Ever wondered why some images look so awesome in professional infographics or websites?
Just because you’re not a professional designer doesn’t mean that you have to settle for boring stock photos.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: you can make images that look just as good, without needing to hire a designer. All you need is an image and a beginner-friendly design tool (cough-like Venngage-cough).
Try these 6 simple image hacks to take your designs to the next level and make your infographics awesome.
Image Hack #1: Pan, zoom and frame your images
You can enhance any photo by panning to an interesting point of the image, zooming in and re-framing it. This is a classic post-production technique used by photographers that usually requires mad Photoshop skills.
But with Venngage’s image frame tool, this technique takes only a few seconds to accomplish.
Here is an example of this technique with different types of frames. The original image has many distracting elements, such as a lamp on top of the person’s head and and a bunch of office furniture in the background:
Let’s say we want to focus on the person’s action (writing on the pad). We can zoom into the person, and reframe the image using a “circle frame”.
Or if you wanted to show a bit of depth, you can reframe the image with only the first two thirds visible, as in the “square frame”, and cutting out all the other furniture in the image.
How to use image frames in Venngage
Simply drag an image frame into the canvas, then drag an image into the frame (the image is automatically cropped to fit the frame). Double click the image and you will be able to resize (zoom), pan or re-compose the image within the frame.
Objects and people
If you want to focus on an object, pan and zoom into the object. You can pick a point of interest and frame it either in the middle or on the sides, (the rule of thirds for composing photos usually works well here)
Unless you’re a really good photographer, a lot of your landscape photos are probably like mine – average at best. But with the same technique, you can enhance them and add them into your infographic.
For example, here’s a photo I took of the Grand Canyon with my iPhone a few months ago:
I used a rectangle frame to crop and reframed the photo to focus on the middle part of the canyon. I made the frame the size of the header I wanted and added some words and voila, I now have a nice banner for social media:
Trial and error is your friend. Trust me, even the best designers use trial and error to try different compositions before they pick the one they like.
Image Hack #2: Add transparent shapes and text
This is one of my favorite techniques. It makes any plain combination of text and image so much better. First, take your original image and frame it (as mentioned above). Then add a shape, like a circle and make it transparency (set the opacity of the color to less than 1). Pick a dark color from the image and make that the color of the shape. Add your text and make the color light. Now you’ve got yourself a professional looking design.
This technique works really well for images for social media posts. Here’s an example with the same Grand Canyon photo.
You can also cover the entire image with a transparent shape. This gives your image a soft and blurred effect. It’s like applying an image filter.
Using the same example, I’ve added a rectangle shape and resized it to the size of the image.
Then I picked a light color and made it transparent (opacity < 1.0). I use the same text, but changed the color to a dark tone to contrast against the “softness” of the image:
Image Hack #3: Create pie charts with images
Now for some fun stuff. We’re going to create a pie chart and use the image hacks above to make it more awesome. Take a look at a few of these examples:
Add images to pie chart pieces
Use the circle frame and resize the images to fit in their pieces.
Add images and labels to pie/donut chart
Convert the pie into a donut and add some transparent shapes and labels over the images.
Create a collage of images as a background
Create a collage by placing the images together, making sure that size and shape of the images correspond to the pie pieces. Then make the pie chart colors transparent and overlay the pie chart on top of the image collage.
Image Hack #4: Create a bar or column chart with images
A few years ago, the folks at FFunction created an infographic about the world’s tallest summits using actual images of the mountains in the chart . Inspired by this design, I will now show you how to create a bar or column chart with images to achieve a similar effect.
First, you need a create a plain old column or bar chart with your data.
Then, pick the images for each category.
For each image, frame and crop it with a rectangle frame and resize it to the size of the corresponding column/bar. Overlay the framed images on top of the columns/bars in the chart.
If you want to maintain interactivity with the columns/bars send the chart layer to the front, and set the opacity of the bars and border to 0 (making the original chart transparent).
Here is the result from the the same example:
Whenever you see a fancy chart, this is how it’s done. It’s an image or illustration overlay over a plain old chart.
Image Hack #5: Create an icon chart
Here’s a neat variation of the bar chart above. You can convert any image into an icon with a circle frame.
For example, I’m going to make each herb image smaller and frame it with a circle. For each herb icon, I make enough duplicates to fill the length of the corresponding bar.
Then I arrange them horizontally over the bars. (Note: I’m not being exact in this example. You can make each icon represent, say 100 tons and calculate the actual number of icons you need for each bar.).
Finally, I make the bar chart transparent so that only the icons are visible. (Move the chart to the front if you want the interactivity of the infographic to work properly)
Image Hack #6: Create an image pictogram
We’re going to extend the image icon technique and create an image pictogram. It’s the same concept–you’re going to use images cropped as circles as icons for your pictogram.
Convert and crop your images with a circle frame like you did above. Then arrange them into a form of a pictogram to visualize your data.
It’s really simple and you can probably do this in less than two mins.
For example, here’s a pictogram I made to show that 7 out of 10 people really love their food spicy (I’m one of them. I carry a bottle of Sriracha in my bag!):
I hope these simple image hacks will be useful for enhancing your charts and infographics.