How to choose photos for social media

Choosing Photos for Social Media

Choosing photos for social media is arguably an essential part of your post setup. Headlines, copy, and images are all you have to market your post to your audience.

So, how do you go about selecting images? What are the legal options? Should you pay for a stock photo subscription? Are you capable of shooting/creating your own images? Let’s dive in.

You first need to consider whether or not you have rights to the image you’re using. Are you sure that you have the rights to the photo? How do you know? You can use a photo if:

  • It has been properly licensed
  • You took the image yourself/created an original graphic and therefore own it
  • The image is public domain

If you work for a publisher, you likely have access to Getty Images, Adobe Stock Photos, or something similar. Even if you have a subscription, you must be aware that not all images are allowed for all usage. If you have an editorial license through Adobe, you cannot run ads with that image. So make sure you understand the licensing and how to use the images per your agreement.

Creating your own graphics

If you have a graphics person, AWESOME. Creating your own images is obviously always preferable. A newsroom may have a photog on hand, or access to screen grabs from broadcast, etc. If you like many operations and do not, there are many resources for quick graphics. Some of these may help you out:

  • Canva. Super simple to use, has graphics bank included, and the premium option is very affordable.
  • Here’s a post with a list of other alternatives to Canva.

Some other sources for usable, unique graphics:

  • Skitch: Allows you to annotate an image or screengrab easily.
  • It’s like Canva for infographics. Drag and drop your images and text into the templates, and voilá! New infographics to share on your social channels.
  • Screenshots of publicly accessible content.

How to choose photos for social media

What should you consider when choosing photos for social media?

  • Aspect ratio. The image proportions will differ on every platform, and you should adjust accordingly. As a refresher, here are the ideal aspect ratios for each platform.
  • Is the quality as good as possible? You must ensure the image is crisp, clear, and well-cropped.
  • Know your audience and what they enjoy, and how they will react. Specific political/cultural figures will trigger strong reactions, and knowing how your readers will respond to particular people/issues/formats is important.
  • Most audiences respond strongly to faces in images.
  • Text images can also be impactful. Twitter screenshots are fair game and can play well on many platforms.
  • Take time to assess which images/posts are doing well and learn from them. Conversely, look at the posts that flop. Is there a common thread across those images?
  • Be sure that it doesn’t look like an ad. 

Ultimately, a social media image should be three things:

  • High-quality and properly sized
  • Relevant to the content it is highlighting
  • Selected with the audience in mind

Refrain from getting in trouble by using content you can’t legally use or doing yourself a disservice by using poor-quality images. The right image will pay off!

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