Image Explosion: Aiming for Quality in Quantity

We have all heard it said “a picture is worth a thousand words”.   

But is it any more?

This saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” came into popularity in the early 20th Century when street cars began to have advertisements on the side and marketers began to realize that a picture was far more effective than words at capturing people’s attention. At the time, pictures were more unique and could turn some heads. Now we see hundreds of images every day, plastered around every corner, and every sidebar possible.

With the invention of the personal camera becoming so compact as to fit into the cells phones we carry around in our pockets, people can take picture or video of what there are seeing within a few seconds, post it to the internet in another second where it can be seen literally all over the world by anyone at anytime.  You would think that this reality would cause people to post fewer photos; however it seems to have the opposite effect.  What if i told you u don't have to instagram to eatPeople are documenting their entire lives… from what their morning coffee looked like, to what the weather looks like outside, to how fabulous their hair looked like before they stepped out into the weather…to what shoes they are wearing, what the guy on the bus looked like while he was sleeping, and what the pencils that they freshly sharpened look like at their desk.   A recent Google search said that 250 million photos are uploaded on Facebook and 40 million on Instagram each day (check out this article: http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/17/instagram-reports-90m-monthly-active-users-40m-photos-per-day-and-8500-likes-per-second/).

Economists will tell you that when any item floods the market, the value of that commodity goes down.  So the question is, with more pictures being produced and bombarding our eyes each and every day, has this increased or decreased the value of a picture in our day and age?

My answer: it depends on the picture.   With more images, the quality, uniqueness and appeal of the image becomes more important than ever.   As do the few words that we chose to accompany those images.  Less is more.  So choose your image and words wisely. Take this image for example:

Sick care health care

Pictures in media and marketing convey key messages and meaning that cannot be expressed as well, or at all, through spoken or written words.  Pictures can manipulate us, change what we think and what we do.   That is why, those of us who work in health, need to work just as hard as all the other industries, to convince people, populations and decision makers to make changes to support health.  Weak, boring and ambiguous images, are likely to translate to an ineffective message and impact.

Here are some basic tips for a wikihow on how to harness the power of graphics in your communication campaign: http://www.ehow.com/info_8340275_importance-graphics-mass-communication.html

The point I found particularly useful from this article where that graphics images can communicate across languages and cultures, and have the potential to reach a wider audience, including those who may not speak your language or even be literate at all.

Here is another article about choosing the right photo for your story: http://blog.bleacherreport.com/2011/09/06/choosing-the-right-picture-for-your-story/

It is more geared towards capturing sports stories, but the truths remain for other industries and sectors including health.  The main points are:

1. Quality control: Above all else, you’ve got to be sure to use a high-resolution image.

2. Tight area of focus A wide or busy photo will confuse the reader, and his or her attention will quickly divert elsewhere.

3. Story-specific: You always want your photo to sell your story.

4. Bright is best: Always, use the brightest colors possible when selecting an image …. A bold, bright color is going to pop no matter what the rest of the page looks like.

5. Face time: Readers don’t want to see hats or helmets. They want to see a face. Period…faces bring clicks. It’s science (well, statistics).

6. Emotion sells

7. Keep it clean

8. Think like a reader

With the internet, we are returning to oral and visual forms of communication culture over the primarily text-based culture of the past.  If you want to communicate something important, take the time and effort to find a excellent graphic to do so.

 

Suzanne VW

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