Using images rather than text-based posts is a good way to get your content to stand out on social media. But simply uploading a photo is not enough. It is important to make design decisions based on what you're trying to communicate. Even the most subtle choice you make can drastically change the message or tone that is being conveyed. Remember: There is no right or wrong answer across the board; it's simply a matter of evaluating what works best for your brand and your goals.
Here are five small design changes that make a big difference.
1. Focal point
On any image, you want there to be a focus -- otherwise, you run the risk of a viewer losing interest and not paying attention to the content at all. There are many ways to establish a focal point: contrast in size, contrast in color, and amount of white space. You could also create the focal point by directing the viewer's eye. Take the example above. On the photo where the subject is looking into the camera, a viewer will tend to focus on the person's face. Whenever the subject is facing text, you're likely to follow their gaze to see what they're looking at.
There are times when you will want a wide shot. Sometimes you want to show vastness of a landscape or you want to display a multitude of objects. Other times, you want the focus to be on one subject and the background noise just becomes a distraction. Cut out the noise by giving it a close crop. In certain cases, an even closer crop only partially showing a subject could be used for one of several reasons: to make a striking visual statement, to create interest -- leaving a viewer curious to see more -- or to convey confidence -- as in, "Our product looks good even close up."
3. Weight of type
Typography is a crucial component in visual communication. Even something as subtle as changing the weight can significantly impact a message. Call out certain words for emphasis by giving them a heavier weight than others.
4. Logo placement
There tends to be disagreement among brands and marketers as to how and how often a brand's logo should appear on images posted on social platforms. When possible, consider having your logo appear on a product in the image -- in order to make it look more "natural" and social media-friendly (i.e. shareable). On the other hand, some brands have their mark appear on the same spot on almost every image as sort of a "stamp" or template. This can help build and maintain brand recognition online.
5. Subtle gradients or patterns vs. flat color
It's the age-old design debate (at least since 2013): flat vs. realistic design. Proponents of flat design would argue that texture and gradients are distracting and unnecessary. Those who argue for texture find flat design boring and perhaps not as friendly to the eye. I find that adding a subtle gradient to a background can give it more depth and, in some cases, make it more pleasing to the eye. At the same time, flat color isn't always boring; the right color used in the right layout could make a bold statement or provide clarity by letting the content shine. There is a place for both, and it all depends on what you are trying to achieve.