Registred Creative’s final of a three part series discussing the quality of art we need to make our clients look their best. We’re carving these posts into Dots, Vectors, and Caliber. Welcome to “Caliber.”

What we’ve worked through in the previous pieces (Dots and Vectors) covers the technical aspects of what makes an image “look good.” There’s another side to images. An aspect that is, literally, subjective: The subject or content of your images. Content also encompasses the style, quality, color palette, composition, and an endless list of art lingo.

Three blog posts in, some people might, justifiably, begin wondering if images are worth all this trouble.

Worth the effort.

You can reference a dozen studies that show, posts with images get 94% more views. There’s no shortage of articles illustrating the allure of images for Facebook and Twitter users.

The extra search engine credibility a web page picks for images with proper HTML tagging improves discoverability. Photography is also more accessible than ever before, so readers expect images in your blog post, report, or brochure.

Even with all of the above, there’s a fundamental reason to include images.

Everyone loves a picture.

Research shows that 50% of our brain tissue is tied to vision. That’s a whole mess of brains for visual processing. The challenge is picking the right images for your project.

Before we get into image selection, let’s make sure you work with images you can use.


Simply put: Do you have permission to use the image? Using someone’s work without permission might have karmic repercussions. Get caught using an unlicensed image from Getty and there will be financial fallout.

Using images without permission also implies you don’t value content enough to pay for it, give credit to a Creative Commons contributor, or hunt down something suitable from the public domain.

If that’s the case: Why should anyone value what you’ve written between the images? So, let’s look at the images you can use. Here’s a quick summary on the most common permissions:

  • Public Domain Images: These are a free-for-all. No permission needed and no restrictions on use.
  • Creative Commons: These licenses allow images to be shared, used, or built upon by others. Attribution is typically required.
  • Royalty-Free: Also known as known as “stock,” royalty-free isn’t free. You pay once for a perpetual license. No one gets an exclusive license.
  • Rights Managed: Specific licenses for specific uses. Typically at higher fees than anything else listed.
  • Original Photography: Creating your images means that no one else can use them—unless you grant permission.

Help with original photography.

If you don’t have the know-how to produce the work you want, you can commission it. Registered Creative has produced a wide range of images for ourselves and our clients.

Everything Should Contribute

One of the first questions you should ask in looking at an image is: Does it contribute? Ask yourself that question when you consider adding an image. How does this image contribute to the goal of the piece? Tossing in any old image isn’t useful for the reader.

Quality Images

So what do you look for in a photo? Quality is difficult to quantify. It’s how people end up saying things like “I’ll know it when I see it.” Thankfully Jakob Nielsen has done amazing work researching what people look at and for how long when visiting a site. Nielsen’s research shows that visitors view images that are:

Photo by David Spratte. See this image and more in the full Lebanon series.
  • Crisp & colorful
  • Cropped, instead of reduced, to fit small spaces
  • Not excessively detailed
  • Highly related to the content on the page
  • Smiling & approachable faces
  • People looking at (or at least facing) the camera
  • Appetizing food
  • Clear instructions or information

As visually wired human beings are, more studies from NNG show that people tend to ignore images that are:

  • Low contrast
  • Too busy
  • Look like advertisements
  • Not related to content on the page
  • Boring
  • Include generic people or objects (blatantly stock art)
  • Cold, fake, or too polished

It’s easy to take study results like the above as a checklist or set of rules to follow. Don’t. Keep them in mind, but whatever you do, stay true to your brand.

Support Your Brand

If you’re looking to get Instagram famous, all your images should be square. It’s the format associated with that platform.

If your plan is to journal about rebuilding houses, you can get away with raw, less polished, images since it’s about works in progress.

Although, if you’re a wedding photographer, you’re going to want to make sure your images are professional and polished. But, if your approach is behind the scenes, casual, documentary photography, then you have more latitude. (Those pictures sound way more exciting.)

The above doesn’t mean the degree of finish on images can’t be blended on a website or within a brand. A photographer who shares process pictures of studio or lighting setup has a case to use less refined images in those pieces.

Color Correcting

Often clients draw from a wide range of images. Maybe some public domain with a bit of stock art. Perhaps original photography from several events courtesy of volunteer photographers. Some images may come in with different (or incorrect) white balance. A variation in white balance can produce dramatically different, overall, color casts.

Color cast is a great example. Focusing on color is something that film directors have done for decades. For example, Stanley Kubrick had a thing for red. Over his films, it became a signature of sorts, akin to a brand.

A step we take on nearly every project that brings varying image color is to color correct the images. We look at your graphic or brand standards, and if we need to shift a collection of disparate images, we make those changes in a way that reinforces your brand.

There are other adjustments we may make—for example, making sure our team photos are cropped and scaled in a similar way.

That’s it. More questions? Feel free to reach out to us. We’d be glad to help with your Dots, Vectors, and Caliber

David Spratte

Creative Director

About the Author

David has been working in design and photography for more than 20 years. When he’s not sweating the details at Registered, he’s likely working on his really old house, shooting personal projects or racing cars. Obviously not all at once.

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