Eric’s Blog

Creating compelling visual sequences for online content

To define effective visual language online, look at the most common method how images are organized to express ideas visually: a sequence.

The classical sequence is a series of three shots: wide/medium/tight leading to a “payoff” or result.

In effective sequences, shots are organized in a logical way, often starting wide and moving into the action (obviously it doesn’t have to be that way every time). At its most fundamental, the sequence is simply the series of shots you use to get to your soundbite or payoff.

The question is how do we create compelling sequences that play to the unique characteristics of the online medium? That “lean-in”, engaged, and active viewer who is ready to click away at every moment?

For effective visual storytelling online, recognize that choice is vital; all images are not created equal. The first image in your online sequence must be a powerful one, compelling enough to keep the online viewer engaged, and watching.

  • Wide shots usually don’t work; they are just too hard to see on mobile devices, laptops and event on a computer screen.
  • Sometimes a medium or wide shot can work. But it has to be a clearly recognizable process, such as a ceremony, a street protest, or a sports match
  • Closeups and tight shots almost always work in online content, especially human details, such close ups of people’s faces, hands and clothing
  • Signs work well. A sign is literally something the audience can read: “Police”, “Meeting in Progress”, “Toxic Waste”, etc. But make sure it is readable.
  • Symbols such as flags, religious symbols, and logos can work well if they are commonly known and your audience recognizes them easily.
  • “Iconic” images – something that is instantly recognizable almost always work, and almost always a tight shot.

Whatever image you choose to begin your sequence, make sure it is as specific to the story as possible, and compelling enough to keep your online audience engaged, and watching.