April 12, 2023

How to Select Engaging Stock Images

Imagery plays a major role in setting the tone for your brand and collateral. It can be calming, lend credibility, inspire confidence, and help your firm stand out. Or it can do the exact opposite.

When selected correctly, stock images can reinforce your main messages and indirectly convey a feeling or theme about your firm. Bad imagery selection betrays a lack of original thinking and creativity. This can make it harder to build trust and create a positive brand impression and identity.

For asset management firms, subtle differences in imagery can have big consequences. Selecting stock imagery for a presentation, website, or other collateral should be done with careful thought. It takes time and sometimes several variations to select the best imagery for your brand. 

Here are a few tips to consider:

Avoid clichés: Visual cliches (the handshake, the bridge, the globe) exist. And just like written or spoken cliches, they portray a lack of original thought and can be misunderstood. Does the handshake signify partnership, new business, an introduction, a goodbye, or congratulations? Instead, select an image that evokes the specific feeling or idea you are trying to convey. For example, if you want to showcase team collaboration, try images that highlight people working together in a business setting from a unique angle or vantage point.

Be unique: City skylines, bridges, and mountains are examples of imagery that is overused in asset management. If you can’t avoid picking one of these images, make sure you find a way to have it stand out. Instead, of the traditional mountain top image, try one at dawn or a non-traditional shot or something that is more abstract.

Avoid the “grip and grin”: Select stock photos that don’t look like stock photos. When using images of people, avoid the ones of people standing and smiling directly into the camera.  Instead use an image that shows activity, conveys a story or idea, and is less staged.

Use professional images: Make sure the image you are using is of the appropriate resolution and has been cropped correctly. Something as simple as the quality of an image can speak volumes about your firm, and standards. Don’t forget to have the appropriate permissions to use and edit the image.

Avoid Ambiguity: Make sure the image is easy to understand and evokes a clear feeling, emotion, and idea. What is the image on the left?  Dead grass, a poorly maintained golf course? It doesn’t evoke any clear feelings (other than confusion). In contrast, the image on the right immediately conveys a sense of calm, memories of the smell of the ocean or the feeling of the breeze likely come to mind.

Use color carefully: Select images that have colors that compliment your brand palette. You also want to use them consistently across collateral types. If your dominant colors are blue and green, selecting images that are black and white with create a feeling of disconnection and unease. The images below aren’t necessarily bad options if they fit in with your brand color palette.

Bonus tip: It is important to also use tone consistently and in harmony with your message. The tones in these images convey very different feelings. The one on the left evokes a moody, mysterious tone. The other is upward facing and bright.

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