Our brains process visual information in an instant, which is why images are essential for business communications. pictures, photos and illustrations tell a story and bring your business to life. So, in this article, I explore the best images for commercial use and important points for consideration.

Images for memorable communication

When creating polished presentations, reports and other documents for business, I am keen to include visuals. There are four reasons why:

  • Firstly, images provide a concise and effective means of sharing information.
  • Secondly, the eye is drawn to visual information, so an infographic, compelling picture or diagram boosts engagement and, ideally, an emotional connection.
  • Thirdly, information accompanied by an image is 55% more memorable than without. (Source: Brain Rules).
  • Finally, a message can be understood even where there are language barriers or the person has difficulties reading, such as dyslexia.

As an SME, it’s important to take every opportunity to make our brand and communications effective and memorable, so we need images. However, we also need images that send the desired message, so how do we achieve this?

Which images to use for business

The first point to make is that not using an image is better than using a poor quality image. Blurred, pixelated or distorted photos look unprofessional and your message, however important, will be discounted.

My second point is that you can’t use an image you find in a Google search. Whether you can see a Copyright symbol or not, an image or illustration is the intellectual property of the person who created it. Use it without their permission and you may get sued. The British Library provide comprehensive information on How to Avoid Copyright Infringement.

Also, to build trust in your business, select images that genuinely represent what you do. A city skyline doesn’t well represent a business based in Tring and a team of smiling faces isn’t exactly appropriate for a funeral director or dispute lawyer.

Sourcing images for commercial use

So, what are the options for sourcing images for commercial use?

1. Create your own visuals

2. Use free images covered by a Common License

3. Select stock images

4. Engage a photographer or graphic designer

5. User-generated images

Create your own visuals

If you are confident and competent, take your own pictures. A snap of something you are currently working on, or when you are out networking or at an event will be more realistic than somebody else’s stock image.

Pay attention to the lighting and what’s in the background. Equally, check that it still looks good when scaled up. Photo editing apps and software are great for finessing your pictures and ensuring they match your quality standards.

Be aware, not everyone likes their picture taken so be respectful if photographing people. When capturing a pic of your product, ensure the image is about more than just the product; make sure it’s aspirational and consistent with your brand.

Using your own photos is cost-effective and a good way to avoid copyright infringement. However, if your skills are more amateur than professional, opt for one of the following.

Use free images covered by a Common License

Pixabay and Little Visuals are examples of sites that specialise in free images. On these sites, the photographers and illustrators agree to let their images be used for free. In some cases, there is a condition, such as crediting the photographer or not modifying the image. Microsoft apps also have a wide stock image library to choose from. The downside of these free images is that these are widely used and aren’t specific to your brand, so they don’t help you stand apart.

It’s also worth saying here that overused images may get you down rated by Google algorithms if they are recognised as content that isn’t unique.

Select stock images

Shutterstock and iStock are examples of sites where quality images can be purchased for a small fee. With a wider selection than on free sites, you are more likely to find the subject matter and style of choice. On these sites, it’s possible to purchase one-off images or subscribe for frequent use. However, the issue around the images not being a genuine representation of your brand remains.

Engage a photographer or graphic designer

The best option is to have unique images that genuinely reflect your brand. Therefore, engaging a professional, and providing them with a clear brief, is a worthwhile investment.

A photographer’s brief includes details of your brand values and an overview of your business. Tell the photographer what you want them to capture, the message you want to get across and what the images will be used for. Your budget will determine how much time is spent with you and the number of photos supplied.

I always plan everything. If you can, think about all of the images that will be of use for the coming months, social media, events, presentations and printed documents. It makes sense to get everything you need in one session if possible. If time permits, use the opportunity to get profile shots of your employees, along with photos of the team at work.

User-generated images

The final option is to encourage customers to upload their images of your products onto your social sites. This can provide you with a great selection of images, however, there is no guarantee of quality and you will need to monitor the content. If you think this could work for your brand, competitions and other incentives can be used to promote sharing.

Optimising images for search

Engaging viewers is one thing, but images can also be used to optimise your website content.

Ideally, your web developer would have followed best practices to make this easier. That includes applying structured data that links images and text, as well as including images and infographics in site maps.

Using original images, in the right size and format also benefits SEO and user experience. An article in SEMRush goes into greater detail on image optimisation.

Every time you use an image in your presentations, brochures and reports or on your website, there is an option to add an Image Title and Alt Tag. These are your opportunity to describe what is in the image and, ideally, include a keyword. Fill them in, as this helps search engines index the content. Equally importantly, it enables visually impaired visitors to use screen readers to understand what’s in the image.

Maintain an Image Record

If your business uses images from multiple sources, it can be useful to maintain an Image Record; a record of where images were sourced, any permissions or licenses gained, and where the images were used. The document can also include an overview of brand guidelines and other key information to avoid copyright issues.

 A snap summary

Let’s be honest, we all make instant judgements based on what we see and our customers are no different. To market our business and enhance communications, we need to present our products in the best possible light and ensure our brand is memorable. Therefore, we need quality images that have been legally sourced.

To assist you in bringing your business to life with images, I’ve recently added an Image Record to my template library. This is free to download. Contact me if you would like this tailored and branded for your business.

Pictures bring your business to life