How To Recognize And Use Sight Lines In Your Images

We can’t help but look when we see a scene like this:

It’s a primal function of all human beings … We follow each other’s gazes.

If they’re looking, we want to look too.

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!

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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.


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?

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.

Pamela Wilson





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