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Laughing women sitting in bus, ima196552

Communicate authenticity
– the how-tos!
Do you want your communication to be perceived as genuine? Well, then don't miss our tips on what to consider when selecting images.

Karin Sandelin at Kantar Sifo explains why it is so important to use images that feel credible and what is at stake if you don't.


Five important tips!
Woman renovating kitchen, ima204103
Father with baby at home, ima195961
1. Your images should speak the same language as your target audience
Use images that appear to be taken in a context your audience recognizes. There are many elements in an image that do just this, like lighting, styling, even details such as the appearance of painted lines on roads. Look at your image and try to determine if it feels like the "here and now" or if it's rather foreign to your audience's everyday life and reality.

Woman and child in front of mirror, ima199012
Baby making face, ima195959
2. Avoid images that are too perfect
If you want your images to be perceived as authentic, they cannot seem arranged or staged. We often experience imperfection as being human and genuine, that is, something that goes against exact repetition, symmetry and order.
Smiling senior woman playing cards, masma68872
Footprints on a jetty, ima67194
3. Highlight the irregular and human
That's why you should use images that show people and environments as they are, with the imperfections and irregularities that exist in real life. Images can be authentic and at the same time convey completely different brand identities depending on the image's other characteristics. 
Couple together, ima191923
Mother with sad toddler, ima196563
4. Use snapshots
Use snapshots as a way of showing authentic everyday life, a trip, or a holiday. Images that appear staged and arranged often lack authenticity. Emotional expressions such as genuine smiles, warm glances, surprised body language or graceful relaxation are easier to capture in the moment than in poses.

A moose on a foggy road, nat045240
Storforsen, culis09ad4ap
5. Nature images are a shortcut
Nature is closely linked to authenticity in our visual culture. Nature is not only a time marker but also a place marker, which helps to strengthen the foothold of the image. For example, we can easily detect on an unconscious level whether an image of nature resembles nature we are familiar with or a foreign place.

The importance of authenticity
It might seem paradoxical that a stock agency would emphasize the importance of authenticity in its photographs, but using credible images creates a sense of being real, regardless of the origin of the images. It is a matter of the images speaking the same language as the target group.
Karin Sandelin, photo: Kristian Pohl
About Karin Sandelin
As a semiotician, Karin Sandelin helps guide many of our biggest brands, organizations and authorities in the area of imagery to build strong and clear messages and brand identities.

Karin, why is it important that the images in my communication feel credible and genuine?
I would say that authenticity in images is related to relevance and the relationship to the target audience, to be credible, reliable, inspiring and even challenging – and in all this being specific, not generic. If you use a non-authentic imagery, you may as well be anyone.
 
Images can help to "fill in" your brand identity as well as social values such as who we are as employees of the company, how we view our customers, our aspirations and our ideals – who we want to be and who we want to become.
 
Authentic images can also contribute a context, they can tell you whether we are urban or rural, close to nature or more technocratic, local or global. Non-authentic images have a tendency to wear a contextless expression, it becomes unclear where or when the image is taken – the image doesn't have a real foothold.
What do I stand to lose in my communication if I use images that are not perceived as authentic?
A lot! Non-authentic images can be used much like icons, where they become more of a functional symbol, such as for finding Customer Service or for understanding that this brand works with Transportation. But authentic images can be not only functional, but also emotional – that is, add the important, brand-building layer of values, relevance, credibility, personality and so on.

At worst, non-authentic images can cause the recipient to be suspicious. "Is this a scam?" A generic expression can be suspected of being a forgery, a wolf in sheep's clothing – for example, a fake website. Often, poorly chosen generic images can also contradict and weaken the message, and by extension, the brand. For instance, this may happen if you want to be perceived as local and modern, but choose images that are not perceived to be authentic to your market, in the present day. What everyday life looks like is now in flux, and that makes it all the more important to have a vibrant, updated image bank.

Read more about image communication!
Photographers: Stina Gränfors (IMA196552, IMA204103, IMA195961, IMA195959, IMA191923, IMA196563 ), Plattform (IMA199012 ), Maskot images (MASMA68872 ), Ulf Huett Nilsson (IMA67194 ), Kent Storm ( IMA67194 ), Cultura Creative (CULIS09AD4AP) and Kristian Pohl.