Three Ways to Amp Up Your Visuals

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Hold the stock photo and record your video… vertically?

Over one-third of marketers surveyed in 2016 said that visual marketing was the most important form of content for their business. Are you still using plain old stock photos and widescreen videos in your emails and social media posts? Boring. It’s time to rethink your eye-grabbers. Here are three alternatives to the mundane.

Vertical (or Square) Video

Buzzfeed’s Tasty channel was one of the first content creators on Facebook to ditch widescreen video.

Remember cringing when you’d see a video recorded vertically from someone’s phone? It’d be tiny with black bars on the sides and there would be screams from the comments section to “turn the phone sideways!”

I never thought I’d say this, but turning your phone sideways is now obsolete. Thanks to the rise of Snapchat, which made vertical video mainstream, platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have followed suit. Vertical video isn’t just supported – it’s recommended.

That’s because more people now use social media on their mobile devices, which have aspect ratios of 9×16, instead of 16×9 – the standard for widescreen computers. That means that vertical video takes up more real estate on your phone than widescreen or landscape video. And with 8 billion videos being watched per day on Facebook, it’s no surprise that vertical video now outperforms widescreen video in audience engagementPro Tip: Use subtitles. Nearly all videos watched on Facebook are watched without sound.



You’re probably thinking, “A cinema what?” If a video is the movement of pictures, a cinemagraph is a picture with movement. Take a look at the cinemagraph below, from creators Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck, who first coined the term in 2011.

scotch gif
Doesn’t that drink look more delicious when it’s lifelike?

Notice how everything is frozen in time, just like a regular photo, except for the movement of one or two things? That’s because the “photo” above is actually a GIF, which was created from a video. Confused? I’ll explain.

Before getting started, you’ll need a video recording device, a tripod and an idea. Let’s talk about looping motion. The key to a successful cinemagraph is being able to make it look continuous, without a clear beginning or end. The first frame should ideally be exactly the same as the last frame – this is where the tripod comes in handy to stabilize your footage. Try to keep the movement as isolated as you can from everything else in your scene. Give yourself some buffer time before and after you capture the main movement in your footage.

You will need some type of editing program that can do layer masking and basic keyframe animation. Photoshop actually works surprisingly well for this and can handle video files. But if Photoshop intimidates you, Flixel offers an intuitive macOS and iOS program – the only catch is it’s $200/year. Next, consider where your cinemagraph will live. If you’re posting it on a website, you’ll need to export it as a GIF file. Since most social media platforms don’t support GIF uploads, you’ll need to create a looped video for those. Pro Tip: Start with a simple idea that is naturally fluid in motion, like the waves in a swimming pool, and work your way up to more challenging ideas.

Parallax Photos


forest gif
Parallax photos engage the viewer by drawing them in.

For a parallax effect, consider the depth of field and potential layers. It’s true that this effect can be used with any image, but not all images are worthy of the effect. Think about which objects you’ll want independent from the rest. The easiest way to do this is to have a foreground layer with your subject and a background layer with your scenery. In the GIF above, I’ve placed the trees in a separate layer from the background.

Then, using a program like Photoshop, these layers can be added to a timeline and animated to appear like they’re moving at different speeds. Notice how the trees get smaller as the background gets bigger? For an even greater effect, the camera perspective can be changed to appear like it’s moving through a scene in slow motion!

Just like with cinemagraphs, you’ll need to consider whether to export your parallax photos as GIFs or videos, depending on where they’ll be posted. Pro Tip: Subtlety is key. Use photos that can be easily separated into layers.Most social media marketers already use visual assets in their marketing. Which is why it’s important to be able to cut through the static with content that will stand out. Nearly two-thirds of marketers and small business owners plan to increase their investment in video marketing this year. If you aren’t already taking advantage of new visual trends, now’s the time.

If you found this post interesting, check out my previous one about why you need to make video a bigger part of your social strategy, and be sure to watch for my next post about social video trends for 2017.

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