If you’re working with a brand on their social media content, then you need to start posting visual content on their social feeds. You better make sure that the content is attractive and is exactly what your audience wants to see. If it’s not, then you’ll quickly watch your competitors outmatch you.

Here’s my guide to producing on-brand visual content for your clients that looks like a million bucks, and can be repeated time after time.

Visual Content Fundamentals

1. Show Your Client’s Brand Values

The first step to composing a solid social feed is to ensure that each and every one of your social media feeds has a similar look and feel.

Your client’s brand, mission, and values is everything during this stage. Although these three things are not immediately visual, they permeate your visual content and visual language.

A strong brand identity persists through trend and seasonal changes.

The brand aesthetic should be decided by your client and their creative/branding agency. It’s your job to execute it on social. Just remember that it can’t change when your (or your client’s) mood changes.

2. Be Consistent

Check out any of the leading brands’ Instagram accounts right now. AirBnb and Nike are great examples.

You’ll quickly see that they implement stylistic trends in their visuals. It’s predictable. You almost know what their next piece of content will look like before they post it, yet it still surprises you through its creative genius.

Great content doesn’t suddenly surprise you! It intrigues you and makes you want more. It’s addictive.

If you’re working on your client’s aesthetic and messaging then start with baby steps until you figure it out. Aim for consistency and creativity. Don’t go overboard by changing everything overnight. People need to adjust to, learn, and understand your brand.

Visual Social Content Tips

Whether you’re working with a fashion business, food company, social influencer, or a dentist, you need to make sure that you’re posting refined visuals on their social feeds.

Here are my top tips to help you create consistent, beautiful visuals for your clients’ social feeds (even if they’re not sending you branded content every single day).

Use Visual Storytelling

Ask yourself this: if your client’s business couldn’t speak, then how would it look? Would it look young and edgy? Minimalist? Raw and real?

First things first is figuring this out. You need to tell your story through photos, and you can’t do that without understanding their brand appearance.

There are a lot of ways to communicate a story in a visual. You could showcase your client’s team, present a sequence of events, display a graphic, or capture a moment.

You can tell a story through a single photo, a carousel photo, or a video. Stories are one of the most compelling ways to hook your audience and improve engagement.

Once you master storytelling in single images, then work on building it up consistently in your feed. When people view your entire feed, they’ll see that a story developed throughout your posts.

For example, try presenting a story through a topic mini-series. Try a weekly or monthly topic focus that your visuals fall under, such as inspirational quotes, peeks into company culture, or product information segments.

Using Colour in Visuals

A photo will naturally have a lots of colors. But, when posting for social media, it’s best to keep the overall color of each post similar and have only one dominant color (the colour occupying the most space in your layout or the focal point).

You might see some brands use several colours in their social feeds, but if you scroll through their entire collection, you’ll see that there’s colour consistency. Having color consistency makes your brand look professional and beautiful on social.

For example, choose one colour as a monthly color theme. Try to incorporate it in all your posts either as the focal point, background, or accent. Make sure you use it in every post. You’ll see your brand consistency start to shine through!

Photo Sizes

Image angles and sizes are everything. They can make or break a shot. It’s important to consider that in your visual content on every social platform–but especially on Instagram.

Instagram recently opened up free photo sizing, meaning your photos and visuals can be long, square, or wide. So, you can upload a number of different photo sizes to your client’s Instagram feed.

However, remember that their user interface still uses the square for a preview. This has led a lot of brands to stick to the square image size in their posts. Otherwise, some images will get cut off in the grid tile view, for example.

When sizing your photos be sure to keep them as 1X1 for simplicity. Instagram can accommodate other sizes and dimensions. Thumbnails are always kept as a square.

Choosing and Placing a Subject

The subject or focal point should have the largest/most prominent presence on the shot.
It doesn’t need to be in the middle of the shot, but it needs the most contrast.

Keep your subjects sharp, somewhat centered, and having the highest contrast in comparison to the background. You can have a detailed and busy background so long as your subject highlight contrasts it.

Incorporate Light

Most agencies and clients don’t have professional lighting–especially if photos are taken on the go, rather than in-studio.

Here are my tips to help you make sure your subject is properly lit.

  1. Try not to shoot directly towards the light. If you’re in the sun, try using the sun as your light source. Float with it, don’t fight it. If the sun is too harsh and you want a gentler look, shoot near a bright wall, which reflects the light of the sun onto the subject.
  2. Hold a white board, or reflector, even a car reflector, to bounce light from the sun towards your subject so you can control light level. This will really help you boost the production value of your photos.
  3. Shoot near windows. The window breaks a little bit of the light’s direct rays, diffusing the light a little and still allowing a lot to pour in on to your set.
  4. If your agency is serious about producing visual content, then buy a portable strobe, like the CANON EX 600, or a small set of Alien Bees lights. This basic-level lighting will be enough for social media posts.

Still Life

Still life photos are essential for great product shots, product arrangements, and fun brand values photos.

The objects in your photo should compliment each other, create one single object, or highlight the hero/focal object.

For example, if you have a food feature for the holidays, then use holiday ornaments around the subject to help highlight it and communicate a story.

Style your subjects using creative background materials such as cloth, paper, or even wrapping paper that matches or accentuates your client’s subject.

Remember your Audience

Don’t forget to create content that sticks to your client’s brand but also engages their audience. Organic social growth will require true, genuine audience engagement.

Impressive visual content isn’t magic beans. You need to find out what visuals your audience responds to best and find a way to prelicate that success. Visual content that your agency thinks will perform well might not be welcomed by the audience.

Set aside time every day to engage with your audience, take notes on content performance, and modify your visuals.

Editing

Photo editing can be in your agency’s hands thanks to amazing photo editing software such as Lightroom, VSCO, Snapseed, Pixelmator, Afterlight, FaceTune, and Instagram.

You’ll want to retouch and edit all of your client’s photos before they go up on social. This will help you make them presentable, consistent, and on brand.

You might think that other brands are naturally killing it on their social photo game, but trust me, they are definitely editing their photos!

Here are my top two tips:

1. Color Correction and Cropping

Mobile snapshots are the most common images you’ll get from your clients. But these are probably taken at different times of the day and have different lighting.

Either document your editing ratios, or use a pre-set colour filter to help you eliminate inconsistencies. Just make sure you’re using the same filters and ratios, rather than mixing and matching. This will help you create feed consistency and keep all your photos looking sharp and on brand.

Knowing how to color correct photos in bulk and custom-adjust each one to look similar to the others is a refined skill that’s worth learning. So start with the baby steps if you’re a beginner.

2. Add Text to Your Image

Your clients all have different tones and voices and you should be expressing these in your visuals.
For example, you can share information about promotions, sales, or inspirational quotes in your social visuals. There is a bunch of nifty software out there that you can use for text overlays like Canva, Venngage, and Pablo.

Summary

Marketing has changed because people are not forced to see media they don’t want to see.
You have to help your clients become the the media source they do want to see.

Providing exceptional visuals that are relevant, simple, beautiful, consistent, and on brand can help you get your clients there.

If creating visual content seems out of your agency’s scope then look to a creative firm or freelance talent to partner with to provide your clients with the absolute best services possible.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Rebecca Van Ommen

Rebecca is the Creative Director of Paper Boat Creative. She is an expert in professional photography post production, commercial image editing, and image retouching. Rebecca is renown for her ability to merge meticulous traditional hand-drawing with surreal digital photography. Check out Paper Boat Creative online.