April 19, 2024

In Praise of the Peculiar: How and Why to Use Surreal Images

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Macro closeup of fractal flower, digital artwork for creative graphic design. Colorful texture with floral pattern. Digitally created artwork.

By: Anastasia Dyakovskaya

“Humans are complex and unpredictable, and there’s no reason why brand visuals can’t be, too.” – Lauren Catten, Art Director at Getty Images

Imagination is one of the four factors that make for a powerful image, and nothing stirs it more than Surreality – one of iStock & Getty Images’ 2016’s top visual trends.  

The reason is simple: these original and sometimes peculiar compositions trigger a feeling of pleasure in experiencing the unpredictable. The aesthetic can transform an ordinary topic into something new and exciting. It can help distinguish a brand in a sea of similarity, making for memorable content that leaves a lasting impression. And, thanks to its hyper-immersive, psychedelic visuals, it has very broad appeal.

Nature-related images work as a particularly potent metaphor in this realm, leaving room for interpretation and creating meaningful connections with your content.

Here, iStock by Getty Images explain how to use captivating Surreality to illustrate some common concepts:

Growth in Business

Frame conversations regarding market or business growth with photography that depicts flourishing flora. With a touch of fantasy, images of lush green plants and verdant pastures go far beyond a basic gardening blog, serving as an apt allusion to fruitful endeavors in any field.

Branch of cyan colored fantastic leaves. Studio shot with light spot in centreA Summer/Winter comparison. Composite image.A macro shot of strands of moss on a stone - vibrant colors, surreal looking.

Numbers, Data and Metrics

Content that deals with data and metrics works well with interesting, high-quality images focused on patterns, textures, and repetition found in nature. A quarterly report might feature a seasonally appropriate yet abstract visual, while numbers-driven blogs, articles, or internal documents may be enriched by images depicting some kind of quantifiable element wrapped up in a visually pleasing configuration.

iStock_000081578749_LargeMacro closeup of fractal flower, digital artwork for creative graphic design. Colorful texture with floral pattern. Digitally created artwork.Abstract leaves background

Health and Wellness

Healthcare and pharmaceutical businesses can benefit from incorporating altered images in an attempt to stand out in a crowded market. Double exposure, layering, and playing with proportion are all creative ways to illustrate topics on wellbeing or mental illness, while creating new layers of meaning.

Creative double exposure portrait of woman combined with photograph of natureWoman PortraitMonochromatic conceptual collage of a man inhabited by a feeling of wilderness. His body is made of successive layers of mountains, trees and birds. His eye is visible through the trees.

Invention and Innovation

Innovation or thought leadership content lends itself to images that stand out due to unexpected choices related to color, light and depth of field. Vivid hues are always attention grabbing, while focusing on a certain point and blurring out the rest suggests the highlighting of something special.

This is a horizontal, color, royalty free stock photograph shot with a Nikon D800 DSLR camera. It is a winter afternoon in South Florida's Everglades National Park, an international travel destination. Photographed on Anihinga Trail. The bright day time sky with bright blue sky and white clouds reflects on the tranquil water's surface. Lilly pad floats on this wetland landscape.Black and white image of a Dandelion detail close-up macro, with wet tip looking like fine paint brush.Deposits around a thermal spring. Orakei Korako geothermal area on the Northern Island , New Zealand, near Rotorua,

Financial Concepts and Banking

Banking and financial organizations might try to spice things up with a series of psychedelic landscapes serving as background or header images. For those industries that find it most challenging to tell a visual story or maintain an engaging array of images, Surreality may yet prove most effective when thoughtfully applied.

fantasy landscape with clouds and a starLonely tree with mist and fireflies in forestNorthern lights above a forest, Finnish Lapland

Beauty and Fragrance

Beauty brands featuring herbal, fruit, or floral ingredients in particular might attempt to stand out with unexpected compositions using abstract angles and extreme close-ups. A vibrant burst of color accompanied by a surprise element is sure to draw attention and spark curiosities.

Droste Kiwibackground of back lit ripe melon slices arrangedAbstract kaleidoscopic texture or background pattern design made from pineapple

Supply Chain, Systems and Distribution

Distribution and supply-chain topics across industries pair well with kaleidoscopic images that evoke a web or span of networks due to design elements like refraction, replication, and abstraction. The modern, technological flair of such shapes and lines makes for a kind of psychedelia-meets-Photoshop, alternate reality that stretches the limits of image manipulation and is just the thing to keep eyes lingering longer.

Organic abstract, background pattern with plant based shapes. Mutant alien nature, genetic mutant.Abstract nature background with various circle and triangle shapes. Use vertically or horizontally.Organic abstract, background pattern featuring a profusion of thorns. Mutant nature, genetic mutation.


Explore more Surreality images at iStock by Getty Images. New customers receive 10% off credits with code NEWISTOCK10 – Until September 30th.



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