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How to use imagery to stand out online

Online content is more and more image based, so using imagery to communicate is now more important than ever. Using the right image might help you stand out from the competition.

The world may be your oyster, but the online universe is your web – both figuratively and colloquially. Countless strands link to an endless stream of content, where even the most savvy trawler can find themselves overwhelmed and frustrated by the web’s sheer volume of content.  Solace is often found in sound bytes, bullets and updates of 140 characters or less.

Using imagery to communicate effectively is more important than ever, and by its very nature, browsing through web content on a screen is incredibly visual. Nothing grabs the attention of a weary online traveller like a good photo or illustration. With social media, increasingly the strategic use of imagery can also help differentiate, create personality and build credibility.

As social media becomes more and more mainstream, simply having an online presence is not enough to distinguish yourself or your business. While content is still king on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, you’ve got to do something unique to really make a statement.

Twitter pages are easily modified. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to change the look and feel of a page with text and imagery to create a certain mood or personality that reinforces your brand.  By incorporating copy into your background image, you can also include additional information, describing your business or the purpose of your page.

Blogs are another medium where a little extra effort goes a long way.  Hobbyists can get away with amateurish layouts, but if you are going to build something that represents your business, the overall look and feel needs to be at the same – or higher! – standard as any professional website out there. After all, that’s what it really is! Often this may mean enlisting the aid of a professional to design the framework for the blog.

Image is key

The most powerful images inform, inspire, confuse, shock and delight.  They unwittingly stimulate a gamut of emotions in each viewer. For them to be effective, they must be chosen carefully.  Some key points to keep in mind when selecting images include:

  • Your audience
  • Your tone
  • Your message
  • Your desired reaction

While the image you choose should relate to the overall topic, it doesn’t need to do it literally. Be creative and have fun with your image search. Remain open to the many different ways you can make your point.

When it comes to your image search, sifting through the millions of images on the Internet through a general search engine query is not the most effective way to find something that reflects you or your brand. If you do happen to find something you like, it’s unlikely to be the right size, shape, resolution and quality – there’s a lot to consider. Copyright and privacy issues also arise, particularly if you are using the images commercially.

An image you can use

While most imagery found online is often copyrighted, there are several places to get affordable imagery that can be legitimately used for a whole host of purposes. For images that can be used for an extended time, as in a website or marketing brochure, art-directed imagery can be found at sites like iStockphoto which has a powerful search engine that makes short work of finding the perfect image.

Whatever images you choose, make sure they properly represent your online presence as it is often the images that will inspire a visitor to spend time on your site or page. It is also often what they will remember the most.

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James Leal-Valias

James Leal-Valias

James Leal-Valias is the Creative Director of iStockphoto, The web's original source for royalty-free stock images, media and design elements, iStockphoto.com offers easy, affordable inspiration from a collection of almost ten million files.

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