In many cases, the key to great design is to have access to great images. Content with relevant imagery is much more likely to obtain views than content without images because visuals are processed in the brain much quicker than text is.
Because of this it’s crutial that you select images with an understanding of what works for your intended audience. In a perfect world you would always be able to create your own photography and images, however, sometimes timelines and budgets don’t allow you to do so.
Here are some tips and examples to help you during the next time that you need to download stock photos for a project.
1. Tell a Story with Your Images
When stripped down to its core, graphic design is all about creating an emotional connection with your audience. A story begging to be told is the best way to kindle a raw emotional connection with your audience. The key to intriguing this sort of curiosity in your audience, often lies in imagery.
The image above, for example, shows a surfer on a sea cliff looking out at the powerful surf in the distance. Imagine you were creating a digital ad campaign for a travel company aiming to target young adventure seeking individuals to come to California. Depending on how this image was used, it could convey a story of someone seeking a special connection with nature, adrenaline filled adventures, or even solitude and an escape from everyday life that the target audience would identify with.
These are the emotional reactions that you should be looking to create when you are selecting images for your design projects.
2. Look for Images that Have Meaning and Purpose:
Millions of images are uploaded to social media on a daily basis. With such a barrage of images, you may be wondering how any single image can shine through the visual white noise that we have created and grab the attention of your audience.
The simple answer to this question is in the understanding of what images we stop for and why we stop for them. In short, we stop to look at images that have some degree of meaning to us and we ignore anything emotionally neutral. The reasoning behind this is that you are always subconsciously seeking out a personal connection which is why branding and advertising work in the first place.
According to research done by The New York Times’ Customer Insight Group, people mostly share content online for five reasons. They are: to bring valuable and entertaining content to others, to define who they are to others, to nurture relationships and stay connected, to feel more involved in the world, and to support causes or issues they care about.
The imagery that you use in your designs should connect to your intended audience by meeting at least one of those five needs.
3. Feature Real People, with Real Emotions:
Once upon a time people expected to see polished, flawless models in professional graphic design. That time, however, is no longer here and you can thank the rise of social media for that. Because of social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, audiences these days are wanting authenticity and will be able to tell ‘real’ imagery apart from ‘fake’ imagery from a mile away.
Visual imagery that features real people and raw emotions - from a family’s love to a thrill-seeker’s bliss - will hit the sweet spot when it comes to your audience relating and sharing your content. By focusing on human relationships and the stories of real people, you will be able to move your audience and really connect with them on an emotional level.
4. Use Color Strategically:
As stated earlier, the core purpose of graphic design is all about creating an emotional connection with your audience. It’s important to not ignore the significant role that color plays in provoking emotions so don’t choose colors simply because they look good.
Correlating different hues in your imagery with the emotions or characteristics that you want to invoke will help create that emotional connection between you and your audience. The emotional color wheel largely depends on context and the intended audience but it can help guide you as a general rule of thumb.
05. Represent Your Audience:
One major key to connecting to your audience is knowing your audience. When you are clear about who you are specifically targeting as your audience, it can be a great idea to feature similar people in the images that you use in your designs.
Nike, for example is a fitness company that targets athletes and people who value fitness training. As you would expect; when Nike advertises they use images of athletes and people doing fitness training. It seems painfully obvious but it’s a sure way to connect with your targeted audience because people are always subconsciously looking to connect with people that are similar to themselves.
There are plenty of image libraries (some paid, some free) with a diverse selection of authentic looking imagery so you really have no excuse for not taking the time to find the right images.
Stock Photo Sites: