Andi Best Freelance Designer

So You Need an Image for Your Marketing Project?

  • Published 19-07-2017
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So You Need an Image for Your Marketing Project?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, which is just as well because words are monumentally boring. If your website, your advertisement, or your marketing collateral were all unforgiving walls of text your audience would shun you in favour of something more captivating. Imagery is powerful stuff. It can attract, intrigue, decorate, educate, set tone and, if balanced correctly with supporting content, make the overall article easier to digest. If you're going to use imagery in your project it's very important to get it right.
So where do marketers, bloggers, et al get images for their projects anyway?
There are three perfect options:
Option one: Google Image Search.
So You Need an Image for Your Marketing Project?
No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Sorry I lied, there are in fact only two perfect options for sourcing imagery and Google Image Search is not one of them. A lot of people erroneously believe that images returned in a Google search come from an all-you-can-eat buffet, ready to be repurposed for any use imaginable without consequence. Worse still, some people regard the entire Internet as an all-you-can-eat buffet and help themselves to images they find on everybody else's websites for use in their own projects. The very simple fact is that all the imagery you encounter online is the property of someone else and to use it yourself is copyright infringement, punishable by law in severe cases. Here's a story for you. The head of a design studio I work with once asked a colleague to create a promotional poster for the windows of their premises. The colleague decided he wanted a model in the artwork for reasons that now escape me. Here's where the colleague went wrong. Instead of exploring the two other options discussed next in this post, he browsed the Instagram website until he found an image he liked the look of - a trendy male in a plain T-shirt posing against some railings, published to the site by the model himself. The colleague saved a copy of the image to his local machine, cropped off the bloke's head to scupper identification and planted the remaining torso into his design. Save, print, hang in window. A few days later the model published a new photo on his Instagram account - a selfie taken standing in front of the very same poster in the window, proclaiming his annoyance that his torso, identifiable by very specific tattoos on his arms that the colleague overlooked, had been used without his consent. Complaint, legal action, remove from window.
People will be rightfully angry with you if you steal their visual content, be it photography, illustration or otherwise. If it's published on the web, it's totally off limits.
So if you can't pilfer other people's imagery online, what other options are there?
Option two: Stock Libraries
So You Need an Image for Your Marketing Project?
There is a caveat to the last chapter; not all imagery online is off limits for use in your projects - you just have to part with a little cash to use it. Stock Images (or royalty-free images) are available from a vast number of library websites, each with their own purchasing mechanics such as subscription models and credit banks. The content range of the larger Stock Imagery libraries is pretty immense so it's more than likely you'll find images to adequately reflect the content on your pages. But before you commit to buying the photo you have your eye on there are some pretty important dos and don'ts to consider.
DO check the Usage Rights carefully. Every Stock Image will be accompanied by a breakdown of how/where/when it can legally be used. Invariably this will explain that you are not purchasing the ownership of the image, but rather a limited license to use it. You cannot therefore claim the image as your own or sell it for profit, plus you will have to adhere to the subsequent conditions outlined in the license, which can be anything from restrictions to the type of publication or medium the image can appear in, to restrictions on the countries you're allowed to display it in.
DO buy the images yourself. If you require a Stock Image to appear in a piece you've commissioned a freelance designer to create it's best practice to purchase it yourself and forward a copy on to your designer. By doing this you retain full control of the transaction history between yourself and the Stock website, you have unhindered access to the image forever more, plus any VAT incurred in the sale doesn't get entangled in the expenses web between the three parties.
DON'T buy the image first! As mentioned, do buy the image and hand it to your designer but only after the designer has assessed it personally. What you find aesthetically pleasing and what the designer knows will be workable in a layout may not align. All too often I get sent Stock Images from clients that have a disproportionate composition, are the wrong contrast for overlaying other elements, or are even the wrong orientation for the planned application. Avoid spending more on retouching costs or buying replacement images by including your designer in the image selection process.
DON'T use Stock Imagery at all!
I realise I just sold you the benefits of using ready-made Stock Imagery but ultimately my advice is to avoid it altogether. The reason? Originality. Remember that license you're purchasing to utilise the image? It isn't exclusive. Everyone else is entitled to use the very same image and before long this happens:
So You Need an Image for Your Marketing Project?So You Need an Image for Your Marketing Project?
Above are (redacted) screen captures I took from Twitter where a Stock Image Library published consecutive tweets promoting the popularity of their service, but in doing so, inadvertently demonstrated how frequently multiple parties have been licensed the same image. Imagery should be cohesive to your brand identity. With photography this should come down to the type of models used, the composition and spacing, the light balance - even the focus. Illustration will have the same considerations and then some. The point I'm making is that your brand identity is an intricately crafted kit of aesthetics, voice, positioning and message that enables you to stand apart from your adversaries. You'll be devastating all of that work and logic if you choose to crowbar a worryingly recycled Stock Image into your collateral, that does anything but ensure your brand is unique. Moreover, there is a lot of embarrassing Stock Imagery out there, particularly within the Office Stock genre which is absurdly popular right now.
So what is the best solution for sourcing marketing imagery?
Option three: Commission
So You Need an Image for Your Marketing Project?
Simple - commission a designer, an illustrator, or a photographer to create a bespoke image for you. Not only will that guarantee an original, never before seen visual that upholds the values of your brand, but it'll also be tailored to your exact specifications and feedback. For example, Computeractive magazine once produced an advertorial based on the demise of Windows XP. Where a typical Stock Image of a Windows system could have been used the Client instead commissioned me to create a digital illustration to complement the content. In fact various magazines at Dennis Publishing including Octane, evo and Cyclist normally outsource photography for their monthly issues, but for their marketing efforts they occasionally commission me to create bespoke, attractive illustration. In the past I've enjoyed producing a milestone campaign illustration, artwork for an award winning campaign and limited edition artwork for all three of these titles.
In summary, if you've got a hole in your project, don't fill it with illegally acquired imagery, don't fill it with heavily replicated imagery, fill it with custom-created, precisely considered imagery that you can feel proud to showcase to your audience and call your own. Get in touch with me today about developing some unique imagery for your next project.
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