially the way real three-dimensional objects are represented in an image that has a two-dimensional plane. Perspective can serve to give viewers a sense of relationship of objects to one another or to a vanishing point or horizon line. Perspective is also used to create the illusion of lines—known as leading lines—that use subjects to draw the eye to the point of interest in an image.
  • Balance
    Balance in image composition is what makes images appear harmonious. Each element of an image has a certain amount of value in respect to all the other elements. For example, objects in the upper part of an image can seem heavier than objects of the same size in the lower part of an image, or intensely interesting objects can seem to have more compositional weight.
  • Contrast
    Contrast of colours, tones and textures in imagery can emphasize certain parts of an image or direct a viewer’s attention to the point of interest.  In black and white images, contrast is considered the difference in subject tones from white to gray to black or from the lightest tone to the darkest tone. In colour photography, the use of different colours creates contrast.
  • Framing
    Framing is also a guideline used to direct the viewer’s attention to the primary subject of a picture. Positioned around the subject, a tree or an archway, for example, can create a frame within the picture area. Subjects enclosed by a frame become separated from the rest of the picture and are emphasized.

When looking for images, be sure to check out stock photography sites and creative commons sites in addition to considering hiring a photographer or taking pictures in-house in order to find the image that’s right for your business and its message.

While searching for an effective image, if you find one that is particularly representative of your business or your message, consider using it in multiple marketing efforts. Maybe the image from an advertisement is also used on your business’s website or worked into branded direct mail giveaways like a Letter Opener or a Magnet. Or, consider using this image in conjunction with giveaways for the office, like Picture Frame Clock or frame or a Bookmark, to use internally for building internal brand loyalty.

Collections of professional photography can also be used to create general brand awareness or boost your business’s brand, like this scenic Calendar.

In understanding what makes a good image, your business or organization is supplied with the knowledge to use images in ways that work the best for your message and your audience.

For more tips on effectively and strategically choosing an image check out our Blue Paper® What’s in an Image?

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