Picture this – the art of image selection

A picture is worth a thousand words, so it’s worth investing some time and effort in conveying the right words. When it comes to producing our client marketing materials, we consider the images that accompany our text to be just as important as the text itself. So we don’t want the accompanying pictures to detract from the message.

While stock photography sites are a rich source of professionally produced high-quality images, not all of the results we find under a particular search term are suitable for the content we produce. The reasons why some images make it into our client newsletters, for example, and others don’t is not always just about whether or not a photo will fit the layout.

Getting the tone right

For example, it would be quite reasonable to see a photograph of a ‘happy family’ alongside an article about the importance of inheritance tax planning

But the family in the picture above? Not so much. Not only does it convey entirely the wrong message (celebrating their inheritance due to a death in the family?), but the poses are far too contrived. Have you and your family ever joyously flung rose petals into the air whilst seated on a neon green lawn?

This picture, however, is along the right lines for tone, colour and focus:


A matter of interpretation

Different people react differently to images, sometimes to a surprising degree. If we were to illustrate a story about working from abroad with this man on the beach below, is he really a “businessman in paradise” as the picture tag indicates, or could this be interpreted as someone about to embark on a Reggie Perrin-style escape bid? Believe it or not, we’ve had this kind of conversation in the editorial office more than once. Sometimes ambiguity works, but can also undermine the story. So getting other opinions can be really useful.

Businessman in paradise 2b

Business man in paradise

The devil’s in the details…

It’s only too easy to find a picture you really like and then realise that there is something just a bit wrong about it. International differences are a typical stumbling block.

When doing picture research, we often find the perfect image only to discover on closer inspection that those coins are euros, not pounds; the prices on the blackboard in the background are in dollars, not sterling etc, so we have to really look at the details in the image.

For example, this is a good illustration for an article around car benefits. Except for one thing.

Woman driving a car

She’s driving on the wrong side of the road. So this won’t work for our UK newsletters. Instead, we need something like this:


Some things we can’t anticipate. There was a client some years ago who called to object to an image of a couple going over some paperwork in their garden, on the grounds that the man in the photo had a beard and none of his clients had beards. Things appear to have moved on since then – but we think twice!

Picture research is a fun, creative part of the job. We hope you enjoying looking at the finished product as much as we enjoy putting it together. With a few judicious tips, hopefully you’ll also enjoy finding your own images when creating your own newsletter articles.


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