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How to Recognize and Use Sight Lines in Your Images

How to Recognize and Use Sight Lines in Your Images

You’re using images in your content marketing, right?

(Please say yes, please say yes!)

When you pair compelling images with well-written content, you “power up” your marketing messages.

You engage the whole brain of the person you want to reach, because images and words are processed in different areas of the brain.

How cool is that? Images get your prospects’ brains firing on all cylinders.

In today’s post, we’re going to cover sight lines. Sight lines are one of the essentials to keep in mind when choosing and using images.

Get this wrong, and your image could have the opposite effect to what you want. When your sight lines are wrong, the image you choose could actually weaken your message.

But get it right and your image and message will work together in perfect harmony.

Use an image’s sight lines to reinforce your marketing message

Most images have some kind of sight line that you can use to emphasize your message.

Use image sight lines to direct your viewers eyes toward a message you want to emphasize.

Sometimes they sight lines are super obvious. If there are people in the image, they may be looking in a specific direction.

For example, look at what happens when we take advantage of the natural sight lines in this image to place our message:

It’s basically impossible not to read the text inside the circle, isn’t it? The two kids are facing it, and the boy in the front points toward it with his hand!

How to find sight lines in images

A few tips for identifying the sight lines in an image:

If there’s a person or animal in the image, where are the eyes looking?

When in doubt, follow the gaze of the person or animal in the image.

This image would work great with text on the left side: the background isn’t busy and the dog is looking in that direction.

Where is the person’s body facing?

No gaze to follow? Look to see where the person (or animal, or object) is facing.

When we don’t have the benefit of a gaze to follow, we can see which direction a body is pointing. In this case, text on the right side of the image would get all our attention.

Moving from left to right, where are the lines leading?

We read from left to right in our culture. When it doubt, move along the image from left to right and see where it leads your eyes.

The balloons are slightly higher on the left and lower on the right. The viewer’s eyes naturally end at the bottom right, which would be a great place for text.

Follow the movement that’s already in progress

If something in your image is in motion, follow the direction of the action and position your text accordingly.

planes 720
In this image, the planes are flying toward the bottom right of the image. Placing text right where they’re headed would assure it was seen and read.

Do some images have no sight lines at all?

It’s true — some images don’t have a strong direction that “points” anywhere. They’re almost symmetrical and their primary sight lines are horizontal and vertical.

A strong horizontal or vertical sight line anchors the object in space and gives a sense of stability to the subject of the image.

This image of the Hungarian parliament building has strong horizontal lines which give it a sense of stability and gravitas. Seems appropriate for a government building, right?
This image of the Hungarian parliament building has strong horizontal lines which give it a sense of stability and gravitas. Seems appropriate for a government building, right?

There you have it, my friend. The next time you’re searching for stock photos, look carefully at sight lines. They can help you grab and hold attention and get your messages read.

How to Recognize and Use Sight Lines in Your Images

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is the Chief Marketing Officer at DCS. She’s the creator of the Offer Accelerator Program. Learn more about Pamela’s content marketing books, and read reviews of the tools used to run this site.
Pamela Wilson coaches people in midlife to build profitable online businesses
I’m Pamela Wilson

In 2010, at the age of 45, I started this site and grew it into a business that offers freedom, flexibility — and consistent revenue.


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16 thoughts on “How to Recognize and Use Sight Lines in Your Images”

  1. Wow! I did NOT do well! I’m surprised. I’ll definitely read the post again and try a second time. This was such a fun and very interesting post. Thank you Pamela!

    • Melinda, I have to tell you that my husband (who also works at home) came into my office just now to tell me he wasn’t scoring 100% even though he tried the quiz 6 times!

      So apparently it’s not easy.

      Try re-reading the post. If it’s any help, the images in the quiz go from easier to harder. 😉

      • Caroline, I’d recommend you re-read the post and take the quiz again. If you read carefully, you’ll score 100%.

        Watch the Weekend Digest this Saturday for answers and explanations. 🙂

  2. I enjoyed this very much. I’m a sucker for quizzes and surveys — it definitely made me click on the link in your email.

    I got 100%, but I didn’t feel confident of the last 3 or 5 images. The boys jumping in the water was tricky because there was such a big relatively blank space on the bottom right, though the boys were facing the other direction. The two men with the sunglasses I was totally unsure of, and the last two seemed to rely just on lines in the image, and lines that were not really prominent, either.

    I visited a website yesterday that had a really nice photo of the owner of the site. She was — well, her body was facing front, facing the camera. And her face was, too, but she was looking ever-so-slightly toward — well, toward the outside of the page, away from the text that was on the other side of the photo. I thought this was a mistake, but then I thought maybe her glance was too subtle. But after seeing the answers in your quiz, I’ve decided I was right the first time.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • The image of the boys is a good example of “follow the action.” But it was hard, I know.

      I cracked up when I found the image of the two men in the sunglasses. I knew I had to use that one!

      One of the reasons I wanted to write this post, Beelissa, is that I see the issue often. People use images that aren’t facing toward the text. It’s such a simple thing and can make a big difference in how your image and text work together.

      Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  3. There’s something strange about the scoring. I took it more than once, and got the same score even though I changed the answer to only one question. I also got a different score even though I gave the same answers on two different quiz sessions. Does the quiz get confused when you’re using the same browser and possibly cookies?

    • Mia, I haven’t heard of that issue before. You could try clearing your browser’s cache to see if that helps.

  4. I got less than 100%, I’m trying a second time and very sure of scoring 100%. Thanks for the enlightening quiz.

  5. Wow! I had no idea. Thank you for sharing this new (to me) way of choosing images and placing text. This also will change how I take photos for blog posts.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Kim!

      This is one of those weird things designers’ eyes pick up on that helps them to choose and position images and text in just the right way.

  6. Pamela, thanks for this tortuous quiz which is both instructive and entertaining — by far my favourite sort of education! More please.

    Thanks also for writing in your particular style that is always clear, conversational and much to the point. You don’t waste words and those you use are the pertinent and helpful ones. Many writers in the marketing field see wordiness as a virtue, whereas it’s a turnoff. I want you to know, speaking personally, you’re doing the right thing.

    By the way, what is the line of sight in the image that heads your email with the quiz answers? (The almost-linked arms and hands). I would say “top right”. It seems obvious, which only makes me doubt myself.

    • Here’s that image again:

      Passing notes

      This image isn’t super clear … I’d say it fits in the “no distinguishable direction” image category. Or maybe it’s the “It depends” category! It depends on whether you think the person on the left is passing a note to the person on the right, or receiving one.

      I chose the image because it was one the few “passing notes” images I found which would fit in the space I use for images at the top of my newsletter.

      Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate them!

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