A guide to using visual content on the internet and social media networks
In humans, like many mammals, visual perception is the leading one. In simple terms, this means that pictures / videos / gifs and everything related to visual content “catches” the human eye more than text.
The selection of images is not limited to searching in the Google browser or photo stocks. Content visualization is a whole science, which includes the skill of choosing a picture, a sense of style and design, knowledge of legal and technical issues. In this article, I will explain which images are best to use, where to find them for social media and websites. And also let’s go over the technical requirements superficially. Keep this article for yourself, it will be useful to you for a long time.
Why do we need pictures
If we talk about Instagram, then there is no way without them. Even in each of our articles there is at least one picture: the title picture. The article itself may contain additional images. We do not insert them because “everyone does it.” And in order to make reading the text more convenient. Sometimes it is easier to show clearly with a picture than to explain with text. With the help of pictures, we evoke emotions in people. They can be different. But the main thing is that they are.
Before you visually design a section or paragraph, you need to ask yourself the question: “Do you need a picture here?” If the picture does not have a clear purpose, then it is not needed. Sometimes the absence of a picture is much better than a picture that is irrelevant.
Sometimes there are cases when the use of a picture is “right to the place”. But it is so “hackneyed on the Internet” that even if you wrote a super-text for it, the effect will not be the same. By “hackneyed” pictures, I mean those that you have seen not for the first time on the Internet. Let’s talk in more detail about where to look for visual content or how to create it yourself.
Visualization and its formats
Visualization, illustration – all these words have the same meaning. Visual presentation of various types of information. And it doesn’t just boil down to photographs. It could be:
- gif- animation.
- video animation
- graphics and charts
- unique photos or from free / paid photo stocks.
As you can see, there are tons of options to illustrate your content. I’ll go over each option briefly. And I’ll start from the end.
Unique photos or from photo stocks
Almost everyone has a camera phone. This automatically makes you an amateur photographer. Such photos turn out to be real, alive and, most importantly, no one has them except yourself. They are unique and ideal for social media. Type in Instagram search #phonephotos or #mobileshot. See what kind of photos people take on smartphones. One lovely sight.
Smartphone is your most important and reliable source for visual content on social networks. Do your own photo sessions. It is relatively free for you, apart from the time spent on it. Some go further and buy photophones and other gadgets.
Also, dig into the camera settings. At a minimum, enable Grid to use one of the simplest rules of composition – the rule of thirds.
For those on a budget, any photographer is happy to provide their services. Photo sessions can be carried out for different purposes. From creating a personal portfolio to an individual photo session for website design. Just recently I came across a site where you can see a uniform visual style in the photos of the team in the “About Us” section. Each employee was dressed in a “white top, denim bottom” style. If everyone just submitted their photo, the visual effect would not be the same. And so “style and marketing” is immediately felt.
In case you need to find a couple of unique photos for the site, you can use paid photo stocks (Depositphotos, Shutterstock). But with photo stocks, not everything is so easy for business. Photos are suitable for commercial use only with a license, if you do not want to have problems in the future.
A small educational program on licenses for photos
Free for personal / commercial use:
You need a Creative Commons license. It has 6 types, each with its own limitations. The common thing is the need for attribution in all cases. But as practice shows, this does not work in reality. For commercial purposes, it’s better to play it safe. Surely, you will want to add your logo to the photo or change something in it. Therefore, choose with the appropriate license.
- CC0 – means transfer for free use (common domain).
- CC-BY – images can be edited and modified;
- CC-BY-SA – the license applies to all content generated from the image;
- CC-BY-ND – Any image modification is prohibited.
Paid personal / commercial use of photos:
Even if you paid money for a unique photo, the author has the right to set his own conditions. So read the requirements for use:
- Royalty Free – can be used only on the terms of the author (number of times of use, permission, term of use), the number of image sales by the author is not limited;
- Extended Royalty Free – Extended Royalty Free license;
- Exclusive Buyout – the buyer gets the exclusive right to use, the author cannot sell the image to anyone else;
- Editorial – editorial photos for informational purposes only;
- Rights-Ready license – an image for the project.
This is a quick snapshot of the selected area. You need to visualize with screenshots step-by-step, complex instructions. Screenshots can be taken on smartphones and laptops. For the latter, use either the built-in programs on the operating system or special programs: Joxi, LightShot, Ashampoo Snap.
Everything that you cannot express with photographs can be conveyed with drawings by hand. Illustrating with drawing services is not as difficult as it might seem at first glance. Try Paint.NET, Flame, or Autodraw. Anyone can draw a picture in Autodraw. Even a child can do it. You just need to start drawing on the letterhead with a marker and the application itself will offer you a suitable picture on the top panel to choose from.
Schemes or Smart Cards
Once the publishing house “Mann, Ivanov and Ferber” laid out mind-maps by books. The reviewer read the book and mapped the key points. Firstly, information about the contents of the book is presented in a very structured way. Secondly, it takes up the optimal volume in comparison with the text. Third, you don’t have to be a copywriter or designer to design a mind card. To do this, use screenshots of your mind-maps from applications: iMind Map, XMind, MindMeister.
Graphics and charts
When you need to visualize data, statistics, or numbers, use graphs and charts. To create them, use: Visme, Highcharts.
I hope this word has long been included in your lexicon. If earlier it was necessary to involve a designer in the design of infographics, now it is within the power of anyone who can understand the principles of work of applications for “non-designers”. Use for this services: Canva, PowToon, Piktochart. Basically, you just need to select a template and fill it with your data.
Video is the most popular format after photographs, or I would even say that it is “in one leg”. The younger generation teaches the word Youtube right after they learned to say “mom and dad”. Very often, bloggers have a link to their Youtube account in the profile header. First, they upload a video there. And then they publish a teaser on Instagram. But the best option for promoting Instagram is to use unique videos shot with a smartphone or professional camera. As a reminder, for Stories it’s best to shoot vertical video. For the main, news feed on Instagram – horizontal. Go into the settings of your phone and select the desired resolution for video recording. The most obvious parameter that can theoretically improve the quality of a video on Instagram is shooting in a higher resolution. For example, in 4K resolution. Or experiment with alternatives.
When using someone else’s videos from Youtube or downloaded from Instagram, be sure to indicate the author. Or best of all, shoot yourself. Everyone knows how to use Youtube. Don’t forget about Vimeo and RuTube.
To create a video animation, you need several images that you can “blind” into one whole video. Additionally adding text, sound or music. On the account of music for commercial use, again, there are legal issues with a license. Creating video animations is no more difficult than drawing using apps. To do this, use the services: Animaker, Moovly, Explee.
The GIF format dates back to the eighties and is gaining more and more popularity, including among ordinary users. GIFs allow you to show movement or a step-by-step process. Just upload videos, images or provide URL of images to any of the Imgflip, Ezgif, Makeagif applications. As a result, you will get something like a slideshow. You can also create a gif from a finished video.
As you already understood, the approach to visual content is a “delicate matter” and requires certain skills and knowledge. In this article, I tried to explain that proper illustration is not limited to just picking an image for social media. And if we talk about the choice of images for the site, then you also need to know how to correctly format the images technically, so that when ranking the search engines will evaluate all the elements of the page. Happy promotion!