Illustration vs Photography



Connect with author:

Share this story:

Let’s say your company needs to create a brochure to grow your customer reach. But you need images. Should you organise a photoshoot or should you hire a designer to create some illustrations? How do you decide when should you use photography, and when should you use illustration?


When to use illustrations                                                               

1. For fantastical scenes. Illustration can be used when you want to show things that photography simply can’t. Illustrators aren’t hindered by real-life considerations like gravity or lighting, so they’re ideal for creating fantastical scenes that would be impossible to photograph.

2. For retro appeal. When you’re striving for a vintage look in your designs. Before everyone had cameras, when photography was much more expensive to produce, many ads featured illustrations. So using illustrations today can harken back to different time periods, adding a retro flair to designs that is more difficult to achieve with photography.


3. To stand out. Illustration can also be a good choice when you want to grab attention. In markets where many similar products are available, illustrations can be a great way to help stand out from the pack. There are only so many ways to photograph the same thing but illustrators can bring a whole new perspective and style to an image.

4. For icons/infographics. You don’t often think of it, but every little icon on a website is an illustration. Vector illustrations are resolution-independent – meaning they can be scaled up or down to any size without losing image quality.

When to consider photography

1. For accuracy. There are scenarios in which photography will be the natural choice for designers. One is where accuracy and trust are important to the aims of the design. People trust photographs to give an accurate representation of a place, product or person. So when you’re advertising a product, it is often a good idea to represent it using photography. For example, people will react better to a photo of a plate of food in a menu, as opposed to an illustration of food, because they believe that the food they get will resemble the photograph.



2. To look professional. More broadly, photography can also help to convey an image of professionalism. Images that accurately reflect reality can help persuade consumers that a company is seriously minded and responsible.



3. To show off the real thing. Photography can also be the natural choice when you want to convey the physical qualities of a product or service to provoke a visceral reaction. For example, a photography of a luxurious hotel bedroom will provoke the thought “Ooh… I want to stay there!” much more powerfully than a stylised illustration.

Still not sure, ask yourself these questions?

1.How important is accuracy?

Do you need to show the real-life product so customers will know what they’re purchasing? If so, photography might be a better bet than an illustration.

2. Will the image need to be sized for different applications?

If your image is going to be appearing at multiple sizes – from billboards to brochures, watch apps to cinema screens – a vector illustration can be resized to any scale without losing image quality, so it can be the ideal solution for a variety of different uses.

3. Is your design plan inspired by vintage imagery?

Illustrations lend themselves well to old-fashioned designs, but it can be harder to create the same effect using photography.

Whatever you decide we offer both photography and bespoke illustration here at Design Pit. Check out our latest work.