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11 Tips for Visual Storytelling from the Pros

Visual storytelling is the way of the future. Already, studies show photos and videos increase audience engagement. Marketers are shifting their at...

Visual storytelling is the way of the future. Already, studies show photos and videos increase audience engagement. Marketers are shifting their attention to building a strong library of visual assets to tell their brands’ stories. By 2018, 84% of communication could be visual.

Is your brand embracing the trend?

Photography and videography are some of the most popular ways to show consumers what your product is and how it works. It can be used in virtually any kind of industry, so any business can use these tactics. Whether it’s for aerial real estate photography or a soft drink launch. Having the right photography and videography can really go a long way and show consumers what you’re really about.

To tell fantastic visual stories, you need:

And who better to inspire you than the pros? Here are 11 tips from photographers, designers, social media strategists, creatives and entrepreneurs – all trailblazers of visual storytelling.

11 Tips for Visual Storytelling from the Pros

Lauren Bath, Travel Photographer and Professional Instagrammer

If I could give organisations one tip for visual storytelling it would be this … Be consistent. A lot of organisations overlook the importance of consistency for their visual content strategy. The style, theme, quality and quantity of content will heavily impact how you grow your audience and consistency helps to both grow and hold on to the audience you already have.

Lauren Bath leverages her role as a social influencer to help brands tell their stories. Photo by Lauren Bath.

Hiring locally can make the difference between good content and intimate storytelling. One thing we’ve learned while building is that there are incredibly talented freelancers all over the world, but ensure if you are searching for someone to help you with your work, that you do an extensive background check on them and make sure you know everything you can about them – whether it be searching on their social media pages or reading reviews. Hiring storytellers who are on the ground where you need them, who speak the language and know the culture, will unlock a depth and richness to the end product that can’t be achieved by parachuting someone in for a shoot. helps you to search for storytellers all over the world.

Loretta Grande, Senior Visual Designer, PicMonkey

Be human – show real people, in real life situations. Avoid using images that are clearly stock images (people in contrived poses). An audience tends to glaze over these images and pays no real attention to the content. The more unique the image, the more unique your brand will be.

Photo by Loretta Grande.

Danny Ashton, Founder of visual content and infographic design agency NeoMam Studios

Never underestimate the power of simple imagery to tell complex stories. Think about the Paleolithic cave paintings of Laschuax or Chauvet; at a glance they might seem uncomplicated, but their simplicity belies the rich narrative contained within the imagery. The best visual storytelling sticks to this principle.

Diego Marini, Creative Director

We as designers can create beautiful and meaningful content. We know that.

But storytelling is something more. If not crafted for a specific audience, with a thoughtful strategy, objectives and a distribution plan it is a waste of money and creativity.

The second tip is stop using the word viral connected with storytelling. It’s something that rarely happens organically. Only with a careful distribution strategy will your story finally have legs.

So the life of a content piece does not start when this creation is conceived or produced but when lots of eyes finally rest on it. That’s why as a creative, I’m as interested to produce beautiful storytelling as well as to make sure people see it.

A print from the Pantone “Make It Brilliant” campaign photographed by Sarah Silver and directed by Diego Marini.

Paul Melcher, Editor in Chief, Kaptur

Experience telling your story in one image. While challenging as it may be, that is as much time and space your audience will give you.

Gabriel Sanchez, Photo Essay Editor, Buzzfeed

Compassion can be such an overlooked aspect of visual storytelling in contemporary media, especially when attempting to keep pace with the sheer amount of content on today’s Internet. But viewers can feel when a story is truly compassionate, and that makes all the difference for inciting a real emotional connection with your viewers.

Here’s a couple of my favorite emotional reactions to some stories I’ve shared on BuzzFeed:

A response to the photo essay, How Well Do You Remember These Nintendo 64 Games?
A response to the photo essay, 31 Pictures That Show Just How Crazy Woodstock Really Was

Robert Caruso, Social Media Marketer

Marketers need to understand their audience and what drives them more than anything else. What are the topics and subject matter that not only establishes your brand story, but addresses your customers interests, pain points and needs. Focus your visual storytelling around that.

Image by social media marketer Robert Caruso.

Blake Zidell, Founder & President of the public relations firm Blake Zidell & Associates

In visual storytelling, as in all other storytelling, impact has a lot to do with surprise. Put another way: uniqueness. Communicate what’s unconventional about you–what you alone have to offer–and do so with images that are extraordinary.

Blake Zidell & Associates communicates visually on the website’s homepage.

Rob Russo, Visual Marketing Consultant

My #1 tip to stand out with your visual content is start with color – one color. Hopefully you have a style guide in place with chosen brand colors. Pick one and go bold. Look at big box stores (Target uses red; Home Depot uses orange) or other brands (California-based chain of salons, Dry Bar, uses yellow) for inspiration.

I use orange, myself. Doesn’t take long to figure that out. I have a new blog series on color coming out soon, too.

“Inspiration can be picked up anywhere. Avocado Shirt Co. uses a green palette that mimics the avocado fruit that inspired the companies start.” – Rob Russo

Kevan Lee, Content Crafter, Buffer

Through experimentation and iteration, we’ve found that including images when sharing to social media increases engagement across the board-more clicks, reshares, replies, and favorites. In one experiment, retweets alone more than doubled for updates with images compared to those without. Using images in social media posts is well worth trying with your profiles.

A photo Buffer used to promote the blog post, 23 Tools and Resources to Create Images for Social Media, on social media.

Cover image courtesy of Lauren Bath.

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