From setting up a website to curating your Instagram feed, finding the right imagery for your brand is crucial. With so much pressure to compete in almost every industry, your photography needs to be on top form, no matter what space you work in. Whether you hire a professional photographer, Photoshop your own images or use stock from sites like Unsplash, your images represent who you are, how you work and who you’re trying to target – so make sure you get it right.
Having just finishing designing my second website, and building my third personal brand, I wanted to share some of my experiences in developing an image strategy that truly represents me and my business. From discovering a colour scheme to moodboarding and Pinterest pinning, I’ll be sharing my process from start to finish to help you curate the image bank that really does work for you.
Figure out your theme
For most businesses, their representative images are closely linked to their industry. A site for a dental office, for example, will curate images of teeth, happy patients, clean waiting rooms, glasses of water and crisp white clinical tones – comforting potential patients with themes of cleanliness, hygiene, sparkling white teeth and fresh minty scents. A beauty brand, however, will curate a more aspirational theme, displaying the flawless skin, glowy highlight and vibrant colours their products can deliver. Their models will be diverse, demonstrating their big range of foundation shades, and the images should be clear and high definition, to promote the dewy, even texture of the face. The scenes depicted in the images, however, may differ in setting – showing potential customers the different places these products can be worn, from the everyday office to the red carpet. These images are consciously postioned to create an imagined lifestyle that customers will want to obtain through the purchase of these beauty products.
So what’s your theme? Try sitting down and making a list of your services, target audience and brand values. Who is your target customer and how will they use your product or service? What are the images that are most likely to appeal to their taste?
My site, for example, is designed to target small independent and eco-friendly businesses. With aspirational imagery in a soft, earthy colour scheme, I aim to attract florists, jewellery designers, crafters, bakeries and coffee shops, so I’ve included images of greenery, coffee and stylish interiors throughout my case studies. My business is based on the morals of beautiful, honest and minimalist marketing so I try to convey that through the minimalist photographs I select, utilising them to reflect the creative approach I can deliver.
Pick your subjects
It can be easy to fall into the trap of the ‘two ste connection’. This is where you connect your business model with a plain image of your service in two simple steps. You get from A to B, upload the image and move on. Whilst this process is quick and easy, it’s also the process of your competitors, and their competitors, and every single business just like yours across the country. To truly stand out, you need to get creative with the images you choose.
Make a second list, this time detailing all potential subjects of your curated images. Say, for example, you start selling independent eco-friendly candles in an online store. You have a great range of scents, and your candles are listed by product in your e-commerce site. Whilst on the product pages, you would use standard images of the candles, throughout the rest of the site you need to be creating the luxury lifestyle that your potential customers can achieve through buying your candles. Use images of white bedding, fresh coffee, woven baskets, eclectric scatter cushions and eucalytpus leaves to create a ‘boho lifestyle’. Or feature images of amber glass bottles, wooden serving spoons, rough kitchen tables and piles of natural Himalyan salt for a rustic home-made demonstration. Your branding isn’t limited to images of your products. You can do so much more by simply getting creative, and thinking outside of the candle jar.
Don’t worry if list-making isn’t the right approach for you. Instead why not research similar websites or social media feeds to see how other industries have utilised imagery in their branding. Pinterest is a great space for finding website inspiration, and imagery inspo too, to help you figure out just how creative and colourful your site can be.
Find your colour palette
In my experience, I’ve found that there are two different types of colour palette to apply to your image curation. The first is the key colour, or colours, that you want to appear throughout your brand. For example, if you’re using imagery on a website for children (or parents), then primary colours in red, yellow and blue typically work well. In this instance, you could also find images that heavily feature those colours and work to your theme . This might mean they feature pencils, apples, swings, balls, teddies, etc… Even if your image only has a small pop of your chosen colour this can still work as part of an overarching scheme.
The second colour palette is tone, so whether your image bank is light or dark. Light images tend to highlight daytime, sky, white spaces, negative colour spaces, sunshine, light natural colours where as dark images typically showcase jewel tones, dark spaces, late nights, dusk, brown earthy shades and faded black, purple and navy tones. You can achieve different results by using a curation of light images instead of dark – trasmitting different messages, voices and styles to your audience through these images. Light images are often used in healthcare, travel, administration, science, home goods and food industries, whereas dark tones are typically found creative fields, floristry, fashion, beauty and technology spaces.
Evaluate your image bank
By now, it’s likely that you’ll have quite a collection growing in your image folders. So it’s time to evaluate your images as a collective – asking yourself ‘do these images go well together?’ ‘Do they have similar textures and colours?’ ‘Do the subjects all relate to my business, my aesthetic and my brand voice?’. Try to look at your images as an Instagram feed, editing your collection to make sure that every image works and delivers, removing any that look odd, out of place or don’t fit to your scheme.
Then it’s time to start distributing your images. Find out which pages or social media platforms need images, and which images might be the most appropriate in those spaces and make a note of your choices. It’s also important to remember that these images may serve multiple purposes, some may become featured images on webpages, might become logo backgrounds or business card images, so try to factor this into your curation.
Ideally your imagery collection should represent you. Your target users should look at an image and think ‘yes, that works’, ‘that fits the brand’, ‘that tells me something about this brand’, and so you should make sure that all of your images are beautiful and coherent enough to match the quality of your business.
If you’re looking to fully evaluate your imagery bank, I’ve also made up a helpful Image Curation Cheat Sheet to encourage you to question your images, and find out which ones really work for you.
Thanks you so much for reading, and if you’re looking for more content from me, make sure you check out my new podcast ‘The Lonely Freelancer!’
P.S I’m now adding audio versions of my blog posts for anyone who prefers/needs to listen to them instead! The audio link will be at the top of every future blog post from now on, so give it a listen!