In an ideal world, for every job I would be supplied with a good selection of well lit, high quality assets for creating the best poster possible. However, many of us working in this area will be aware that this is by no means a given – even when working on a big-ticket job.

So what’s a designer to do? Well, all is not lost! Below, I give my top tips for working with less-than-ideal photography and other assets.

1. Take Stock

What assets do you have? Check with clients that they have indeed sent their best quality imagery. Sometimes, this can be slightly frustrating because even though you’re told that the blurry image you are working with is the best they have – you know that a crisp, un-pixelated file must exist somewhere. But ultimately, you can only ask!

2. Allow Time

And communicate these expectations with the client. This work will take longer than working with top quality assets as you may need to experiment with a variety of approaches to make sure the design is working.

3. Make it Smaller

Use the image/s provided in a smaller context on the design – e.g. as a supporting image not the hero image. This technique will have it’s limitations however – so make sure you are clear on how the final artwork will be used – for instance, there is a world of difference between it being used for a social media campaign or being blown up for a huge billboard.

4. Obscure it

Combine with other high quality assets to give the overall design a professional finish. This might be other photography such a stock imagery, layers such as smoke or mist or covering the weakest part of the image (e.g. an area of poor focus or a photo which cuts off unexpectedly) with typography. You can even combine different images into one person (e.g. replace hands or a torso) – don’t worry, if done skilfully this won’t look at all like Frankenstein’s monster.

5. Play it Up

Would it work to make the lower quality a feature of the design? This can work particularly well in some genres – for example, you can use grainy images effectively to create an unsettling effect for a thriller poster, or a slightly blurred grunge or punk aesthetic may work well for an indie film.

6. Adjust your Settings

Play around with using opacity/brighten/contrast/saturation etc. to improve the image – you may be surprised how effective this can be. Using colour tones can be great for blending the image into the overall design – but take care not to overdo it (you may need to regularly step back from the design and examine how it’s working).

A word to the wise:

Take care whilst you are making adjustments on the design that you don’t lose any of that precious resolution. Keep an eye on the settings you use to save out your files and make sure the image isn’t degraded any further.

So, those are my top tactics. Am I missing any? Let me know in the comments if you have any lifesaving techniques for dealing with those less-than-perfect assets!

Looking for graphic design services for film, or to find out a bit more about my work? Drop me a line at or follow me on Instagram @strelkadesign