How to use Photography in Graphic Design

Photography is an amazing tool to use when designing graphics. It can not only enhance the message of the design, but it can also break up text-heavy designs, draw visitors into your website or capture attention to your social media posts.

Knowing how to use photography in graphic design can be tricky because there are many skills that will need to be mastered in order for you to become a successful graphic designer. You can’t always rely on stock photo sites for photos to use in graphic design since many of them charge for their images. But don’t let this challenge scare you off. 

This article will cover everything on how to use photography when working on graphic design projects. If you have the determination and want to become a better designer, keep reading below!

What is Photography in Graphic Design

Photography has been used as a fundamental component of advertising from the beginning of time. Early on, illustrations were mainly utilized, but photographs express emotion better. Hence, the modern prevalence of digital photography in graphic design.

In graphics, photography serves to personalize the desired message in the image. When real-life components are included in a picture, whether they be genuine folks, rooms, nature, tables, or anything else relevant to your target niche, users are more inclined to understand it.

The Importance of Photography in Graphic Design

Prominent brands don’t take photography and graphic design lightly and attempt to include it as much as possible. Can you picture a Rolex advertisement without a shot of a human wearing the watch? Can you picture a Pantene shampoo ad without a photo of a woman with glossy curls?

Without the supporting pictures, the graphics on such visuals aren’t as valuable. Photography not only humanizes your work but also adds diversity and uniqueness. As a result, with the proper usage of photographs, timeless and unforgettable designs can be produced.

Because photography has an emotional component, it can make a person stop and think. Not just for shock effect, but because they relate to the topic or story. It is a distinctive element of most advertising, although graphic elements, text, visuals, and artwork also play a role.

Ways to use photography in graphic design

As per the cliche, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Photography is important to the graphic designer in a variety of ways as a visual communicator, especially since photos convey a lot in terms of aesthetics and symbolism.

Here are 10 ways in which you can benefit by using photography in graphic design.

1. Creativity and Innovation

Creativity and innovation are the leading factors in how successful graphic design pictures turn out. Without creativity, you wouldn’t have many of the stunning visuals that you see around. And without innovation or improvement, you would never get to enjoy these designs.

Photography may be a great way to get away from the computer and express yourself creatively. It allows you to utilize your imagination and accomplish something beneficial while you are away from design-related work. 

If you picture landscapes, nature, or anything else outside, photography may be a refreshing change of pace that you will enjoy – whilst also benefiting your designs (as you’ll be implementing what you learn into your graphics).

2. Understanding Lighting

Lighting is a crucial factor in photography. It has the greatest impact on the emotion and atmosphere of visual work. Lighting doesn’t only refer to brightness. Angles, coloring, brilliance all can have a significant influence on the emotional punch of the shot.

Imagine your subject outside at noon on a sunny day, as opposed to inside, with a dim bulb clustering around it and producing strange shadows on the ground. Both of these lighting scenarios have different effects on the viewer, which is ultimately learned from photography.

When it comes to digital elements and graphic design, lighting can be used to add intricate levels of tonalities to your work and help differentiate your coloring. Photography lighting in graphic design can have a big impact on how people view your arrangements.

3. Play with Lenses

When it comes to the various types of lenses available, exploring the world of photography can be a nightmare.

Even the most seasoned photographer will struggle to explain the precise distinctions and functions of each lens, but understanding the functionality, focal lengths, and applications of a lens can help you use it in the proper situation.

Knowing when to employ the appropriate lens is only the first step in becoming a better designer. Thus, play with lenses. Before you create a design, you’ll know exactly which lens to use in the shot that you’ll be taking for the design.

4. Composition Basics

Graphic design, like photographic composition, has a set of “rules” that may be applied to help you generate more effective and appealing images. These guidelines don’t have to be followed all of the time, but if you think about them while designing, you should notice an improvement in the quality of your images.

Leading lines, for example, can be used in design to direct viewers to different points or layers of information. Designers can direct the viewer’s gaze not only to the primary point of the design but also across the rest of the design by attentively altering and arranging the leading lines.

