The Basics of Business Visuals

Mickey Mathis photographing me by Susan NewmanBusiness owners need visuals for so many different purposes. Let’s discuss how to pick the right ones, what sizes and resolutions are needed, and how to use them for maximum effect.

Whether you are a wedding cake designer or an insurance salesman, you need to take and use photographs and videos. You need imagery for your website, profiles on social media and community sites, business cards, Powerpoint presentations, marketing materials, and advertising in print or online.

  1. Know your branding and marketing strategy. The imagery you use is helping to tell your story, so when selecting images be sure the message and feeling are right. For example: I must pay homage to Oscar de la Renta, the Dominican fashion designer who just recently passed at age 82. We can all visualize the colorful, flowing and sometimes extravagant gowns he created for Hollywood’s celebrities and royalty too. Seeing the stars wearing his creations is the imagery we have come to love and the meaning of “style.” When we think of the presentation of his logo/wordmark, which is a friendly script style not unlike a signature and his elegant yet simple website to showcase the designs, to the ads you’d see in magazines, everything plays its part in enhancing that visual style in our mind’s eye.
  2. All images should be shot at a high resolution. This is because the resolution can always be brought down (i.e., for web usage) but never up if you want to keep the same image size. Always go for 300 dpi or higher for images that you’ll print at the exact size needed. That’s the standard resolution; anything lower may be rejected as unusable. 72 dpi is the correct resolution for web usage. Most digital cameras have settings to adjust the resolution and size or you can adjust once the images are uploaded to your computer.
  3. Make sure that both your personal portrait and products are shot in good lighting. It doesn’t make a good first impression if you’re in a dim light or if the photos are blurry. Don’t get too close on video, or too far away. Hire a professional photographer who can get it right, and communicate your needs and preferences before the first shot is taken.
  4. When using imagery for a PowerPoint presentation or your company brochure, be sure you have consulted a graphic designer or art director. You’ll want to select images that build on the concept of your services and the brand messaging, as well as figuratively represent the details on the pages. The images will need to embellish or compliment your speech, not distract.
  5. If both the client and the consultant are creative businesses, such as a film company working with a branding company, both will want to be part of the discussion when imagery is selected for promoting an event or opening. Remember that all opinions are valid and that it’s a team effort, because few creatives appreciate being “bossed” like hired help. Once the concept has been agreed upon, give the designer the opportunity to self-express and show various layouts. If the solution isn’t working, discuss other options as a team.
  6. Imagery is often used in three different formats – horizontal, vertical and square, so when shooting photos or selecting stock photos, be sure you keep in mind how the image is to be used. For example, book covers are usually vertical, so if a photo is selected that is horizontal, the chances are slim the image can be full bleed (cover the layout). If you are selecting an image for a wide space on a website, don’t select something tall.

Remember that imagery helps tell a story, but make sure it’s the right story for your business. Too dim, too far away, blurry, out of proportion, or just plain badly chosen – images with these attributes don’t attract new clients and customers.

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