Developing Clean, Cohesive Graphics and Photos
One of the most important aspects of creating content for yourself or your business is ensuring that there is quality behind what you put out. A very important aspect of that quality is the actual appearance of how you promote your brand and products through graphics and photography. Coincidentally, as freemium and subscription software models have gained traction, we've seen a shift in the market to more affordable and user-friendly graphic design software. That is GREAT news if you're a hands-on kind of person like me.
This article is about the options available to you in the market for graphic design and photography, as well as what alternatives there are if you'd rather have someone else do it. We'll go over paid, freemium, and free options. Let's start with graphics. (PSA: Let me know what your stack looks like and why you like it in the comments below!).
You probably don't need an introduction to this one but it's definitely worth mentioning and for good reason. Adobe has what they call the Creative Cloud and it includes photography, graphic design, video editing, and audio editing (among a few other apps). Although it's pricey, it is your all-in-one solution with very strong capabilities, excellent customer support, and a huge catalog of online tutorials.
The packages vary from single apps, photography essentials, and ALL of the apps. The pricing varies from $9.99 USD to $52.99 per month OR you can purchase the annual subscription. Here is a link with more details.
Sketch for Mac
Sketch is a relatively newer graphic design app that is available on the Mac ecosystem and it's quickly become a favorite of mine since it's not only really good but also a very good price. Think of it as a new approach to Illustrator without being as intensive on your computer. The interface is top-notch and you can create anything form a graphic flyer (like the one for this post) to a full-fledged app. Check out this app I designed called Menturu using Sketch.
Another great thing about Sketch is that they have a plug-in market and you can find additional third-party plugin developers. For example, the default type options are pretty limited, especially when you compare it to Illustrator or InDesign - both members of the aforementioned Adobe CC. The good news is that Sketch has typography plugins that offer a wealth of options like kerning, tracking, and all the other tiny details. The pricing for Sketch is $99 USD for one year -- it's worth every penny.
Affinity is one of those options that gets the job done, is simple and is fairly affordable. No bells and whistles, no complex UI. At a fixed price of $49.99 with no subscription you won't even have to think about monthly budgeting or renewing.
What started as a really simple online app for creating handouts and cards has truly evolved into the future of applications. Canva is a completely web-based print design platform that has hundreds of templates that you can use. It ranges from simple event invitations to complete presentations and e-books. I highly recommend using this if you want something that looks good and is fast.
I remember the transition to Lightroom from Photoshop Raw was a bit confusing at first but by tinkering with buttons and levels it gets easier to understand what everything does. The beautiful thing about Lightroom is that you can find hundreds of tutorials online for practically any type of photo editing. You can also save your edits into what are called "Presets", which will help with cohesion across your photos. If you need someone else to edit your photos, all you have to do is export your original preset and they'll be able to get the exact look that you desire. There is also a whole market for purchasing presets and, although I like making my own presets, it's always available if you really like a photographer's work and want to get that on your images.
However, if shooting RAW and tinkering with photos is not your thing, there are more efficient programs to use as you will read below.
With Adobe CC Photography Essentials you can get Lightroom and Photoshop for the low price of $9.99 a month OR you can get the entire suite I mentioned at the beginning of the article. PLUS you get the mobile app (see my favorite list of apps at the end of the article).
Capture One is one of the strongest competitors to Lightroom. It can easily handle camera RAW formats and the capabilities it has camera profiles, color/local adjustments, and details (among an array of other functionalities). Again, this is great if you're into editing yourself but takes a while to get that hang of. The price point is high for a single application at $20/mo and $300 to purchase. The purchasing option is something to look at since it will save you money in the long-term but you may lose the capability for push updates.
Google Nik Collection
This was a Google acquisition from a few years ago and is freeware through and through. Nik Collection comes with a ton of presets - I have my opinions about some of them but, for the most part, it makes most photos look more professional. This comes in handy if you want some cool HDR photos or want to make your regular iPhone or Point-and-Shoot photos pop. You can also add them as plugins to apps like Adobe Photoshop. Definitely worth at least downloading and testing it out - especially since it's free.
I won't go into too much detail as that would be an article in itself so here is a list of some personal favorites (comment below if you'd like to read more about these apps)
Get out there and Shoot!
At the end of the day, the software will only be as good as the content so just get out there and shoot. Use your phone - some of my favorite and most popular shots have been with a good ol' iPhone.
Let me know if this list helps or if you have any additional recommendations in the comments below. If any of these tips come in handy, make sure to tag me (@fredis_b)!