Including photographs, illustrations and graphics in your marketing is more important now than ever: it’s the visual web.
Images are powerful in eliciting emotions and encourage social sharing.
However, before you start, consider their end use.
With printed materials, everyone sees the same end result. However, when it comes to computer monitors, we all have different models, sizes and resolutions so you just have to accept people may view your images on a phone, tablet, mac laptop or office PC and find a good balance.
Look at your website on a variety of devices to experience how your customers might see your pictures.
Creating Your Website Homepage Image
It’s common for websites to use a large lifestyle shot for their homepage.
As it’s the first thing a visitor sees, it’s very important to give the best first impression of your products and/or services that you can.
If you want to use text over the image, you need to consider your composition. Leave on the top left around a third of the space free (because we read from left to right – and this is the best and most logical place where text should go).
Also ensure that there is good contrast in that area so your text can be read clearly.
Here is an example of a good homepage image for Nom Living, with space for text in the top left corner and a composition that draws in the eye:
Images for Website Product Listings
Usually these images will be cropped square, so consider this when styling, arranging and framing your products.
Leave enough space around your product so it does not look squashed. Most cameras can display square crop lines on the LCD screen as a guide.
If it’s for a cutout (on white) make sure you leave space around all sides of the object so it can be neatly placed into a white webpage.
Also, consider the relative scale of your products when they are seen together. You can add more white to the canvas of your image, which will add white only to the edges, not increase the size of the object in the photo.
Here is an example of square cropped product images for Jessica Hogarth.
Images in Your Blog or Email Newsletter
Images are a great way to create a visual brand, to break up long texts, to emphasise a point you are making, or to show examples.
Keep your images under 800px wide to allow for all screen sizes.
You can also create a collage combining 3 – 4 images with a thin white line between each. This is done by resizing the individual files and combining them into a new image in editing software. You can tell a story this way by combining certain images that relate to each other.
An example of image layout for a blog or newsletter using image spacing:
Images in Printed Material Including Magazines, Flyers, Posters, Banners, Brochures
For smaller flyers, brochures, posters and cards images files will need to be of high resolution (min 300dpi), so shoot with the highest quality setting your camera allows. This is also the setting to use when you are sending image files to the press.
Never ‘resample’ an image to make it larger, only when reducing it in size.
If you want a banner for a trade show or a very large poster, in many cases a lower resolution image (120dpi) can be good enough. That sounds contradictory, but it’s all about the relative viewing distance.
Save your image as PSD or TIFF in the first instance, as this will also allow you to create and save layers in your design as you add text and so forth. If you plan to include your logo, this should be in vector format (so it is scalable without losing resolution). If you have a hand-drawn logo, scan it to a very high resolution so it can be enlarged.
Images that will be printed professionally should be converted to CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black). These are the colours used by printers in the offset printing process. Your camera, scanner and computer monitor will output images in RGB (Red, Green, Blue) and while this is fine for the web, email or a CD, the colours in RGB images can alter when printed.
Many clients have said to me ‘I sent this image to a magazine, but it came out too dark’ or ‘the colours don’t look right’. Spend time getting this right, because all that work creating your product is wasted if your images do not convey it’s colours accurately.
Converting to CMYK is only possible in more advanced photo editing software, so if you don’t have the option yourself, make friends with your print production company. They are the experts and will advise you on what to do to get the optimum results. The final file you send to a printer should always be a high-resolution PDF. But check with the print company, as they will send you their minimum requirements.
Shoot RAW if possible and change to CMYK if printing professionally.
Creating Images for Your Business Card
The same rules apply for smaller printed materials.
However it’s now fairly common for creative business cards to be printed on unusual materials, or cut in different shapes. For example the popular service Moo offers mini cards, which I’ve used before. These are very affordable in short print runs, but cropped to half the size of a normal business card. I used this to my advantage by choosing a photo that suited the crop.
Also bear in mind the cards often print much darker than expected, so double-check all your colours before ordering.
An example of a photo design for a Moo Mini card, with the image chosen to suit the format:
Use Images in Social Media
For all the different social media platforms (such as Twitter and Facebook) optimise your images for web. Keep them under 1,000px wide on the long edge.
Only select the best and most eye-catching to share with others, otherwise your followers will lose interest and the least interesting images will decrease the quality of your brand.
Bare in mind that your images may get saved, pinned, shared and emailed all over the web without you ever knowing. Naming, describing and tagging are all very important! You can add watermarks or a Creative Barcode if you are concerned with piracy, and to embed your copyrights within the image file.
Also, consider including your logo and brand colours within the image itself, for example on a wall in the background.
Images on Twitter
Images on Twitter are very popular and get very often re-tweeted. They can be really become a big part of the story you want to tell, or the brand you want to create.
It’s easy to upload an image when you send a tweet (especially if you use an i-phone). However keep it under 1000px wide to ensure it loads quickly and make it relevant to what you’re tweeting about so your followers will be encouraged to look at it.
Another clever way to use images on Twitter is on your profile! Under ‘Settings’ you’ll find ‘profile’ and ‘design’. In there you’ll be able to edit the header (the small rectangular image that goes behind the ‘about you’ text.
You’ll also be able to edit your background, which is basically like a desktop wallpaper. But, you need to work around the twitter feed and other set graphic elements. One option is to use one large image 1920×1200, so it still looks good when cropped to smaller screen sizes. Keep the file under 800K in size.
You can also upload an image that tiles (repeats) in a regular pattern – great opportunity for surface and pattern designers!
Whatever image you use for your background it will stick to the top left of the screen, so you can also add icons, text and images in that area.
Images on Facebook
Love it or hate it, Facebook is a great source for inbound links.
Unlike Twitter, readers will see the full image in their feed, so it’s a great opportunity to use your most eye-catching images.
If creating albums, add text info with a link to your product listing.
Images & Pinterest
Pinterest is quickly becoming one of the most popular social media tools. And increasingly it is successful as a marketing and sales tool, so especially as a creative it is a great marketing opportunity to show your own work, but also to share your visual interests, passions and themes.
If you want your images to get pinned, keep an eye on the trends and popular boards and make sure you have a ‘pin it’ button on your site. Etsy, Folksy and many other platforms have this already built-in.
If you are looking for a good value back up solution for your images, then Flickr might be the solution. The Pro account is under £20 a year and offer unlimited storage. You can choose if you photos are visible (and downloadable) to the public or private.
You can now decide (or not) to allow pinning from Flickr, which is one of the best sites for generating inbound links to your pages if you name, describe and tag your images well.’