Point Out the Obvious with Images

Looking for an easy way to know how to combine images, photos and text? Most photos “point” in one direction or another, and you can take advantage of this when setting up your pages, whether they’re in print or on the web.

Look for Sight Lines

Sight lines are lines of motion within a photo. You can find them if you look at the shapes in a photo and try to pick out where major lines appear.

Let’s look at some examples. Can you see the sight lines?

make your brand flow visually by finding the sight lines in the photos you use

If we look carefully at the photos above, we can see lines that lead in a specific direction. If we take into account that our culture reads from left to right and top to bottom, you can follow where the sight lines are pointing.

make your brand flow visually by identifying sight lines

Use these sight lines to make sure your photos are “pointing” toward your most important text.

Let’s take one of the photos above and place it on a page to see what happens.

make your brand flow visually by using sight lines to your advantage

If we place the first image to the right of our text and headline, the viewer’s eyes will follow the photo right off the edge of the page.

That’s not what we want! We want to direct them to our most important information.

On this page, our most important text areas are the headline and the beginning of our article, which are the logical starting points for our reader.

What happens if we simply slide the image to the left?

Placing the image to the left sends the viewer’s eyes across the image and directly into the text we want them to read first.

We’re using the natural sight lines present in the image to encourage our reader to process our information in the order we prefer.

People and Critters Point, Too

Other photos have a different kind of sight line, and it’s created by the person — or animal — depicted in the photo.

If your photo shows someone looking toward a direction, or moving their bodies in a specific way, that will create a strong line of sight you can use in your layout, too.

Here are some examples:make your brand flow visually by using sight lines to direct your viewers' gaze

Flip When Needed

Maybe you’ve found the perfect photo, but the line of sight isn’t working for where you want to place it in on your page. As long as the photo has no visible text showing, you can always flip it so it “points” in the opposite direction. Doing this will help the photo look like it’s engaged with your text and will direct your reader’s eyes toward where you’d like them to look.

Point Out the Obvious

When setting up a page, position your photos and graphics toward the area you most want your viewer to notice. On a web page, this might be the sign up box for your free e-course, or an ad for a product your company sells.

On a printed page, you might want the viewer’s eyes to go straight to your offer or the coupon you’d like them to use.

Either way, carefully positioning your images will give your text maximum impact, and will help point out what you’d like your reader to notice most.

make your brand flow visually by identifying the strongest sight lines in photosOnce in a while you need to use an image like this one. Good luck figuring out the sight lines here! Which way do you think they’re pointing? I’ll bet you can figure out my best guess by where I positioned it in this text. :-)

Have you ever noticed that images “point?” Have you used this concept in your marketing materials? Do you have a question about this technique? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Comments

  1. Mike Korner says

    I’m playing with pictures a lot this month so thank you for this very timely information Pamela.

    A lot of people miss this point. I see a lot of sites where about pictures look off the page, away from their content. I see it a lot in comments, too, as the various themes and comment systems seem to differ on which side to put the gravatar.

    The last example is definitely my favorite. Definitely an appropriate way to end :)

  2. Jim says

    Great tips! I never thought about this until you mentioned it. Awesome photos, they remind me of a very nice vacation I took with my wife to Cape May :)

  3. says

    This makes total sense but I never thought about it. I just spent time looking at some of my favorite sites and many of them do this!

    Personally I’ve always used (well to be honest- I OVERused) arrows, no more arrows for me- thanks Pamela!

  4. says

    Thanks everyone! I’m glad this was helpful.

    Jamie, now you can use something more subtle than arrows! ;-)

    And Jim, you’re right: all these photos were taken in Cape May, NJ!

  5. says

    Very cool! I’m sure this lesson will be very handy for people who take their own photos for their blog posts and marketing material.

    Not that this needs anything, but I would add: Look for the potential in your images before clicking the shutter. Look at the position of your subject and see how you could use it as a pointing image. Also, in case you can’t flip your image (due to text in the shot) if possible, take shots with your subject looking both ways.

  6. says

    Excellent addition, Marlene! I was assuming people would be working with images they purchased or were given, but taking them yourself gives you a lot more control. Thanks for the idea!

  7. says

    Wow. I enjoy all your tips but this one seems so obvious the way you explain it.
    I’m sure this will be helpful when I’m struggling to get an image placement to work with text.
    And loving the idea that’s its an alternative to an arrow!

  8. says

    Thanks Pamela! It’s one of those really simple things that the non-artisticly educated would never pick up on. But at the same time, we sit and stare at a creation and wonder why it doesn’t flow or feel right. I look forward to applying this in my email designs!

    • says

      Hi Natalie,

      The reverse is true, too … sometimes we don’t know why something works. It just “looks right,” but we don’t know why. One of my goals here is to show readers why certain things work and others don’t so they recognize well-designed marketing when they see it.

  9. says

    This is fun! I always knew there were tricks to page layouts but they just didn’t cover this stuff in med school. Some of it I can intuit when I’m selecting images for my blog, but seeing your concise explanation will help me do a more deliberate job. I always love finding images to illustrate my posts but understanding this principle will make the process even more fun, sort of like playing a game-get the readers eye to travel to important content. Thanks.

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