“Meh” Visuals? 11 Tips to Make Your Company’s Visual Content More Appealing

By Mark Zeni - 3 minute read

Your company’s image library says a lot about its marketing plan. The images its marketing team chooses to share, even more so. — Yes, even if the “marketing team” is still you, the founder.

Follow these straightforward tips to render your company’s pics, charts, memes, videos, and anything else you can plausibly construe as “visual” more appealing to those you expect to consume it.

1. Trust Your (Untrained) Eye

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: if you truly, honestly think it looks good enough to publish, it probably is.

Yes, this is a potential minefield. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there’s simply no guarantee that your taste is representative of your audience’s. If your standards are unusually low, shouldn’t you get a second opinion?

Perhaps. But you don’t need a marketing professional to sign off on every single piece of visual content you produce. If you have a graphic designer on your team (or on call — see below), then you’re in better shape than 80 percent of early-stage businesses. If you don’t have a visual arts expert on staff, surely you have someone you trust to a) critically evaluate visual content, and b) provide unvarnished feedback on same.

2. Live-Link Your Pins

Not yet sold on Pinterest? Cast off those lingering doubts, set up a page, and begin adding high-quality photos for followers to peruse.

Pinterest is at its best when brands use it as a gateway for awareness- or consideration-stage prospects — consumers researching or weighing their options, but not quite ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. To attract these early-to-mid-stage prospects, you’ll want to live-link every single pin to a corresponding product page, with or without a checkout feature. The Pinterest page for Bixler University is a case in point: a no-frills funnel for students, alums, and parents searching for distinctive class jewelry.

3. Use Solid-Color, Decluttered Backgrounds for Product Thumbnails

From a distance, your product thumbnails should appear cut from the same cloth, even if they’re produced in different locations, at different types, with different equipment. Key to this effect is the background — namely, a decluttered, solid-color, low-contrast background that’s the farthest thing from the focus of the composition.

4. Invest in a Legit Camera (Not a Cameraphone) for High-Touch Photos

A low-key background only gets you so far. So does your off-the-shelf cameraphone, powerful though it may be. If you’re serious about producing and editing your own product photos, bite the bullet and invest in a legitimate digital camera. When those first stunning thumbnails hit your Shopify portal, you’ll thank yourself for loosening your normally tight fist.

5. Find a Freelance Graphic Designer You Trust

Don’t have a graphic designer on staff yet? Not sure you can afford a full-timer anyway?

No sweat. If you’re not running a full-service marketing shop out of your office, there’s no need to invest in an above-replacement designer. Look to reputable freelance platforms like UpWork to find reasonably priced designers capable of performing high-quality work on tight timeframes. Once you find someone you like working with, ask whether they’re amenable to an increased workload; if they are, you may have unwittingly found your first all-visual employee (and perhaps your future CMO).

6. Bone Up on Memetics

One type of visual content for which you probably don’t need a professional graphic designer is the trusty meme. Meme-making crash courses abound; this one is better than average, and beginner-friendly to boot. If you’re humor-challenged, or worried about toeing the appropriate/off-brand line too closely, make it a collaborative effort or farm out the work to a (paid) friend whose judgment you trust.

7. Develop a “House Style” for Promotional Photography

You can recognize your own handwriting at a glance, right? Your photography should be no different. For product photos and candid around-the-office or in-the-field images, work on developing a recognizable “house style” with similar palettes, saturations, and subject placements. This is an impossible-to-overestimate aspect of consistent, professional branding. You might not hit the mark every time, but you’d be remiss not to try.

8. Remember the “One-Thirds” Rule

File this under basic, oft-forgotten principles of photography. Also known as the “rule of thirds,” it asks photographers to divide their fields into horizontal and vertical thirds to create nine spatial blocks. The lines separating those blocks become photographic axes — the spines along which photographers should situate subjects or elements. For whatever reason(s), the human eye responds well to rule-of-thirds compositions, so keep it in mind as you create original works.

9. Vary Your Subjects

This could also read: “don’t be afraid of stock photography.” If you only have a handful of human subjects at your disposal, and you’re not ready to run a casting operation out of your cramped coworking space, turn to reputable platforms like Shutterstock and Pexels (which has an extensive free library) for reinforcements. Most savvy audience members can tell the difference between original and stock photography, but if that’s preferable to running through the same three personnel configurations in a dozens-deep photo library, so be it.

10. Use Popular SEO Tags for Images You Want to Make Discoverable

Don’t sleep on image SEO. Use tags that accurately describe the content of your photos — say, “lake cabin” or “sand dunes”. You won’t rank on the first page for all (or even most) photos you tag, but the extra effort could get you across the line in less competitive cases.

11. Move Beyond #NoFilter

The Instagram hashtag #NoFilter was popular for a minute back there. It retains adherents today, but the moment has definitely passed. And for good reason — tasteful filters absolutely have their place, particularly in marketing materials that call for arresting or surreal visual elements.

Set the Right Tone

Above all else, make sure your visual media portfolio sets the right tone for your organization and brand. It’s better never to post a questionable photo or dash off an original image without proper editing than to realize what you’ve done and rush to take it down before it attracts too much scorn. Your audience is paying attention. Don’t let them down.



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