5. Depth Of Field

Letting the background go out of focus can have a powerful effect on the reader. It creates space where other elements, such as text, can be placed. This is called using “depth of field.” 

Depth of field combined with graphics aid in the creation of a sense of space in your design. Human eyes view that space as three-dimensional. As a result, your photo should have a shallow or deep depth of field.

Although 3D is rarely utilized in graphic design, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it as a viable option. Experiment with it, and if it works, go for it!

6. Tell a story

Storytelling is a prevalent practice in photography. Visual storytelling is a well-known art form that is admired all over the world.

You may use images to expand on that story, tell a different one, or simply fill in the blanks. Is there a necessity for a story in all graphic designs? Not at all. However, some do have one.

If your niche is youth and sportswear, you can incorporate photos of hardworking athletes to tell a story about hardship and work ethic, all in the pursuit of achieving a common goal – success. 

If your niche is family-oriented, you can use children in your graphics. When you see a happy child on a cereal box, you want that food to make you happy as well. 

Tell a story with graphics through the use of photographs whenever the frame allows.

7. Utilise emotion

It may seem strange to use a photograph of a cat in a laptop design, but it is humanizing. It’s adorable. It gives the goods, the aesthetics, and the entire graphics a more human touch.

Everything that humans strongly identify with may be used to evoke emotion in your design, including hands, faces, pets, living areas, and nature.

It might even be as simple as a photograph of a room. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve with the visuals, a picture of a tree can also work. In real estate graphic design, nature photography is frequently utilized to humanize something that isn’t naturally humanistic.

8. Be flexible and experiment

Graphic design is a creative activity in and of itself. However, to take it to the next level, another layer of originality can be added.

To inspire creativity in your creations, you can morph images, distort them, change the colors, utilize effects, and so much more. Other common photography effects, such as bokeh, panning, and long exposure, are also excellent possibilities for combining with graphics.  Creative automation tools can make this entire process faster for you.

There are no guidelines to follow. You can do anything you want with a photograph to personalize it. Flexibility is important to gain traction as a designer.

9. Use your own shoots

Graphic designers love to use stock photographs, and for a good reason. There are tons of them out there that can help you create a design super fast. But how long has it been since you’ve actually looked at a stock photograph and said, “wow! That picture is so stunning and original!” I would assume rarely. 

But when the opportunity arises, original photographs yield a much better result. Also, if you’re looking to avoid paying for stock photos, then using your own photographs is the most cost-effective solution.

Thus, always try to use your own shoots. It may turn an ordinary design into something extraordinary.

10. Take risks, don’t always play it safe

Why limit yourself to just one of the methods we discussed in this article? When creating a photograph, make use of all available resources.

Many of these approaches can be combined in unconventional ways, even if they aren’t commercially available. Animate the images, break the rules of composition, emphasize your subject by removing the background of the photo, convey a tale without utilizing emotion – everything goes!

Don’t be hesitant to try out your own method if you can conceive of one. Taking risks is the foundation of all great designers. You don’t have to publish your work, but the act of creating something outside of your comfort zone will help you develop as an expert in the profession.


Is it worth pursuing a combined career path of graphic design and photography?

It is definitely worth pursuing a combined career in graphic design and photography as both of these go hand in hand with one another.

Should I have separate social media accounts for photography and graphic design?

You should keep them separate if you plan to use these accounts professionally. If not, you can just use one account to share it with friends and family.

What role does photography play in graphic design?

Photography plays a very important role in graphic design, starting from composition to lighting to influencing how the final design looks and feels.

Final Verdict

We all know the big three of graphic design – typography, color, and layout. But sometimes, they aren’t enough. That’s why we highlighted the ways that you can use photography in graphic design.

It will go a long way and can serve as a vital skill in your creative journey.

Whether it is to capture the essence of a design or just to add a little humanistic touch, photography will always be the perfect decor in any design project.

If this article has helped you, don’t forget to share!

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