I like to design with emotion in mind, and photography is a powerful tool for evoking feeling. For the majority of audiences, the photo you choose will play a big role in how they perceive your design, and whether or not they act on it.
That’s why I’d like to share what I’ve learned about choosing photography over the years and what I consider when choosing images for my projects.
1. Go high-quality
This should come as no surprise, but viewers link the quality of your photos to the quality of your product. And sometimes, a really great photo can turn a merely decent idea into something truly special. So leave plenty of room in the budget for great photography—it can build trust instantly.
2. Make it memorable
Choose a super-memorable image, and your design will stick in your viewers’ subconscious. Interesting coloring effects, provocative cropping, and unexpected elements and juxtapositions can all make for a memorable image.
But you don’t have to manipulate a photo to make it memorable. Any image that’s relatable for your audience and helps tell your story will do the trick.
3. Know its purpose
Before you can choose an image, you have to know the goals of your project, and how imagery can help achieve those goals. “It’s pretty” just isn’t good enough.
“It’s pretty” just isn’t good enough.
If you’re aiming to increase conversions, include a human face and make sure the eyes point to your call to action. It’s a small change, but it can go a long way to helping you reach your goals.
4. Don’t settle for stock
We’ve all heard the term “stocky.” And if you haven’t, you will as soon as you use an image that feels too generic.
Stock images may seem like a cheap solution—but they come at the hefty cost of making your product or service feel cheap, uncreative, and cliched.
If you’re not sure if your image is too stock, think about the photo of shaking hands you’ve seen on a thousand corporate websites. Does your image remind you of that?
If you have to use a stock photo, alter it a bit to make it unique to your concept.
5. Be on-brand
Brand guidelines exist to create a coherent narrative across every encounter with your brand. So you have to ensure that the photos you choose are also on brand. If you’re stuck with stock, Photoshop your imagery to bring it more in line with the brand.
Brand guidelines exist to create a coherent narrative across every encounter with your brand.
Besides color and tone, look closely at the overall feel of the image. Do the people and props represent the brand appropriately?
6. Aim to engage
Designs become memorable when they engage you—when they evoke moments, thoughts, and feelings from your own experience.
Your photography should pull your audience into your design. If you know your audience and the brand well, you should be able to choose engaging photographs fairly easily. If you’re not so familiar, try to learn as much about your audience as you can and think about your product or service from their perspective.
7. Take your time
For many designers, photography can be a last-minute addition to a design. Sometimes, if a design isn’t working, we’ll do a quick search, toss in a favorite, and call it a day. This is a great place to start—but it’s just a start. Give your imagery search some serious time, and you’ll likely find the image that elevates your work to another level.
8. Give credit where it’s due
This may be obvious, but it’s worth noting. Photographers work hard, and deserve credit for their labors. So make sure you have the appropriate rights for any photos you use. And if you’re using a creative commons work, make sure to read the license carefully, as it may require attribution (aka, a nod to the creator).
How do you choose photos?
So, those are my top 8 tips on picking imagery for your designs. But what about you? Tweet us your top photo-picking tips @InVisionApp. We can’t wait to hear your ideas!
by Dennis Field
I’m a designer, blogger, and the cofounder of a web consulting studio. My passion is to educate. I love helping designers, clients, and students reach their goals through writing, speaking, consulting, and various other services and tools. I recently launched my first book called The Designer’s Handbook, which serves as a career guide for designers who want to learn how to navigate the industry.