25 April 2018

Working Words: How best to use images

The tenth instalment in our "Working Words" advice series offers two minutes on how to get the most out of pictures...

In an age where Instagram can make people famous and we all carry a camera in our pockets, there is no disputing that images are important. Crucial even. Particularly in communications; when used effectively a visual aid can complement and enhance written content. So how can they be used to convey the point that you are trying to make?

First, consider your channel. An image on social media will be viewed differently to those in an email bulletin or on a corporate website. Understanding your audience and format will better inform your decision on what type of image to use. Getting it right is the difference between using an image to fill space and successfully bring your content to life. If you are creating a luxury publication, for example, you may favour photography over a diagram or digitally created image.

Next, consider your content. What are you trying to say, and what reaction do you want your readers to have? If you are hoping for an emotional response, use a powerful image. These types of images can help personalise an issue. For example, readers may not be engaged reading a 100 page scientific research paper about a disease or condition, because they are not emotionally invested in it. But with the use of a powerful image the storytelling process can be brought to life and make the research more engaging.

Infographics can be a particularly useful tool for social media, to help explain a more complex message quickly. This can be especially engaging when you have limited characters to play with on Twitter, for example. Perfecting the right infographic can take time and effort, but this use of a visual image is a good way of getting your audience's attention and gaining traction.

In blogs, images are typically found at the top of the page or spaced throughout the text. They act as a representation of the core content so finding the best one to accompany your text is important. Find simple images that relate to the topic matter, as they are often also used to showcase the article on social media. This will help entice readers into reading the longer post and drive engagement levels.

As a general rule, try to steer clear of using bland or simplistic stock images. Similarly, avoid using an image more than once on the same channel - your website isn't going to look particularly inspiring if the same pictures are used repeatedly.

Creating good content is about more than just well-written words. Blogs with images get 94% more views than those without; it is worth stopping to think about how you are using an image before uploading it. Your images might not become as iconic as Dorothea Lange's 'Migrant Mother', but, if used correctly, can certainly paint a thousand words.