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Facebook Fixes: Choosing Effective Images

This is one in a series of blogs about making Facebook advertising work for your business.

Facebook ads combine many messaging elements—the text, the headline, the button, and the image. If you’re running ads with a single image (vs. gallery ads or video ads), you may wonder which kinds of images work best. In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the rules of thumb we use for images here at Cup O Content.

But before we go on, please keep in mind that every business is different. While these are rules we’ve learned, we’re not afraid to test other types of images. When we run ads, we test at least two images to find which attracts the most clicks, engagements, or conversions.

After doing these kinds of tests for years and years, we thought we’d share some of our findings to give you a head start on your own ad images.

Cup O Content Facebook Fixes Example

Rule of Thumb: High-Contrast Gets More Attention

High-contrast images get more attention. This is one of those rules of advertising that applies to almost any media. Bright colors and high contrast catch our eye and draw us in. There is a big caveat to this rule: be careful with your color combinations. Mixing bright colors can get harsh and actually repel. For example, using black and red on a white background is usually a safe high-contrast composition. However, using neon-bright colors together rarely works. The goal is to make it easy to see each element. Play with colors and run tests for each combination in your Facebook Ads Manager.

Rule of Thumb: Use Less than 20 Percent Text in Images

If you’ve ever run a Facebook ad, you’re probably familiar with the suggested text limit of 20 percent or less of the image. While Facebook no longer rejects ads with more than 20 percent text, they do tell advertisers, “If the proportion of text to image is too high, your ads may not reach its full audience.” In our experience, they almost always slow down the distribution of images with lots of text, often making it hard to reach your desired audience effectively. Not sure if your ad stays within the 20 percent rule?

Rule of Thumb: Eliminate Text if Possible

In many Facebook ad formats, especially audience network distribution, your image may not appear at all in the preview or be resized. Either way, relying on text in an image is a risky strategy. To play it safe, remove text from the images you’ll be using in ads. Make sure your ad works without any text in the image.

Rule of Thumb: Use Close-ups of Faces

Photos of people generally perform better than other types of photos. Photos that zoom in tight to faces usually do better than wider shots. Furthermore, if your close-up shots show people looking directly into the camera, they will usually outperform photos of people looking at other people in the photo, looking into the distance, or shot from behind (or, even less effectively, with their back facing the camera).

Rule of Thumb: Show Expressions

When our ads use photos showing people with distinct expressions - curiosity, confusion, real glee – these ads tend to outperform those featuring people sporting generic smiles.

Cup O Content Facebook Fixes Example 2

Rule of Thumb: Keep it Real. Natural Beauty Beats Classic

Yes, people love a pretty face, but faces that look too perfect may not capture as much attention as those displaying less conventional beauty. While the two women below are both beautiful, one looks retouched, and the other looks more authentic.


Rule of Thumb: Candid Photos Outperform Stock

If original photography is not an option, look for stock photos that are less posed and imperfect or use people who don’t look like models. Big noses, unusual eyes, blemished skin, messy hair, or crooked smiles get more attention than polished, conventional beauty. Candid or “real” photos usually work better than stock photos.*


Rule of Thumb: Size Matters

Make sure your image resolution works well within your ad format to avoid blurry photos. Resize your ad to fit each platform. Facebook Newsfeed, Instagram, and Audience Extension ads may use different-sized images. This blog offers a good guide, current as of February 2018. Never use images sized for other social media on Facebook (or vice versa). Each platform has its own sizing guidelines.

Rule of Thumb: Keep it Simple

Simple images usually work better than complicated images. Remember that your ad may be seen as a small image on a phone screen. Simple images are easier to identify in small sizes. Show one tree instead of a forest. Show a key instead of a lot full of cars. Show a finger on a phone instead of a girl in a mall making a call.


*Make sure you have the right to use any photo. If you’re taking your own photos or using photos of real people, make sure you have written permission to use these people in your advertising. Rocket Lawyer offers a free template for you to use here. Want to learn more about social media advertising? Check out these blogs.

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