Today we’re in an all-consuming visual interchange, where visuals rule as the language of the 21st century. Photos, graphics and videos are now integral to our daily life, led by smartphones, and fueled by the changing way we consume and interact with media.

The main catalysts for change have come through social sites and apps such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram where consumers spend time endlessly scrolling and browsing photos and videos.

Brands and content marketers globally are taking note. Campaigns are becoming more authentic and real, “street casting” is used more often (as opposed to hiring professional models) and more photographers are shooting with a reportage-style candid aesthetic.

What does this mean for brand imagery?

1. Choose the right shape

Your customers are looking at you on their mobile phones and tablets, so your imagery needs to work in that format – the square image has been championed by Instagram whereas the more recent trend is towards images cropped to a letterbox format (2.39:1). The elongated panoramic offers a new angle on stories that are told often.

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2. Relax your style

Your customers are looking at hundreds – possibly thousands – of images a day on their social media feeds. The look of user-generated content is more relaxed and has not been professionally set up, so the mobile phone snapshot aesthetic is a style that feels comfortable and enjoyable to look at.

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3. Use everyday people

Your customers are spending time looking at viral videos and images that feature the everyday. As a result, all this user-generated content has broadened the appeal of individual, interesting, diverse people in images.

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Romance in the big city

4. Favor the story over perfection

An image that tells an engaging story or is visually appealing will have more impact than an image that is technically perfect. Modern audiences forgive blur, flare and aberrations in favor of authenticity.

5. Try first-person point of view

Mobile technology has enabled a more intimate view of everyday life. As camera technology has become more portable and also wearable, new viewpoints are engaging our attention. The first person point of view brings more emotion and feeling to the moment.

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Sea waves

Discover more imagery that connects to your customers on mobile at iStock by Getty Images