Using Images - Branding & Advertising
Major brands know that presentation is everything and they spend billions each year tailoring their branding and marketing, not only to engage with their existing customer base but to reach out for new ones too. This is particularly so for online sales. Savvy owners of small businesses are also successfully reading the trends of customers and employing similar measures. Naturally, there is a requirement to follow-up with a great product or service and great customer service too!
The first point of customer contact for most small businesses is their website, and its presentation is paramount. This is as important for a builder or metal worker, as it is for baby products or women’s fashion, the principles are the same, only the product differs.
Designers need great photography for branding and for telling your story. If the design and photography are done well it sends a powerful message to the target audience, get it wrong and you'll turn potential buyers away quicker than a quick thing.
A good salesperson will set the mood before making the pitch, they'll do this with what they say, the way in which they say it (tone, speed, etc.,) their body language, and any visual aids available to them. And then they deliver it (think of a market trader shouting about all their wonderful produce and then holding up those juicy red apples "Come on luv, only a pound a pound"). The audience are already in the mood to buy, that's why they are there, and the best pitch wins...but only if the apples which are being held up look juicy and crisp - holding up apples which can't be seen properly simply won't work. It's the same for a potential customer landing on your web page, the mood is set in an instant by the colour scheme and images, they read the accompanying text (your sales pitch), if it all gels and the price is right they'll buy.
Lifestyle products and services lean heavily on photography and video. The business owners work hard to develop a mood with design and images. Take a fashion brand for example, these companies have incorporated photography deep into their brand, and it shows. Photographically strong brands have clear advantages, this is why major brands use full-time art directors and picture editors whose job it is to be in the know and to give the brand the edge. As a small business owner you need to be your own art director - and it's easy to do...
Collect photos from wherever you can, images that look the way in which you see your own photography working. This could be from competitors, from magazines, major brands, catalogues, product fliers, stock photo sites, wherever.
Then do the acid test of showing the collection to your team (if you have one) or friends, family and other business owners. Ask them if your collected images reflect your business. Because it's not ourselves which we should appeal to, it is our potential customers - yes, we have a stake in the game, so we must be reasonably happy with the presentation ourselves, but it's pointless if our view does not reflect that of our potential customers....and this is one of the biggest stumbling blocks of small business owners.
Once you start getting a feeling for what kind of photos are working, try to identify why. Are there patterns, does the collection speak lifestyle or quality, vibrant and fresh, etc.. Here are some considerations:
What kinds of content should be in the photos? Products? Portraits?
If you are a lifestyle business, what kind of story should your imagery tell?
What mood does it convey to the viewer? How did you want them to feel?
How will your products be staged? White backgrounds are usually
pointless unless you are selling online.
How will the photos be edited? Tight crop? Space for text?
Minimalistic and desaturated images give a feeling of calm and peace. Vibrant and contrasty images give off freshness and youth. Black and white can be old school, artistic or edgy.
What are key do’s and don’ts for your brand?
The number one don't, is the use of obvious 'stock' images. It sends a message of distrust for almost all audiences once they spot them.
Also, unless your brand is about you and your interaction with customers (life coach, personal trainer, stylist, etc) your portrait has no place on the landing page. The exception being when your introductory paragraph tells the story of how you began your service / company.
Be consistent with images and ruthless about what does & does not make it to your website and advertising media. Poor imagery sends a message of shoestring budget and of not doing things very well, so if it's not good, leave it out.
Hiring a photographer:
Photographers generally work in one of two disciplines, commercial photography or wedding & portrait photography. A few do both. Commercial photographers sometimes specialize in just one area, such as food or architecture.
Therefore, hire a photographer who's portfolio reflects your needs, if your brand is about products - jewellery for example; You'll want someone who can take great product images and maybe some lifestyle work too, so don't be fooled into thinking that the photographer who took great photos at your sister's wedding will also do a good job with jewellery or the food in your restaurant. The most important thing is that they have a track record for your product or service.
Fees vary globally, in the USA you will pay for the photographer’s time and the specific use of the images (see copyright below). In the UK you should expect to pay around £600 per day at small business level, fees are lower in mainland Europe.
Product photography is structured differently. Generally you will pay a fee per image and the fee will vary depending on volume and complexity. For example; You may pay €10 per image for 20 products photographed individually on a plain white background, or as little as €2 per image for 200. This could rise to €500 per image if it is a creative one with props or special effects, say for billboard advertising or a magazine cover.
Copyright differs slightly depending on location and photographer. In the USA for example, you will generally have license to use the images for a specific period or use. Thereafter, negotiating further rights with the studio / photographer. In Europe, some photographers follow the American model - particularly for high-end work for major brands. However, at small business level copyright is more flexible and negotiable. The best policy is to negotiate for 'Full All-Time Rights' this ensures that the images are yours and you can use the images again and again without further payment.
Creating great images to build a strong brand may seem like a daunting task, but like any journey it begins with a single step. Whether you are creating and taking your own images or hiring the services of a professional, the principles of image selection and placement are the same.
Product images should on the whole be bright and contemporary, and all images should be free of clutter. Lifestyle images should tell the story of that lifestyle and how your business can make it happen. The audience should be in no doubt that you are saying ‘this is who we are, this is what we do and we do it well’.
If you would like to know more about imaging, or about the new kid on the block - Video, stats, price guides and the difference it can make to your business, more tips can be found here
Good luck with your branding and advertising, if you would like free advice on any area of commercial photography, video production or social photography, please drop me a line and we will schedule a call.