Visual marketing and communications: How to make photos and graphics

By Mike Stephenson

With visual marketing and communications becoming dominant, more and more companies are focusing on the how to of incorporating visual content into their efforts to get their message out.

“As we continue on in the next couple years, the need for visual storytelling is going to become greater …” Indiana University Health Editorial & Social Media Strategy Manager Sarah Burns told AMA Tampa Bay vice president of communications Bernie Borges on his podcast. “I think there are a lot of other dimensions, particularly with younger generations that are more appealing, so learning how to tell stories through photographs, infographics, motion graphics, film shorts, I think that’s going to become even more vital.”  

Video traffic continues to rise on the Internet and visuals of all forms increase engagement exponentially, as we discussed in part one of our three-part series on visual communication for AMA Tampa Bay. Some companies can outsource production of their visuals, but in many cases, firms need to shoot photos, craft memes and create graphics on their own. We’ll focus on video in part three of our series, but here are some tips for getting the job done on photos, memes and graphics:


Photos are the simplest form of visual content, and most people have a mobile device that allows them to easily capture usable images. Those photos make a difference. Facebook posts with images produce 650 percent more engagement, according to Adobe’s 2013 Social Intelligence Report

“Photos are becoming the ‘universal language,’” said Jeff Bullis, a digital marketing entrepreneur and consultant.  

How to use your mobile device to take effective photos: 

  • Include faces: A Georgia Tech study shows photos on Instagram with faces get 38 percent more likes. 
  • Focus on one subject: An uncluttered image helps focus the viewer’s eye where you want it.
  • Move closer: If you can, avoid zooming in, which can make the image grainy. Instead, get closer to the target.
  • Edit: Learn how to crop and filter your images to create the best effect.  
  • Check the background: Note what is in the frame beyond your featured subject. Plan your picture to avoid distractions and embrace “negative space,” the empty space that can make the featured image pop.
  • Look for dramatic angles: An unexpected perspective can create a powerful image.

Finally, as you post your image, be sure to check how it looks on various devices. More and more people view content on mobile devices, which may not display the image the way you see it on a laptop. Conversely, things may be visible on a bigger screen that you don’t see on a mobile device.


Memes, those sometimes witty combinations of photos and headlines or quotes, can boost engagement with your social media posts, attracting audience to click through to your posts and landing pages.

Tips for generating memes

  • Keep current: Monitor your social accounts for what is popular.
  • Keep it short: Most people will see this on a mobile device. A handful of words at most, but it needs to be punchy, convey your message and work with the visual.
  • Choose your generator: If you have Photoshop, Canva or Pixlr Editor skills, you can build a meme on your own, but if not there are a variety of meme generators, such as Imgur Meme Generator or Meme Generator Free

Memes can be great fun and generate enormous attention, but don’t get carried away. Remember what you create will represent your brand. Cinnabon recently apologized when it created an image many found tasteless in the wake of Carrie Fisher’s death.

Graphics and infographics

Graphics and infographics can convey information in a visual way that connects with the audience.

Be wary of making them too complicated. Rand Fishkin, founder and former CEO of SEO consulting firm Moz, has argued that infographics are overused and have become cumbersome gimmicks. 

“These things can be tremendously burdensome to try and put on a web page,” Fishkin said in a Moz video. “They’re hard to read a lot of the time.”

Fishkin favors simpler types of visuals and graphics, but infographics still have a place. They are three times more likely to be liked and shared than other types of visuals on social media.

Whether it’s a full-scale infographic or something simpler such as a bar chart, many principles are the same and can be executed with basic skills in PowerPoint, Keynote or Canva. Just keep the viewer’s experience and message foremost.

Here are some tips from HubSpot on how you can build graphics and infographics.  

  • Narrowly focus your topic and collect information.
  • Create your layout, considering hierarchy, readability and whitespace.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t use too many colors or fonts.
  • Show, don’t tell, using charts and visualizations.
  • Proofread your work.
  • Export as a PDF and then size to 700-900 pixels wide and convert to PNG or JPEG for optimal web loading time.

The tips and links here should help you ramp up your visual marketing game with photos and graphics.

Key Takeaways

  1. Visual marketing and communications are critical parts of success
  2. Companies can make compelling photos with a mobile device
  3. Simple graphics can help tell your marketing story and boost engagement

Mike Stephenson is Editorial Manager at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital after 23 years as an editor at the Tampa Bay Times. He does freelance editing and writes personal histories through his website, He joined AMA Tampa Bay in September and wrote on email marketing for the blog in November.