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Seven of Our Favorite Photo and Graphics Tools

By Julia Smith with Zoe Plotsky

Four people sit at a table, smiling and sorting through various photographs

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” they say. To which we say: “Well…most of the time!”

It’s absolutely true that using crisp, consistent photos can help ensure that your organization is perceived the way you want it to be: dynamic, effective, and purposeful.

That’s why it’s so frustrating to be in one of those moments. You know the kind: you’re on a deadline and feel like you have to choose between using a mediocre photo (for the sake of including one at all, or beating a pesky algorithm), or repeating one you’ve used a million times before, or searching for a stock image that doesn’t feel so…stock. You need something to make your annual report, email campaign, or Instagram post sing. But you can’t seem to find the one picture from last year’s gala that would work perfectly, and everything you have at your fingertips is fuzzy, awkward, or off-brand.

Luckily, we’ve got some tools and tricks to help ensure that you never find yourself stuck in that situation at the last minute.

We typically coach our clients to build or improve their own image library, because we generally find that the most effective photos are high quality, original ones that illustrate the benefits of your own team’s work. And we tend to get the very best results when we can showcase the clients, customers, or other people your organization serves — with their permission, of course, and being mindful of the circumstances. (For example, you don’t want to put a picture of a person whose immigration status is in question all over the internet without their express consent. There are lots of other examples; for starters, check out Ethical Storytelling.) If you have questions about this, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

But even without a photographer on staff — or a budget to create custom visual content for each campaign — you can find great photos to help tell your story. Here are a few of the tools we rely on when helping our clients pull together striking, effective visuals for emails and social media:

  • Canva: Browse millions of high-quality stock photos, many of which are free. Download or add them to Canva’s thousands of templates to customize your own graphic. Even with a free account, you can also import your organization’s logo and signature colors by inputting your hex codes.
  • Unsplash and Pexels: Two sites full of beautiful, free photos.

When you can’t find the right clear, high-resolution photo to drop in your email, post, or report, consider something else visual, like charts or graphs.

  • Piktochart: Create infographics and visuals using themed and easily customizable graphics.
  • Placeit: Create mockups, logos, videos and designs by inserting your photo into one of many templates. We use Placeit to create mockups of client products being used on different types of devices, like a computer, tablet, and phone.
  • Screenshots: Even without getting fancy and using Placeit, include a screenshot of your product in your email.
  • Flaticon: Choose from thousands of editable icons for use in personal or commercial projects. Icons are available in a variety of formats, so they can be edited or inserted into your email in place of bullets.

P.S. Once you find the perfect photo, be sure you include image descriptions and/or alt tags wherever you use it! Not sure what that means? Hootsuite has a guide to social media accessibility and inclusive design, including tips for the best descriptive captions.

Photo above via rawpixel.com (Pexels). Image description: Four people sit around a conference table, laughing as they sort through several small photographs.