Real Simple Field Notes: Images

Real Simple uses both photographs, illustrations, and graphics. Images are used for every story and for most stories, more than one image is used. Many images are photographs that feature products that the article discusses. Towards the front of the book where the written pieces are shorter bites of information, small graphics or illustrations are used to break up the content, or they serve as an entry point. Real Simple also features fashion and beauty photography, portraits of people, and many photographs of food.

Most of the photographs, even the ones featuring people, are inactive. The photographs seem to explain concepts and feature stationary objects or people; they are not expressive, emotional, or creative. They may be explaining how to do a project, how to create a recipe, how to lay out furnishings, or how to style a new trend. Or, the photograph is used to present a new section of the magazine. These photos are very simple and usually feature text above and below the photo.


Photograph introduces new section


The sizes for images range. For front of book pieces, small images are used. For the feature well, half page, full page, or two spread photographs are used. Color is always used; black and white is never featured.


Multi-page photograph in use.


Real Simple seems to use a variety of wide, medium, and tight shots in the magazine. This adds variety and interest. The shots seem to be dependent on the content. If the piece features products, tight shots are used. If the piece features instructions, medium or wide shots are used (so that readers may understand the full picture of what they’re doing).


Tight shots of products


The images are always straightforward and do not contain much decoration. Images are always rectangles, unless it’s a product, which may be silhouetted. Photos are never superimposed onto one another. Text is placed directly on images at times. For instance if it’s a fashion shoot that requires product captions, or if it’s a piece that gives directions, sometimes directions are placed on the photograph.


Fashion photography with text used on photo


Every story uses an image, which is a nice complement to a fairly straightforward, simple, and clean magazine. Illustrations, photographs, and graphics are used throughout the publication, but the magazine is photo heavy. Illustrations or graphics can be used for features, but not as often as photographs. It isn’t clear what determines if a story should use a photograph, illustration, or graphic.

Infographics are also used in this magazine, though not as often as photographs or illustrations. Computer designed graphics are used quite often. Sometimes, they’re the only accompanying image to a story. It must be difficult for the magazine staff to use a photograph for the many stories they  publish every month, which is why I believe they use graphics. But I think the graphics look childish. They do not blend in with the sophisticated and clean style of the magazine.


Infographic Example


Childish graphic in Real Simple