4 factors that make a powerful visual
We’re living in a visual world, and becoming far more fluent in the language of pictures. With an avalanche of images coming at us every day on screen and yes, still in print, the question on everyone’s minds is: how to stand out?
The average viewer has become savvier about fresh design trends, sensitive to played out styles and digital manipulation, and thus ever more highly attuned to who the imagery-makers, -takers, and -fakers are. Bold, unique content is king, and those who incorporate it in their projects and stories are far more likely to see higher engagement with their audience.
Here on the Getty Images Creative Research team, our job is to figure out which images are resonating with people and why, and then to work with our talented, global team of contributors, art directors, and editors to continue to create the visuals of tomorrow.
So which pictures are packing the most powerful punch? We’re finding that the most resonant images make use of the four “I’s”:
The age of heavily retouched models is over. With the proliferation of social media and camera phones in virtually every pocket, we’ve become far more used to seeing a wide variety of aesthetics and options pop up on the visual landscape. Human beings come in all shapes and sizes after all, and the aberrations of real life are being more readily embraced. Real people with real bodies are more popular than ever, as are images that have a bit of blur, sun flares, glitches, or other “mistakes.”
At Getty Images, we’ve seen this trend play out with a change in the type of imagery we’ve been selling over the past seven years. Our most popular 2007 baby versus 2015 baby shows the latter is clearly more candid and largely out of focus. It’s not the perfect moment, but it is a real moment.
Using imagery like this in your projects adds a spirit of authenticity, trustworthiness, and heart to your message. And it celebrates how life really is in all of its messy splendour.
On a similar note, showing people of varied backgrounds and experiences is no longer an option, it is imperative. Visibility and equal representation is top of mind these days, so campaigns must continue to be as diverse as possible. We’ve seen a huge rise in demand for pictures of non-Caucasian people, people of differing abilities, and people in the LGBT community, and we predict this will only escalate. On gettyimages.com, searches for transgender images have gone up 5 times over the last 5 years, and brands like Google, H&M, and Make Up For Ever are using transgender models in their campaigns. Sesame Street just introduced Julia, their first autistic character and Target featured a differently-abled girl dressed as Disney’s Princess Elsa in their Halloween ad. MAC’s “MACnificent Me” campaign features people of all genders, shapes, and ethnicities using cosmetics to embrace their individual beauty.
Inclusivity is not only the right thing to do, it’s what the market is asking for. And there are as many ways to be inclusive as there are human beings in the world. The key is to embrace differences while highlighting the universal humanity that connects us all. This means using images that are contemporary, respectful, and let each person’s inner light shine forth.
Chances are, you’re reading this on a screen. In fact, chances are, you view most things on a screen these days. You may have noticed that images on said screens have gotten far more detailed, vivid, and impactful with each passing year. That’s because the more plugged in we are, the more designers try to engage our senses, and make us forget we’re viewing much of the world through remote digital windows.
There are also more sophisticated cameras than ever before, which can capture images that have extreme points of view and strike powerful emotional chords. This means we can now create pictures that make the viewer feel like they are experiencing the scene first hand. Companies from Go-Pro to Apple to Lily are pushing the boundaries of photography, with their video cameras, iPhones, and drones allowing for new access and angles to be seen like never before (and their current campaigns naturally show off their most stunning imagery).
This is happening at every scale. We’re seeing a rise in lush, macro images of food, animals, nature, and objects that make us feel as though we can reach out and touch the fuzz of a peach or smell the plumes of incense smoke. At the same time, we’re seeing images that utilize hyper-wide compositions which capture the expanse and majesty of the world around us.
In either case, visuals that are immersive and make us feel as though we are part of them are highly effective, because they wake us up, thrill us, and remind us that we are tactile, sensory creatures.
The prevalence of pictures is exciting, but it also creates a challenge. With so many brands trying harness the user-generated, “real-life” sensibility that’s so popular now, they run the risk of having their campaigns look very similar to each other. That’s where the power of repicturing comes in. How can you take a subject like an office meeting that’s been shown many times over, and turn it into something new? How can you freshen up timeless concepts like “exploration” or “individuality” and differentiate your project from everyone else's?
These are questions we ask ourselves every day at Getty Images, because we have those same challenges, too. And we’ve found that by pushing the boundaries of imagination, and allowing ourselves to be as experimental and playful as possible, we’re able to consistently resurrect ideas from the cliché graveyard, and give them new life.
We do this by working with the most innovative photographers and videographers on the planet, and encouraging their styles and unique perspectives to come through their shoots. We also seek inspiration from everywhere, not just from within our industry, and pay close attention to the latest developments in fine art, cinema, science, and technology, in order to figure out how we can apply burgeoning creative techniques to our own picture-making. Finally, we try and continuously surprise ourselves by looking at the world around us through a lens of fascination and limitless curiosity.
It’s a great pleasure to create pictures, whether from new ideas, or through the transformation of eternal ones. When imagination is infused into imagery, the results are effective and infectious.