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Picture this

A picture paints a thousand words, right? Well, yes and no. It has to be the right picture and shown in the right context.

I feel like I have been having this conversation a lot with clients lately. Finding just the right image for a campaign that ticks all the boxes can be a challenge. And when you throw in the desire to show diversity across ethnicity, age and gender, it gets even more tricky. The brief often ends up being like the start of a bad joke.

An Irishman, an Afro-Caribbean woman and an older gentleman of Asian origin walk into a bar... "Oh, and they need to range in age from 37 to 74, and if one of them could have a slight disability, that would be great. And there's no budget for this; it will need to be from the basic photo library range. And when you find the perfect image, it will need to be approved by the board to make sure it aligns with our ethnic, age-diverse and culturally sensitive guidelines."

And on many levels, this is great. And important. However, it's not always the best starting point for creating a powerful, engaging and authentic campaign. Rather than having a generic photo that ticks all the boxes, can we not first find compelling stories that will resonate with the target audience? A reason for them to buy X or sign up to Y; get a Covid test or take more exercise? And then find an image that encapsulates that?

A picture may paint a thousand words but, a well-composed story can do it in far fewer. To create great content that moves people to action, I think you need the perfect alchemy of words and pictures.

So, to prove my point, the image I used for this blog is of my mum. It was taken four years ago yesterday and came up on my timeline today. This image means nothing to you. You don't know her and, you're probably not a 67-year-old woman with a weird love of ridiculous hats. The photo is not well taken. It was just a quick snap of a moment in time. But this could still be a great campaign image (admittedly with a lot of help from Photoshop). Imagine an online photo storage company is trying to encourage you to back up all your photos to their service...

Free up storage space today so you can take more photos of your loved ones. PRODUCT X Because you never know what's around the corner

Ok, I'm not a copywriter, and that's a pretty dark example, but it shows how the words paint the picture. It gives a whole different meaning to what is just a family snap.

Tapping into emotion is always going to be a good starting point. As another example, the image could raise awareness for a brain injury charity.

Imagine waking up tomorrow with no memory of who you are. Trying to piece your life back together from the last photos you took. CHARITY X Donate today to help more people find their way back to loved ones

For every image, there are a thousand stories. For every story, there are a thousand images. Finding the right combination is what makes the difference. If your designer or copywriter is pushing you to rethink your image brief, hear them out. There may be another way of getting your message across.

So what's the real story behind this particular image? Well, that's my story. It's poignant, heartbreaking, funny, maddening and slightly ridiculous. And also not for this blog. But, it's a great reminder that it's always worth having those difficult conversations with clients over their choice of imagery. It's a timely reminder of why this stuff matters. We often only get one chance to get this right. Oh, and definitely take more photos of your loved ones. That’s always going to be good advice, even if they would kill you for sharing a photo of them in a grass skirt, elf ears and one pixie boot with a bell on it.!


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