Sunday, 1 May 2016

My Useful Guide: Understanding Imagery

It is said that a picture’s worth a thousand words and when it comes to imagery, quality is everything.

There are two main types of imagery used in design: vectors and Raster graphics. But what is the difference and how do you get the best out of your images?

Vector graphics
A vector graphic is made up of a series of paths, with points and curves. These paths make any shape, whether it’s a straight, hard-edged or curvy.

Vectors are made using design software such as Adobe Illustrator and are most commonly used for logos and illustrations. Vectors can be scaled up to any size with no loss of quality as the edges stay clean, smooth and most importantly, don’t pixelate. 

Raster graphics
Raster graphics, also known as bitmaps are images made out of a series of blocks called pixels. For example, images imported from your digital camera or photos found online will be raster graphics. The more pixels an image has the bigger the file size and the higher the quality. Popular file formats include Jpeg, GIF, Tiff and PNG.

Raster images can be scaled down in size with no adverse effects to the quality. The issue comes when scaling up. Enlarging a bitmap can cause the image to lose quality and become blocky and ‘pixelated’, making the image look blurry. Commonly referred to as a low resolution image.

Raster images provide a detail and depth of colour that can’t be achieved by vectors, which are generally made up of solid colours or gradients.

Your Logo
All logos should ideally be vector based as it can then be reduced to fit on a business card or enlarged for billboards and the logo will still be the same high quality. If however your logo is a jpeg, the quality will be heavily compromised when scaled above its original size.

In most cases a business will require both photography and vector graphics across their marketing material.


Stock versus personal photography – Which is best for your business?
Is it best to use stock imagery sites and download an image from an online catalogue? Or do you employ a professional photographer and build up your own in-house photo library?

Stock photography
Time is the biggest advantage as images are available to download immediately, all you need is to sign up and buy credits and you’re away. Not only is it quick it is relatively cheap and there is a huge variety of images from a vast number of contributors.

One factor to consider when using stock imagery is that the images can be downloaded by anyone, any number of times. Meaning there is a chance that your customers and clients could see the same image elsewhere. The images also come with licensing restrictions that could include usage limitations and caps to print runs. Always make sure you are clear on the terms and purchase an extended licence if required. Stock websites such as Istock, Getty and Shutterstock are a great starting point.

Professional photography
If you want creative control and characteristic images then a professional photographer is for you. This is a more expensive way of starting an image library but it is well worth it.

You may have an idea of content but a professional will know how to achieve the most impact and will be able to direct and suggest ideas you may not have thought of. Take advantage of a half or full day shoot and work on achieving a series of shots rather than just one.

Creating an image library this way adds to the feeling of professionalism and quality that businesses should wish to instil. Most importantly giving you the resources to create impactful and targeted marketing material, enhancing your brand identity.

Professional photographers are a great investment for product photography. Achieving clean detailed shots with correct colour representation should be paramount when promoting products. With the aid of studio lighting, light boxes and props, a professional will show your products at their best.

If lifestyle images are what you need then a photographer will have access to all the supporting people you may need. Models, make up artists and artistic directors, with the knowledge of locations and backdrops all to suit your brand style. As an alternative to sourcing a location, why not use your own premises and staff and add a personal feel.

Professional photography has the best of both worlds. You can achieve the high quality, bright, well-styled shot of a stock image with the creative control and personalised representation you need to maintain your brand. Stock imagery will always be somebody else’s interpretation of the idea and not a true representation of your business and ethos. Working with a photographer will keep your marketing material true to character, helping to create a connection with your clients.

If you are after inspiration please have a look at our portfolio. Alternatively, if you need advice planning a photo shoot, The New Fat can help pull together everything you need.