What’s the question I find myself asking clients the most? The answer may surprise you. Whether you’re printing materials, producing posts for your news blog or social media, or even writing a press release, the question I will always ask is have you got any images to illustrate your story?

Nothing we produce these days can be created without thinking of the visual element first and it’s not just the rise of emerging technology that has changed that. Our brains respond to visuals far quicker than reading text on a page or screen – according to studies, your brain can process an image 10-30 times faster than you can blink! That’s why it’s so important to think visually as part of your communications strategy.

Let me offer some tips on visual thinking based on our experiences of advising clients.

Tip 1: Make sure you have a great headshot

 
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Unfortunately it’s all too easy to think that a quick selfie on a mobile phone is all that’s required these days. It’s not. These sorts of headshots can give off a very different impression from what you intend. Professional portrait photographers are trained to work with you to take a flattering shot that will complement your professionalism. While you’re at it, get your staff or your team photographed too. Take a change of clothes if what you wear varies depending on the working situation. This is especially relevant for men who may work in both suited and casual environments.

Don’t forget to use the headshot in all the places where it will be publicly seen such as your LinkedIn, Twitter and website.

Tip 2: Find sources for great photographs and use them

 
 Photo from Unsplash

Photo from Unsplash

 

Your photo library should include your own custom shots as well as sources of bought images and free library shots. There’s an abundance of beautiful image libraries online. I am a massive fan of Unsplash’s collections of free images. They invite photographers to showcase their work and all images are available under the creative commons licence.

Unsplash’s images are great for iconic images but they are very contemporary in style which might not always be what you’re looking for. Research the different libraries and pull together a board or document that signposts you to different sources and in what way they can help your business’s visual language.

For paid images Shutterstock is one of the largest sites but there’s also Getty, and Canva too. For free images check out Flickr, Pixabay and Unsplash

Tip 3: Google Images is not your photo library.

 
 Photo from Unsplash

Photo from Unsplash

 

Using someone else’s photography for your own business, unless explicitly allowed under usage terms, is an infringement of copyright law. Don’t be tempted to do it because you might find yourself in hot water with a large powerful company. Instead use Google for sourcing ideas when researching,  make a note of images you like and then go and find similar, licensed images or simply use them for briefing purposes when commissioning your own.

Tip 4: Use tools like Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest for storing and sharing ideas

 
 Photo from Unsplash

Photo from Unsplash

 

Photo sharing social media platforms like those above are again useful places to get guidance on the sorts of images you might need for your own library. Look at your competitors’ photographs, look at companies you like or admire to gather ideas of what you need in your own image library. Pinterest is a pinboard site, you can even create boards of images to use as reference sources, make it private if you wish and share with colleagues so that they can comment and add to the boards.

Tip 5: Take your own photographs and videos

 
 Photo: By This River Ltd

Photo: By This River Ltd

 

The mobile phone is our best friend for shots, particularly if you’re on the move or at an event. Before you go to an event, work out in your mind what shots you want to take. For example, a shot of the venue name, a photograph of you with certain guests, a screenshot of the speaker or presenter or simply something that captures the mood of the moment. Think too about how you might use the images. Will you, for instance be interested in tweeting some, sharing with colleagues or customers? If they are for public use, make sure you’re taking them in a good light. The one below was taken at a recent breakfast event for a client.

 

 

Videos are also useful too. Don’t forget that most smartphones have a whole raft of functionality now such as time-lapse and slow motion. Here’s a short time-lapse film I took when I was overseeing a photo shoot for a client. The cute kittens were tricky to capture and I thought it would make a fun short video for my client to share.

 

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However one note of caution, remember the limitations of such technology too.

Tip 6: Remember to use words over images

 
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You may notice that most videos popping up in your Facebook newsfeeds have subtitles. This is because most of us don’t like to listen to a noisy soundtrack unless we’re in the right place to do so. In order to still capture eyeballs, those in the know will subtitle videos to ensure they are still watched.

The same goes for still images too. Words over an image are equally impactful. According to inbound marketing agency Hubspot, colourful visuals increase the viewers willingness to read by 80%. As for the words you use…well that’s a future blog post.

 Photo: By This River Ltd

Photo: By This River Ltd

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Tip 7: Think about repurposing your images

Can you use the detail of an image in another way? Can you use some of the most iconic shots for different themes? Can you colour the same image or filter it to make it part of your overall branding? There are all sorts of ways you can re-purpose your content, for example graphics, videos and infographics - which brings me onto my next few tips.

Tip 8: Use icons and graphics

 
 Photo from Charlotte May Jones (http://cargocollective.com/charlottemayjones/HIRE-Me

Photo from Charlotte May Jones (http://cargocollective.com/charlottemayjones/HIRE-Me

 

Graphics are a great way to quickly convey your branding, products and messages. I’ve liked the trend of graphics based resumes as I think it just makes the process more interesting. There are lots of examples on visual sites like Pinterest to inspire you. Even if you’re not a graphic designer there are many ways to help you such as sites like Canva mentioned in tip 2.   

Tip 9: Use infographics

 
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Ever read the book Information is Beautiful? If you haven’t then you’re really missing out. (We’ve got them in our office if you want to take a look!)  I love infographics and despite constant naysayers claiming they’re dead, I don’t see any evidence of this. They put data and words together in ever-creative ways – just take a look at this year’s finalists of the Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards 2017. 

 
 Photo: By This River Ltd

Photo: By This River Ltd

 

Tip 10: Use emoticons

This doesn’t require you to watch the Emoji movie. We’re not that mean. It also doesn’t mean that if you run a funeral home or a tax office that emojis are for your business either but like it or not, they have become part of our lexicon. Don’t be afraid to use them. Look out for how your competitors use them and then start experimenting. The place I’ve not seen them used yet is LinkedIn – so be cautious there.

I hope these tips have helped you to start thinking about your own visual content. At By This River we use all these tools to help make our clients communication simple and effective. Want our help? Get in touch today for a free consultation. 


 
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About the author: Wendy Richmond

Wendy has been editing and writing magazines since primary school, and now ghost writes blogs, media columns and social media content.

 

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