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Creating Visual Content for Social Media

What you need to know about creating engaging content for Instagram and Facebook

In a world where people are saturated with content and offerings from social media accounts, it's hard to generate cut-through. We have a fraction of a second to capture someone's attention when they're scrolling through a social media feed and it's the imagery people stop for. So, how do we make our feeds more visually engaging?

In this episode, Naomi Ross from Sydney Design Social and I talk you through some simple and cost effective methods for creating great visual content.


“Your imagery must be reflective of the messaging of your copy. If there's a disconnect, the audience becomes confused and, ultimately, disinterested"

Listen to the full episode on The PR Pod podcast for more about creating visual content for social media. You'll also find this episode on your fave podcast players, just search "The PR Pod".


  • If you are scrambling to take a photo, post-to-post, without a strategy or a plan, there is a high chance your social media aesthetics will look jumbled and your key messages and content will be all over the place. And you know what that means? People won't want to engage with your account or your posts. One of the easiest ways to fix that is to have a strategy in place (if you don't have one, take a look at this episode), generate a fortnightly or monthly content calendar and then have a gallery of images on standby you can use to illustrate that content.

  • Instagram is a visual platform and people engage with curated feeds. This doesn't mean you have to engage a social media specialist, it just means you need to invest time in the strategy stage to determine what content you want to post, what imagery you require to accompany it and how you want your feed to look. This may mean coordinating a photo shoot every few months to ensure you have fresh, relevant imagery that ties in with your content requirements.

  • You need to give people a reason to return to your page. If your imagery is not creative or you keep using the same 20 images you have on file or the image doesn't match the copy, there's no incentive for people to engage with the account or your posts. And the best way to keep track of your imagery requirements, is to create a gallery of images you can choose from.


  • You will need a variety of images to illustrate each content pillar and the various focuses of each content pillar. To work out how many images you need, work backwards. If you're aiming to do a shoot every four months and you post three times a week, that means you need to have visual content for 48 posts during the four month period. Let's say you have five content pillars; you'll need 9 - 10 images/videos per pillar for the next four months. If you just do a shoot and don't think about your content pillars, you're going to end up with imagery that is skewed one way and therefore your content and messaging will be unbalanced. Which is fine, if there are a couple of content pillars which are more important than others and that is your strategy. But, if they're all equally as important, you need to ensure there's enough imagery for each of them.

  • Think about the specifics of each content pillar to narrow down your imagery requirements further. People need to visually connect with the message you're communicating so if you post a photo that doesn't particularly connect with that message, people will be confused and certainly not engaged. Keep it as simple as possible.

  • Let's say you have a restaurant and one of the pillars is events and function bookings. You may want an image that shows off the whole space set up for a cocktail function so people can get a sense of what it looks like. You might want to show what canapes you can expect to eat at an event. You may have a private dining room which has great AV facilities for working business meetings so you require an image for that. Perhaps, your restaurant doesn't lock people into a beverage package for events and that's a unique selling point so you need to illustrate that somehow. Whatever it may be, just break it down and think about how best to communicate that message via a photo. And, if they are the main four things you want to communicate for your events and functions pillar, then you need to ensure you have at least a few options of visual content for each of the four elements.

  • Consider the broader visual themes of your social media account. Will you apply a certain filter to all imagery? Do you want your photography to be minimalistic? Do you want to have a different colour theme each month on Instagram so you need the imagery to have a hint of blue for that month, pink for the next etc?

  • Ensure your social media imagery ties in with the broader brand values and aesthetic. If your website has dark and moody images but your social media is bright and sunny, it's confusing for the person engaging with your brand across those platforms. Make it uniform.

  • Choose a photographer who has a style in line with your aesthetics and brief. Sure, a good photographer can easily adapt to a brief but every photographer has different strengths and style so find one that already shoots in way you think will work for your brand.


  • The purpose of a photo brief is to give you and your manager/client as well as your photographer a clear outline of what is required from a shoot and what you wants those images to look like. The photographer may give you an idea of cost up front but they often need to see a brief to be able to quote you properly.

  • This brief should include a shot list of everything you need captured at the shoot. Work through your content pillars and break them down as far as you can go and then brainstorm ways to creatively illustrate everything. Yes, there should be space for creativity and reactivity on the day but the more work you do in the advance to determine exactly what you require, the easier it will be on the day and the less chance you'll have of forgetting to capture something.

  • Create photo references. Your vision of something could be completely different to your client/manager and the photographer so find examples to illustrate most things on your shot list. The references could be in regards to how the photo is framed, lighting you like, the composition, styling as well as the general ambiance. Google is obviously a great resource to find images but also check out competitors, as well as Pinterest.

  • Make sure your client/manager approves the brief and references before you send to the photographer.

  • Think about the different media usages of imagery. You may be doing a shoot and some of the images will be used for social media but you also need some for editorial to accompany a media pitch. What a website or magazine requires for an image can be very different to what is used on social media. If you have dual requirements, make sure you make it clear in the brief so the photographer can capture that appropriately and provide references as to how it needs to be shot differently.

  • Make it clear in the brief if you need GIFs or videos. GIFs are a really cost-effective way of driving better engagement than static photos and video is even more engaging, but the photographer needs to be prepared to shoot them.

  • Understand your image requirements across the social media platforms. Do you need a cover image for Facebook? If so, you're going to need a landscape image for that so if the photographer, by default, shoots everything in portrait, you're going to have problem. It's always safest to get everything shot in portrait and landscape, in my experience.

  • Make it clear when you require the images to be delivered by the photographer. It depends on the amount of touch-ups or post-production that is required as to how quickly you'll get the photos back. Generally, if there's minimal editing to be done, then 3 - 4 days after a shoot is reasonable. However, it can take up to a few weeks if the images need a lot done to them. If you need a couple of images urgently to meet a deadline, then let the photographer know so they can prioritise getting those to you.


  • People love people. And, it's well known that incorporating a human element into social media imagery creates a stronger connection. So consider how you can integrate hands, if you have a tangible product and people if you're trying to convey something with a group message.

  • Videos produce the most engagement but consider the restrictions of a platform. Ideally, videos 5 - 15 seconds in length drive the most engagement. If your platform needs it to be at least 10 seconds you can consider looping a 5 second video. Just keep an eye on your platform guidelines as they do tend to change.

  • If you work with a brand which doesn't change their offering or products throughout a year, think about how you can get creative with your shoots. Can you give them a seasonal influence, so the summer posts are lighter and brighter and the winter ones are a little more moody (within the scope of your brand aesthetics). Think about usage of those products or services at different times of the year. Can you theme some content around the festive holidays or Mother's Day or Valentine's Day? That way, people who engage with your brand are still getting something new and innovative from a visual perspective and it keeps them engaged with you platform.

  • Text over imagery can help communicate a message but just be mindful of any restrictions that platform may have. Facebook doesn't like 20% of the image to be covered and won't allow you to boost posts that have more than that.

  • Mix up your content between static images, GIFS and video. If you only have photography to work with, think about creating a GIF in a particular theme. It may be four fun lipsticks this summer, or three new cocktails, or a GIF of a cocktail being garnished. GIFS cost no extra money to create but they deliver a more engaging experiencing.

  • Ensure there's enough variety of images to communicate the same message. If you have only one hamburger on your menu but it's the highest-selling lunch item and draws in crowds, then having one image of that hamburger gives you no scope. Shoot that hamburger being made so you can create a GIF from that plus have the static photos, photograph it being held in hands, stack three burgers on top of each other or put them in a line, create a fun graphic from it. All of those options are guaranteed to create more engagement than 5 or 6 posts of the exact same image.


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