Are Your Pictures Telling the Right Story?


The best copy will only get you so far. Effective images are a crucial component of any content marketing you do — from stories you post on your own website or blog to mat releases, infographics or listicles you distribute to media websites. Great images are the fastest vehicle for getting your story noticed by editors and readers looking for compelling content.

But there are many do’s and don’ts when it comes to incorporating images into your content. With a few smart strategies, your image will aid, not hinder, your quest for maximum press coverage and user clicks.

Limit Branding

Prominent logos or products positioned dead center and in the foreground are definite don’ts. Overt branding like this may sound great to your boss or client, but these strategies are ultimately unhelpful. At first glance this will look like traditional advertising. Why? Because that’s essentially what it is.

Any content marketing, and especially mat releases, should deliver messages artfully. And the image, which takes up a lot of real estate on a newspaper page or media website, is no exception. So take a “less is more” approach. This is not to say that your photo must be devoid of your product entirely to be successful, as there are many instances where it is appropriate.

For example, images showcasing the product or service in a natural context, with logos visible contextually, partially obscured or completely absent generally work great. Products floating on white space or accompanied by infomercial style smiles — not so much.

Rule of thumb: an image should never cause a reader to be confused about whether he or she is looking at an advertisement or a feature story.

Showcase Lifestyle

The best pictures will illustrate the main thrust of the story or at least one of its major components. When making a selection, take the headline into consideration. Think of yourself as a newspaper editor or reader. Does the image seem to come out of left field with relation to the words in the headline? Is this the type of image you’d expect to find alongside a story of this kind in an impartial media outlet?

And lifestyle images tend to work best. Meaning: use images that depict people in a natural, lifestyle setting doing something that illustrates a key point in the accompanying text. Yes, your product can be incorporated into the image, but make sure it makes editorial sense.

Follow Specs

Without image clarity, your message will be lost and there is no point in running the image at all. Optimum size for images distributed to print newspapers is at or around 6 inches wide by 4 inches high when set to 300 DPI. Larger images work too, but 6×4 is a great size to help you garner the widest press pick-up. And images for online distribution should be at or around 600 x 400 pixels and at least 72 DPI to fit with the greatest number of media websites with the least amount of resizing needed. Pass this information on to your design team.

Develop great relationships with editors by giving them what they want. Avoid distributing postage-sized images or photos so large that editors need to spend a long time downloading them and manipulating them to run in their print or online publications.

Proper Licensing

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about image ownership and licensing, and if you don’t follow the rules, you can put your company at risk for a tricky legal battle.

If you hire a photographer, make sure you secure the rights to use the image in different commercial and editorial channels and publications that reach millions of users. Some photographers will grant you unlimited use; others will grant you use for a particular time, while others will only grant you one-time use. Do your homework and get the rights you need in writing!

And if you use a stock agency for your images, take note: you don’t own the image. Essentially, stock agencies sell licenses to run photos for a particular use. That said, buying a license from a stock agency does not make the licensee the owner of the creative work or entitled to include his or her name or company in the credit line. To avoid copyright infringement, the name of the photographer and the stock agency from which the image was sourced need to be credited alongside the creative work.

Additionally, if you are using a mat release service such as StatePoint Media, which guarantees a minimum of 1000 placements and a minimum total readership of 50 million, you’ll want to make sure you’re covered properly. That said, photos must be licensed for unlimited redistribution to multiple parties, reaching an unlimited audience. This is often referred to as an “extended license.”

Your image can help you tell the right story and get seen by your desired audience. Select poorly and your story may go ignored. Fail to get the right license and instead of your picture being worth a thousand words, it could cost you thousands in fines.

Image Credit: ArtFamily – Fotolia.com