How to Choose the Right Photos for Your Design

How to choose the right photos for your design

Here at Deprigo, we create hundreds of designs for both print and digital use each month and through all those projects we’ve learned a thing or two about best practices. As our resident photographer, I’d like to shed some light on some things all designers want you to know about choosing photos for your design. Before we begin, I’d like to mention that there are always exceptions to every rule, but this is a good framework to consider before you get started:

1. Where is this design going?

Are you creating a brochure? A social media post? A billboard? The placement of your design is going to greatly affect the specs, so you should have a good idea ahead of time what you’ll be doing with it.

For instance, the minimum resolution required for a small, square Instagram post will be drastically different than the minimum resolution needed for a billboard. Your designer will also need to know if it’s intended for print or digital, as each uses a different color system. These are things you can tell your designer and they’ll be able to guide you in the right direction, but you’ll need to think about your strategy beforehand as it will change what your design will need.

2. Who is your target audience?

Before you start the design process, ask yourself, “Whose eyeballs do I want on this design?” Different audiences will respond well to different imagery, and, before you start, you need to know your target customer personas. This is something you have to consider as a part of your marketing strategy as these decisions will affect every single aspect of your customer journey- yes, this even trickles all the way down to how much contrast you want to use on the background photo on your poster.

Your marketing strategy is a science and an art, and you need to keep that in mind as you create a coherent brand strategy. For instance, using a random photo of a pink sprinkled donut to advertise a conference for open heart surgeons might not work very well- unless, of course, you have a solid branding strategy to back it up. Have a plan from the onset and build from there so your marketing doesn’t become haphazard.

3. What is your message?

What are you trying to tell your audience? Maybe you’re announcing your new medical offices opening- in that case, you’ll need to include a clear photo of the front of your new building. Maybe you’re advertising your new dog walking service- then you’ll definitely need pictures of dogs… lots of them.

The point is that you need to consider your message and choose images that compliment that message. It’s easy to get off course, but stay focused and your design will be effective and engaging with the right photos.

1. Do you have high-quality photos handy?

In today’s marketing climate, you likely have an arsenal of promotional photos just waiting to be used. Right?

If not, why? Between your website and social media presence, you need to have high res photos to use as a tool to tell your brand’s story. This is your chance to put your best foot forward and the cost is not as prohibitive as you may think.

I highly recommend setting aside the funds and scheduling out an afternoon to get your company photos done. One photo shoot can provide enough content to fuel your marketing for months. And these photos can be used in all your print and digital design work as well as your social media. Having professional photos on hand gives you the opportunity to build confidence with your customers and open doors you didn’t know existed through your social media. 

2. Hire a professional.

While most smartphones have fantastic cameras on them these days and there are plenty of times where using your phone to snap a quick photo for posting online is perfect, you really need to hire a professional at least once to get photos to complete your brand. Especially if you’re using the photos for printed materials.

A professional photographer will know how to help you bring out the best in your organization. They’ll help you find lighting and locations that will engage your audience, and they will help pose and prompt you to get your best angles.

Any time you hire a pro, tell them what you plan to use the photos for ahead of time. Any photographer worth their salt will be able to deliver photos that are perfect for use on your website, social media, and printed materials- and they’ll tell you which is which. You may want to create a more polished front on your website, whereas your social media can be more fun and relaxed. They can help you craft a targeted story for each touch point on your customer journey, and that is why you need their help getting started.

They’ll also help you avoid the…

1. Low-Resolution Photos

Remember that perfect scenario for using an iPhone photo I mentioned above? That is a very specific instance and 100% of the time it is digital. To put it clearly:

Do not use iPhone photos on your printed materials.

Do not use low-resolution photos of any kind on your printed materials.

Do not use low-resolution anything on your printed materials.

You’re spending good money on the design and printing costs, why on earth would you skimp on the part of your piece that will resonate with your audience most? Engaging photos draw people in and compelling photos stick with people long after they’ve thrown your printed materials away. And let me tell you, low res photos are in no way engaging or compelling.

Make sure your photos are well-lit, in focus and high enough resolution to print clearly.

2. Stock Photos

Stock photos can be either a life saver or the worst mistake you can make. There is no in-between. Use them wisely.

To wrap it up…

Be mindful of the brand image you are creating through all your marketing efforts. You may need to spend a bit to get things done right, but sometimes you need to trust the professionals. Quality is always worth it in the end, and your entire marketing team, from the graphic designer to the photographer to the print staff to the web developer and everyone in between, all want the same thing- to help you succeed by putting your best foot forward!

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