Visual communication through business photography is an integral part of your brand presence.
Imagery is an essential part of any brand identity and plays a key role in visual material produced for business. However, we find that many companies underestimate the power of their business photography within their brand imagery. We want to educate and empower businesses in any industry to recognize and produce powerful visuals that align with their message and their brand.
A firm understanding of what makes a good business photo and how that relates to your customer can greatly ease the design and marketing processes. Let’s get started!
How Humans Relate to Imagery
Humans communicate with imagery as their first and most instinctual language. From hieroglyphics and cave paintings to fine marble statues and ornate mosaics, storytelling through imagery has been the most used language in human history. Parents communicate with their babies the same way that two grown individuals who speak different languages would: through hand gestures, facial expressions, drawings, and acting. These basic actions encompass a very large and powerful portion of human communication.
Our brains involuntarily process visual cues like body language, iconography, color, and composition in everything we view. A person can even relate to simplified stick figures and emoticons representing a feeling or action. If you don’t take this into consideration when communicating your brand, especially on your website and print materials, then you are missing a critical element in your brand.
Since vision is often the most dominant sense, your eyes will almost always be drawn first to an image. Your customer will be looking at your image from the moment it loads on their screen or opens your brochure. Use this to your benefit. Make sure the images you present to your customers portray how you want them to see your business and how your service or product will make them feel.
Photography is a Key Part of Brand Identity
Photographs are an essential extension of your brand and are the visual element of your storytelling to customers. They will reflect the personality of your business and target (or miss) your ideal client. The photos you use for your website and communications set the tone of your purpose for the publication and the attitude they should get from your website. Make sure to consider all of these elements when selecting your imagery.
When looking to use images for your project, be sure to do a little research into current image and web trends- not only from direct competitors but across high-traffic websites across the internet. Take note of the kind of images that are used.
Left: This photo uses blatant, overt symbolism, trying to be overly inclusive. This has been a trend for a long time but has been overused. Take the approach to be more literal.
Right: This photo has a similar number of individuals and mix of ethnicities. However, teamwork is implied by their mutual engagement. Everyone is attentive and facing each other. They are modern and professional in a well-lit meeting space that is aesthetically pleasing.
Both: These images say teamwork, but only one is going to seem genuine.
What do photos do for your brand?
What do these pictures say to your customer when they see them on your website or on your brochure? Do you want that contact to see you as out-dated, your website as neglected, or your business as out-of-touch with our rapidly changing modern culture? How can you expect a customer to entrust their life and income to you if you can’t communicate that you stay up-to-snuff? There are much simpler, cleaner, more direct ways of getting your meaning across to customers.
Business photography serves as the criterion with which potential consumers with gauge the quality of your brand. High-quality photos engage customers automatically and force them to take a second look in a crowded marketplace. The right photos will increase conversions online and retain their interest in your content. That’s why photos that resonate with your brand image are essential to your brand identity.
Keep your brand up-to-date
Left: This version of the photo is dark and pixelated from being enlarged from a low resolution.
Right: This version is well lit and high quality with proper resolution and good lighting.
Current web and design trends are making the most out of every image on a page. The days of 300 x 100 pixel accent banner over your latest article are over. Images are bigger, bolder, cleaner, and more exciting. They interact with text and utilize movement and artistry. Sometimes an image will make up an entire web page. Could the photography your brand uses stand up to that kind of treatment?
You should ensure that the photos you use on your website, print, and advertising materials are well shot, well-lit, and high resolution. Retina displays on Apple products and higher resolution cell phones and computer monitors blow once-sufficient, small images out of focus and distract viewers from your content with visible pixels.
Damage from poor quality images
From poor Photoshop compilations to low-resolution images and overt stereotypes, these kinds of images detract from your brand.
We have all seen them- the cheesy stock photo. These are the remnants of internet-past that have clung around in the rarely updated corners of the web since the turn of the century. These types of images have no place in today’s modern marketing, though they are frequently produced. They are particularly common in professional services, technology, and industrial marketing when trying to depict a service or product that does not photograph well. In an attempt to convey an emotion, the business instead conveys a lack of creativity or an unwillingness to provide genuine insight into their operations.
