Creating the right impression is really important and good photographic images can make a huge difference in enhancing the perception of your business and make you stand out from the crowd.
With the growth of the internet and social media, our world is more visually rich. Customers are short of time so are more likely to click on an interesting image than read a lot of words.
When you think of a brand, what enters your head? Marketeers spend time and money on building brands because they understand how important it is to be able to differentiate yourself.
At its simplest, you might define a brand as the logo or strapline of a business as this is what makes it instantly recognisable – from a swoosh to golden arches, customers instantly recognise who it is. However, brand is so much wider than a logo or the colours used to represent you. At its core, in this context, it is about an individual’s experience of a business. So this means every time a customer comes in contact with you, from googling your business to interacting through customer service to how easy it is to purchase from you (and everything else in between).
A strong brand increases the chances of customers choosing your product or service over your competition. A prime example could be Apple. Think about their customers who are more than happy to pay a premium to own an Apple product. Why? Because the brand represents innovation and forward thinking (not about having a phone or computer but about the experience of being a devoted follower).
Major brands invest millions in building their brand image as they know It attracts more customers, at a lower cost per acquisition, who are happy to pay a little more, and will buy a little more often.
Think about trainers. Why pay more for a pair of trainers because they have a swoosh on them? The Nike swoosh is one of the most recognisable brands in the world and customers positively opt to pay a premium because the brand is about being a hero (not tangible but supported through technology in their products).
Importance of Brand Photography
Brand photography is a suite of professional images that visually represent your business. The images fit with your visual identity by using you brand colours and tone. These can include photos of your products, behind the scenes, processes, work space, you, your team and anything that makes your business unique and stand out.
Ideally you will have a range of photos that are consistent with your brand and as professional looking as you can that will portray a positive image of your business, whether online or in marketing material.
The images you use to represent your brand could be the first customer interaction. Your brand experience begins even before you have interacted with your customer – through the ability to investigate all about you online. How you are perceived online is important as this could be the first time a customer comes across you, whether through an online search or seeing your social media posts.
Brand photography is a great way to make a first impression through good quality, consistent, professional brand photography.
It is able to embody how you want to portray your business.
Building Your Brand Profile Online
1. Be Clear on Your Brand Personality
Before I go into the ways you can improve your brand profile through brand photography, I am working on the basis you have built your brand, defined your brand values, personality and have a logo and brand guidelines (even if this one is just in your head!). If you would like some help on developing your brand, please contact me.
Being clear on what your brand personality is as this will define the type of image you want to use to underpin this. For example, serious corporate image vs fun, friendly and approachable image will lead you to choose different approaches in your photography style.
Brand personality is a key driver in your photography and supported by your brand logo and colours.
2. Be Clear What Your Brand Stands For
As for personality, what embodies your brand is a factor in the images you use to represent your brand.
This may sound and easy one but worth spending time considering. For example, did you know….
Harley Davidson Brand – Freedom
Puma Brand – Active
Starbucks Brand – Relax and Enjoy
The brands stand for the experience they want their customers to have from the ability to jump on your Harley Davidson and drive anywhere to knowing that you will have a consistent customer experience in any Starbucks in any city in the world (oh and you can also get a cup of coffee too!).
What feeling do you want your customers to have about you?
3. Be Clear on Your Brand Identity
Think about a brand like Tiffany’s which owns its own brand colour and has a clear identity of luxury (and an instantly recognisable box). Their photographic images are key in how they portray their brand – from the iconic use of their blue to their product being the pure focus to celebrities wearing their products.
You can use your brand colours in the same way by ensuring they are included in images or represented (for example including your logo where you have photos of people).
4. Be Consistent on Your Photographic Images
Just having your logo, colours and font defined is only part of the puzzle. Your photography should match these, with all the visual element working together to build and maintain consistency.
When you are first starting out, good stock images are a great start. You can select images that closer match your brand colours, style etc and there are free sources of commercial photos as well as paid for stock images. The downside is that everyone else has access to these so it is important that you mould them to fit your brand more closely. This can be as simple as using an image editor to change colours, add elements etc or finding images with blank space that you can add words to so it is more personalised.
The ideal is to have your own suite of branded photographs (budget permitting) where you are in full control of how you use your brand colours, tones etc. Why? Because they are unique to your brand and completely ‘on brand’.
The overall message though is consistency – to build a picture of your brand in your customers heads (whether existing or potential).
5. Use Brand Photography Consistently Across All Media
The focus of this is on building your online profile through brand photography which is important. Please do not forget to use through other marketing channels too, as this means however a customer chooses to interact with you, their experience of your brand image is the same.
Online can include your social media profile photos, instagram photos and stories, web pages, blog posts, any paid for ads. Offline can include business cards, PR pack, email newsletter, postcards etc.
6. Have a Plan
By being clear on what your brand is and stands for, you have already started. The next stage is how you want photos to look (corporate vs whimsical etc) which is based on appealing to your target customer. Relook at your brand personality to help on this one as the clearer you are on how you want your photos to look, the simpler the process will be.
Next create a list of possible photos you want. At this stage it will be an outline as once you start looking for/taking photos, other image opportunities will come up. Shots of your product or service are good (slightly more difficult as it is about thinking of images to portray your service. For example, if you are an event planner, photos could reflect opening up materials, setting up a room to pictures of happy guests). Also behind the scenes, work space, team photos, customer photos (if possible).
Do not underestimate the power of a close-up photograph. It can make the subject more interesting if your photo is zoomed in or taken at an angle. It will make your image look different to others.
Also people like seeing other people (in my experience big smiles in photos equals big engagement). Big cheesy grins can be really powerful! As above, the photos can be taken at an angle and great if the person being photographed is not aware as it makes the image look more real.
7. Collating Brand Images
If you are using stock images, use a search engine to find multiple sources (a number of which are free). It is time consuming but worthwhile to build up a catalogue of images. Remember, you have a plan and know the type of images you are after so it is a case of plugging in different words into your search engine.
Another option is to become your own photographer. I have a lot of experience of this and quickly realised that I needed to understand about things like composition to make my photos more interesting. I was lucky that I had a friend who had built up photography skills so a day of training with her and I was good to go. It is amazing the tips you can pick up. And even if you do not have a friend to rely on, there are lots of free online photography videos. Or if you fancy getting serious, there will be local photography courses (look for Macro or Commercial workshops/courses)
The ideal if you have the budget available as you are in complete control of how your brand will be portrayed and work with an expert to get professional images. Finding a photographer can be as simple as asking for recommendations from other business owners or people in your industry. Otherwise, Facebook groups or communities that you are part of for people who could help. Or an online search as you will be able to see their photographic style.
Whichever route you choose, please make sure your images are clear and bright. This is really important for social media as most people quickly scroll through their feeds so your image needs to standout (vs it being dark and blurry).
It is easy to understand the importance of a great logo and website as they are the first things that a customer might see and if they are done well, the customer will remember you. The same is true for using photographs. Using the best available images means that your marketing will look professional, be appealing to customers and make your brand stand out from your competitors.