Alex Hammond

6 min read

How to make people stop and look?

Five key elements that make personalized images believable

Plenty of marketing tools make people stop and look. Some are designed only to do that – most people have fallen for click-bait at some point – while others are the start of a story that genuinely integrates into a brand or marketing message. When combined with other people-based marketing strategies and a personalized email campaign, an image can be a focal-point that summarizes lines of text into a single glanceable image.

A well-crafted personalized image holds a powerhouse of potential, but, at its core, it is simply a background image with a superimposed [] personalized element.

The creative skill in making those kinds of templates is what makes something believable. A genuinely realistic personalized image is the only way to really engage with an audience and immerse them into your brand’s world.

There are five components that make superimposed images believable.

1. Placement

Most photos, taken using consumer cameras and phones, illustrate perspective. The converging lines of a building, or elliptical circles, are easy to spot, but, as the human eye sees perspective too, we are accustomed to it. When it comes to incorporating another element into a photo, the two perspectives need to match for it to look realistic.

2. Light and Dark

Natural or electric light illuminates every photo in some way. In the real world, light is direct, bounced, reflected, and refracted; it can be warm or cold, and diffused or focused. All these elements, and much more, go together to build the illumination of an image that a camera lens captures. If we are trying to incorporate a new personalized element into a photo, we need to be able to recreate this lit environment.

3. Depth of field

Another key element in ‘believability’ is depth-of-field. If a photo has a focal point drop-off, any placed element incorporated into that photo needs to have the same focal drop-off for it to look realistic. You can glean some data and guidance on how to replicate depth-of-field from the metadata of the original photo, but you can use a by-eye approach if that isn’t available.

4. Obscurity In our busy world, we see very few things without some distraction obscuring the view. Instead of fighting this, we can use it to enhance the realism of superimposed text on an image background.

If an element from the background image appears in front of the superimposed element, the human brain will presume all elements of the image are correctly placed in the 3D space the photo represents. All elements of the image will be integrated, creating a more believable personalized image.

5. Imperfections

Nothing in our world is perfect. When working in the world of computer graphics, we add imperfections to increase the sense of realism. Perfectly smooth surfaces and reflections, precise repetitive patterns and excessive alignment all feel unnatural, and our brains tell us this is abnormal and, therefore, fake. The introduction of imperfections tallies more with the real world and creates something more believable.

We can apply these five components to almost any image creation process where we superimpose one element onto another. Whatever the message being superimposed, it will have greater impact, greater levels of believability and therefore, as a marketing tool, have far more impact.


Founder at - Photoreal marketing images in bulk

Make your audience stop.