Powerful images convey the brand promise on their own, without the need for long explanations or catchy slogans.
But what is the powerful image? That’s a hard question.
As Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart answered when asked to define pornography: “I know it when I see it.”
Likewise, it is hard to define what makes images great. They just stick in our minds and inspire us to commit to a brand. It is hard to define the formula for one, but as the wise justice said: you’ll know it when you’ll see it.
You need to imagine which composition conveys the brand promise.
Which people are in the image? Where are they? What are they doing? What are they wearing? What emotions are they experiencing? Are they looking into the camera or away from it? What humor, drama or romance can you depict?
You can also study your competitor’s photos. Are they showing what you would show? What are they doing wrong? What are they doing right?
Let’s list the rules for composing a powerful image:
A. Avoid ‘stocky’ photos.
We’ve all seen the polished people with blank eyes and fake smiles. Yuck. Even Disney has the common courtesy to add villains. Cheesy stock does nothing for your audience. Worse, they can create aversion to your brand.
B. Never compromise on quality.
Avoid low-quality images. They will do more harm than good. So make sure your object is well-lit, in focus and has good resolution. (At least 72 dpi for online, preferably 300 dpi for print).
C. Don’t bore or freak out your audience.
People are bored by large crowds (there’s no one to focus on) and historical subjects (no clear relevance to their life). Then, close-ups of faces are experienced as slightly grotesque. (Especially yours.)
Also, try to stay away from violence.
D. Use depth-of-field.
Depth-of-field is your magic bullet. By making sure your object is in focus and the background isn’t, you quickly evoke a professional feeling. Many consumer-grade camera’s offers this function, so use it whenever possible.
E. Use emotion.
People react strongly to people. This is just how the brain fires. So the emotion evoked by your image is immediately felt by your audience. This helps to grab their attention.
Make sure it’s the emotion your brand needs to convey. If you’re selling designer handbags, arouse a haughty sense of style. If you’re running a charity, you’ll want to inspire a crippling sense of sadness.
F. Picture your audience.
If your audience consists of baby-boomers, don’t show millennials. Make sure you depict people, situations, and emotions your customers can relate to, and make it feel real.
If you are mixing audiences, be sure the group composition doesn’t raise any questions.
G. Create dead space for text.
Text in an image is always read by your audience. Text beside, above, underneath or behind an image isn’t.
Therefore, try to achieve some ‘dead space’ in the composition of your image. This is an area where nothing is happening so I can insert text without a noisy background distracting from it.
You can move elements and extend photos by cloning entire parts of it. (Using Photoshop) This is the easiest way to make room for your message.
H. Add action.
If there is some visceral motion going on in the picture, people know there is a story being told. Movement means energy and energy means attention.