12 top tips for shooting flyers, front covers and posters

Flyer representing one of the dancers at Scratch Dat

This image of Tyrone Isaac Stuart’s work about the hip hop legend Dilla gives a good idea of how his work feels and provides negative space for the words.    (c) Carole Edrich 2017

Shooting images that work well in front covers, flyers and posters needs a slightly different approach to the one I teach in most photography workshops. I am holding an exhibition of my students’ work in September and, because I want to use one of their images in the flyers, thought I’d get this blog post out.

If you are one of my ex-students and haven’t already heard about the exhibition please drop me a line.

  1. Consider where the flyer will be used.

Most online flyers use landscape orientation while printed flyers are more often portrait. If you’re not sure or you think your client might need both, look for a composition that looks good both ways. If you can’t find one (and I often can’t), then go for two different compositions of the same subject, one of each orientation.

  1. Consider where the words will go.

The talent in creating front cover and poster images is in imagining – and creating – opportunities for the designer, who has to add the words and logos, make it all look good and be consistent with other branding and marketing material. Don’t forget the final work will most likely use different sized fonts and that there will be different lumps of information.

  1. Negative space need not contain nothing

An image with the right negative space (which we cover briefly in the beginners’ workshop and which I’ll write more about here or on Patreon later) can be really effective in posters and flyers. That doesn’t mean that parts of the image need nothing in them. Experiment with using different backgrounds, changing your aperture, your shutter speed and the images’ exposure and you’ll find that you can use negative space to give depth and meaning to an image as well as draw attention to whatever story you’re looking to tell.

  1. Make sure that your message is sharp

This isn’t the same as having a sharp image. If you’ve done a workshop with me you’ll know the difference. If you haven’t, I’ll post about it here or on Patreon soon. Whether you go for sharp subjects or soft focus you need to make your photo look deliberate. Photography is art, so both ends of the spectrum – and anything between – is fine.

  1. Don’t confuse focus with where you’re reading the light

This isn’t really about shooting for flyers, but it’s a mistake that my students make quite often. To eliminate confusion, think about how you would read the light to get a silhouette while still placing the subject where you want in the image.

If you’re going for sharp focus, ensure that your image appears sharp and in focus before moving onto other subjects. If you’re using a long shutter speed then rest the camera somewhere. People are accustomed to seeing pin-sharp subjects in product ads, and any kind of camera shake will make a the poster or flyer image feel wrong.

  1. Make the most of natural light

and shadows, and avoid using flash if at all possible because it adds unnecessary complexity.  If you’re taking photos indoors make sure it’s in a spot near a window which gets plenty of natural light. Alternately bounce the light. If you’ve done my improvers course you’ll know what I mean, if you haven’t I’ll write a post when I can.

The image is in the dusty reddy browns of desert at night. A group of traditional tribal dancers with loincloths are stamping barefoot into the desert ground. They are lit by a single source of light that id diretly behind the dancer in the ftont. Overlaid on this is a white logo of dance grist, where the 'i' in grist is represented by an exclamation mark. The magazine's title is dreamtime and dancing

Cover image of the next Dance GRiST magazine. Online app covers require different compositional considerations to print ones. (c) Carole Edrich

  1. Keep image quality high.

Make sure the image settings are at their highest possible resolution. Low Resolution images will get fuzzy, pixellated  and indistinct when printed or viewed in sufficient resolution for flyers, front covers and posters. They look unprofessional too. Most graphic designers also prefer to use the RAW file format to get as much as possible out of an image.

  1. Consider the composition

Of course! This is so important that my next post takes you through some well (and less well) composed images here.

  1. Consider the background

Technically this is part of the composition but I’ve found a reminder often helps my students. The background can make – or kill – your photograph, can totally change the context and message and can elevate your image from a nice shot to fine art. I’ll go into this more in a future post here or on Patreon.

  1. Consider the message

Is it a big-picture hero image? An evocative environment? A product or single item? A person? Think about the angle that will best get your message across. Do you need to get up close and personal, filling the frame? Or make the subject a tiny dot in the distance? Or blend it into the background? This is art. There’s no right or wrong. So long as it looks deliberate, delivers the message, works for the story you’re telling and meets the brief, it’s fine.

The focus here obeys the rule of thirds, enough space is given for words (which you don’t need to read to understand who the lead feature is about). (c) Carole Edrich 2011

  1. Be confident

Go for your vision. Keep your mistakes and learn from them. Try and look at your work from other peoples’ points of view, especially those of your client and the people they’re creating this flyer, cover or poster for. Try to look at your work objectively. That you didn’t deliver your personal vision precisely doesn’t mean your work has less value. Don’t trash anything out of hand.

  1. Have Fun! The more fun you have taking photos the more practice you’re likely to get and the more innovative you will become.
Poster for exhibition of images at Le Petit Corner, Leytonstone

The flyer for my current exhibition is evocative rather than fully descriptional, but still recognisable as Argentine tango by any who dance it. It leaves lots of space for the words. Original image (c) Carole Edrich 2013

And finally…

Don’t send all of your images to your client. I tend to give a choice of 3-5, one of which is my favourite and one of which is a left-fielder. Then, because I don’t want to lose the commission, I send a separate link to other images that might work, just in case.