What a person sees will also help your customer make judgments on the quality of your service/product based on their reaction to your images. These emotions affect their buying habits and give them a gut read of your brand or products. It’s important to craft your image to invoke your desired reaction.
How to avoid fake stock photos that alienate your customers
Ideally, your photography is never stock as a consumer can judge the authenticity of a photo. However, a photo shoot is not always practical and care should be taken to select genuine, relatable photos when using stock images. Models should be wearing current fashions and be on simple backgrounds to most clearly pass on your meaning.
When customers are seeking a service or a product, they are looking for honest, genuine, relatable images where they could easily imagine themselves in the place of the model. They want real imagery, not staged farce. They want genuine faces and visual nuance. In short, they want to see someone who seems human (go figure).
Left: This image would have seemed trendier 15 years ago but has never been a strong composition. Lens flare, computer board close-ups, image backgrounds and out of date fashion styles further remove a customer from the image.
Right: This is an honest and candid image on a clean background. Though most of the model’s face is obscured, she is smiling naturally, making the image more relatable.
Left: This image of a handsome doctor swooping in on a house call to an elderly woman seems out of touch to the average consumer. The briefcase and white lab coat are removed from the reality of what the most patients see during a medical exam.
Right: This image is more familiar to anyone who has been to the doctor recently. The doctor is providing care for a patient in a believable setting, wearing the scrubs indicative of modern medical standards.
Beware of stock photos with obvious flaws that will prevent a viewer from believing in your brand
Left: The models are staring at a blank whiteboard, no one has open materials, and the models are intensely focused on nothing. This image feels staged and lacks a recognizable face to portray positive emotions.
Right: This is an engaged group looking at actual paperwork and data, seated realistically in a formation that says, “We are going to work this out together.” The smiling and casual position of the models makes the viewer comfortable and allows them to better relate to your content.
Both: Feature professional but slightly relaxed business attitude in a clean, modern environment. They’re even using the same easel board, but clearly, one photo shoot was aimed to be more realistic and authentic.
Colors in photos produce visceral reactions in viewers. They convey moods of power or comfort and get viewers fired up or mellow them out. There has been a great deal of research conducted on the psychology of color and the photos you use will say what words cannot. Use colorful photos when you need to convey a strong emotion, in particular in advertising.
Colors also continue the visual brand theme. You can color match an image to your branding colors to further associate your company with daily life. Humans are wired to react to bright colors but can pick up on the subtleties of shades, tints, color pairings, and overall moods created by all the colors in an image.
Take a moment to look at these images of power plants and factories. Despite having very similar content, each of these images produces a different reaction when viewed. Consider how each photo uses colors to communicate an emotion, from the bright and positive feeling of production potential and growth, the peaceful hum of an urban landscape, or the darker and foreboding implication of environmental damage or over-industrialization.
It pays to have professional product photos
If your business involves any sort of physical product, you need to have high-quality product photos. All it takes is a quick jaunt through eBay or Craigslist to see plenty of examples of dark, blurry, pixelated, tiny product images. Unfortunately, all too often, these are also the types of images we see from businesses when looking for a brand reboot.
Shoppers rely on their senses to judge the quality of your product. When shopping online, all sensation is removed aside from sight. You should aim to provide them with the most detailed and high-quality images of your products on a clean, uncluttered, well-lit background. Product models should be limited and strictly demonstrate in a non-distracting manner.
Left: The days of Vanna White-style modeling are gone. Disembodied hands holding or using objects are also out-of-date. This photo plays down the product and makes the model the focus.
Right: Still-life style images, often color coordinated or styled to match your brand, add continuity to your website or brand. The product should be the key object in the image and, if desired, a few carefully selected objects can be added to make the photo more relatable or seem as if it is in someone’s home.
Armed with this knowledge, you should be better equipped to select and produce superior photos for your website. You need to count on your customers and viewers making judgments about your business by the visuals you present to them. They will be able to “read” your content visually in an instant before they get the chance to read a single line of text. Don’t make the same mistake other companies do by not caring about the visual identity created by your business photography.