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How many words is a picture worth?

The saying goes “a picture is worth 1000 words”, and this has never been truer than it is today. Video and photography are now an integral part of modern life and are crucial to the marketing of your products and services. Tony de Simone elaborates…

To start off my column, I’ll introduce a few common stats:

  • 90% of the information processed by the brain is visual
  • It takes only 13 milliseconds for the human brain to process an image
  • The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text

When people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later

People are 85% more likely to buy a product after viewing a product video.

Whether it’s an advert, website, article, or case study, adding an image means it’s more likely to land than solely writing about it. At the minimum an interesting image can attract enough attention to get consumers to stay and read for a while, if it’s done properly, it can tell your potential clients everything about you.

Will any image do the job? In short… no! The image will reflect your brand so there are several things that must be thought about before, while and after taking a picture.

The scene
This is an important aspect and something the lockdown has highlighted in a huge way. Think about the number of times you’ve Zoom’d and seen piles of washing or an unmade bed in the background. Sometimes it’s not a conscious thought, but it leaves and impression in our minds.

The same happens with a picture or video showing your products and services. Look at the scene and every detail in it. Is there anything distracting in it? The focal point is the main subject of your picture, and nothing should draw the eye away from it, often less is more.

Rules of thirds
Our instinct is to centre the subject in the shot treating it as a bullseye, but the rule says to divide the image into thirds horizontally and vertically. Our eyes are drawn to the four intersecting points and the four dividing lines. Placing the subject along these lines or at these points makes for a more pleasing image. Most phones have an option to turn on the rule of thirds guide.

At a basic level we all have a phone in our pocket and modern ones do contain reasonable cameras.
Resolution is a big area of development for manufacturers, they sell us more megapixels with each phone they release, but it means each pixel is getting smaller and smaller, on an already small sensor.

The smaller the pixel, less light gathering ability it has and less quality to that pixel. It’s clear to see if a picture is taken in a low light situation; the pixel size and lens quality really show the limitations.
High quality lenses ensure the light hitting the sensor is as perfect as it can be. Pro equipment has interchangeable lenses that can vary in quality and price. Phone camera lenses usually don’t have the clarity and quality, especially after living in pockets and bags for a few months.

The aim for every photographer is to expose the image as close as perfect as possible in camera; post-processing adds enhancements to the finished picture that would be impossible to capture. It’s a digital darkroom we can all use. There are numerous applications, free and paid for, that come with different degrees of complexity.

As a growing area I can’t go without mentioning video. All the above-mentioned rules and guidance still apply but an added plan for the narrative needs to be in place. A presenter, voiceover, graphics, and stills can all be added to support the video.

All this info is brushing the surface of what needs to be thought about when capturing an image, and to an experienced photographer/videographer it will be instinctual. Equipment investments can be considerable, and the learning curve is steep. Most pros I know turn up to a shoot with +£10k of equipment and have 10-plus years of experience.

Along with that equipment and knowledge, come the following techniques: HDR, focus stacking, timelapse, pano-stitching, long exposures, tilt shift, first and second curtain flash and, arguably the most important one – when it’s ok to break the rules! These can all be used to create more interesting content, catch the eye, and get you more engagement.

So, is a picture still worth 1000 words? If it’s done properly, yes, it is. But in today’s age, a video done properly is worth way more.

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