Personally, I’m a visual learner when it comes to pretty much everything. And considering it’s 2017, most consumers are visual buyers. Meaning, it’s not enough to just tell people what you have to offer or even to give them your elevator speech in passing. You have to show them.
You have to bring your business to life with stunning, eye-catching imagery that furthers your brand story and overall aesthetic. When done well consistently, it will become a backbone of your business.
It doesn’t have to be – I promise! If I could give only three pieces of advice about the topic, they’d be to ensure your visuals are:
Now, keep those in mind as we take a slightly deeper dive into some more thoughts and pointers about how imagery and photography furthers your brand messaging.
I’ll also start by disclosing that I’m not a professional photographer by any means, but this is what I know from my own personal experience and from working with a range of different clients.
#1 – START AT THE DRAWING BOARD
- It can be a poster board that you collage, a private Pinterest board, or even good ‘ol pen & paper. At this stage, it’s super helpful to already have your logo and accompanying “style guide” – including fonts, colors, etc. You could consider this a more elaborate “mood board” that takes into account your target audience, muse, brand elements, etc.
- It should be something that you can easily share with your team or any outsourced help – like your photographer. This board can also be posted somewhere you’ll see regularly to continue inspiring you and pointing you back to your brand.
- As you’re building the collage think: Does this go with the others? If it detracts from the theme you’ve been building, nix it.
- This doesn’t limit you – I promise! There is so much pretty stuff out there and comparison is such a trap that if you don’t have a strong brand foundation, you’ll jump at every bright and shiny new thing and feel pulled in a bunch of different directions. [Keep it consistent!]
#2 – ASSESS YOUR BUDGET (&/OR TALENTED FRIENDS!)
- This is pretty crucial because it will help you decide which route you’re going to take – whether a professional photographer, a friend with a camera, paid stock photography, free stock photography, DIY photos with your iPhone, or a mix of them all.
- Photographers and even stock photos can all really range in price so don’t be afraid to shop around for the best rate – &/or the splurges that you know will be worth the extra coin!
- Pro Tip: Always, always, always be sure to check the copyright and give credit where credit is due.
#3 – LEAD WITH YOUR COLOR STORY AND THE GENERAL VIBE YOU’RE TRYING TO CREATE
- Now, based on the board you assembled earlier, ensure your wardrobe choices, settings/backdrops, and props coordinate with your brand look cohesive. I also recommend bringing 2-4 different outfit choices – with accessories to play it up, per shoot. You want it to feel intentional, but not quite exact or perfect! A little variance creates interest and gives it that ‘perfectly imperfect’ feel that’s much more approachable.
My two sense – You want your customer/audience to feel like more of themselves when they come across your brand – something they can genuinely relate to and feel inspired by. Those are the connected sort of emotions that create brand loyalty. If it feels right to you, it will look right to them.
#4 – BUT SERIOUSLY, ADD PROPS!
- Props really help with that whole ‘human’ element. So even if you’re using stock photography, look for ones that capture a bit of ‘movement’ and ‘play’ (i.e.: a hand using a pen, a pair of glasses and a fresh coffee next to a book). These little details help set the scene and convey a story.
- I LOVE a good flat-lay (a photo where you lay flat a bunch of elements on a pretty background and take an overhead photo), but ones, where you can get the product or person actually in action, is even better.
- For example, if you’re a fashion or retail-based business, it would almost always be more effective to have someone modeling your clothes, rather than just taking shots of them hanging on a rack or laying flat. Exceptions to this would be styled shoots, where it’s paired with something like a suitcase, passport, and other props to create the story of it being a perfect travel item.
Pro Tip 1: Buy a thick, white foam board at Target or some contact paper in a subtle print like marble (available on Amazon or at Lowe’s) to use as the backdrop for your flat lay photos. If you already have lots of pretty on-brand surfaces around your home or office, that’s even better! You will be amazed at the quality you can get out of this, even when using an iPhone and an editing app like VSCO.
Pro Tip 2 for iPhone 7+ Users: Use the ‘portrait’ mode on your built-in camera feature as much as possible! It requires the subject to be within about 8-feet but you will get a blurred background like that of a much more advanced camera that creates beautiful, focused images.
#5 – THINK SEASONALLY
- Depending on your business, taking the seasons and holidays into account is pretty important. It’s good to have a seasonal photo shoot or assemble new images, say quarterly, so you’re suiting that time of year.
- Even if your product or location predominantly favors one season, there will still be different shifts you’ll want to consider – especially if you’re shipping nationwide or globally, to continue ‘speaking’ to your customer’s needs.
- Even if you’re a small, service-based business owner, you might want to have some shots of yourself in different wardrobe choices or update the pieces/props you use to tell your brand story every couple of months. You can also consider “evergreen” wardrobe choices or colors that tend to work at any time of the year.
#6 DO, TEST & ASSESS WHAT’S WORKING
- The best thing to do is dive in and build up a base of content that will last you for some time. It’s critical to keep yourself organized from the get-go with a specific filing system on your computer, content repository templates, &/or apps like Planoly.
- I even like to organize my image files on my computer according to what page of my website they’ll go on. For example, I have a “Brand Images” folder that’s then broken into folders labeled: HOME page; ABOUT page; SERVICES page, etc. This makes it easy for a number of reasons and ensures you’re continuing to tell a cohesive brand story throughout your website by thinking in terms of each individual page.
- Then, after some time has passed, see what’s working. Pretty much every digital and social platform these days has built-in analytics. Especially if you are using the business account versions of them.
- Review your content and ask yourself, which type of posts are seeing the most engagement? What do people consistently tell you they love about your website, social media feeds, and overall brand? How can you pair different styles of images with certain captions or copywriting to tell more of a full story?
#7 CREATE COMMUNITY
- This is hardly a novel idea, but it’s worth repeating. Invite your followers, customers, audience, etc. to share in the content creation. Create a new hashtag or ask them to tag you in their posts for a chance to be featured! This not only gives you access to fresh content but it’s the kind of content that shows your product in action. It’s also a marketing phenomenon known as “social proofing“. People can become more inclined to buy or share something when there’s proof that others around them have enjoyed it, too.
So, there you have it!
If you’re further interested any of the following, feel free to get in touch!
- content repository templates or app recommendations
- stock photography recommendations
- brand photographer recommendations
- Other branding tips & DIY photo editing tricks