Say No to Photography and Create Authentic Images

Here’s one of the first rules of your visual content strategy: don’t use stock images on your branded website. Stock photos are cheap and easy, so tempting. Don’t be tempted by cheap and easy. (It’s advice you can apply to other situations as well.)

Visual content is the  cornerstone of almost every branding campaign. And yet, we still see respectable brands using stock photography that undermines the credibility of their hard-earned visual brand standards.

Be authentic

Let me back up for a moment and give you an example of how you use stock photos and why you shouldn’t. Click on your customer service page. Is there a picture of someone wearing a helmet that vaguely looks like someone who might work at your company but doesn’t? If so, your business has committed one of the egregious sins of content marketing.

 

You can solve this problem with relative ease, and I’ll show you how. Let’s start with the people. Do you work in a company that employs humans? Some work around the office, while others have Cryp Email List remote offices or telecommute. And those people, most of them, I guess, have faces. Maybe not attractive faces, but generally they are recognizable as human.

These are the faces that will replace cheap stock photos on your website and in your client materials. Immediately.

This goes for anything on your website, printed materials, flyer, and anything Costa Rica Mobile Number List featuring humans. Your content tools are reand your company employees are infinitely more interesting than models that have been enhanced in Photoshop. You may not be as pretty or plastic, but you are authentic.

Authenticity is like currency. Spend it wisely or it will be wasted. (See note above about cheap and easy.)

say no to freedom

Free is sometimes good, but free tends not to give very good results. You wouldn’t use it as your logo, would you?

An article in AdWeek explains how actor Vince Vaughn and his friends were inserted into cheesy stock photos to promote their movie, Unfinished Business . The “stock” photos remained empty and soulless, except now people couldn’t stop staring at them because the guy in the suit was Vince Vaughn.

It’s funny, for sure, but it also indicates that you really can’t get by with stock photos, even free ones, even with Vince Vaughn. Do not do it.

How we got here

Securing images used to be a time-consuming and tedious manual process. You had to take the footage, use the remaining roll of film, take it to the lab to develop it, come back and get the footage, scan it, edit it, upload it, get a developer to put it on the website, and then publish them.

But the Internet has made it easier to access high quality images. You went online, found an image, saved it, and downloaded it. Sometimes you even paid for it.

These days there are a lot of paid photography available, and some are quite good. In fact, there are places where you can pay for the exclusive use of professional photo assets. Again, some of them are very good and can satisfy certain branding needs.

In the process of branding your business, however, you’re probably aiming for a high level of authenticity. In this case, stock photography will not help you achieve this goal. After all, if you don’t show the real people who work at your company, how do we know you stand behind your products?

You know that mission statement you worked hard to create? It’s the people who make it happen. Show them in your promotional material. Put their names under their photos so people who connect with them know what they look like.

De-store your photos

Before you start clicking madly, it’s best to have some sort of plan. Generally, you’ll want to make sure your photos both convey the message you want to convey about your business and make your employees look great.

If you go to work and someone sticks a camera in your face, you’ll probably have mixed feelings about your appearance.

Start this process by talking with the people who will be photographed. Show them some respect by explaining your goals and why you want to feature them on the website. Let them know that you are proud of them and want to include them because they make important contributions to the customer.

Advanced discussion will help people feel more comfortable about their appearance. Once I was filmed for a Q&A immediately after water spilled down the front of my shirt. When I looked at the reading, I asked them why they didn’t tell me the water had spilled, and they said, quite honestly, they didn’t think it mattered…which I had to say mattered. Sure, maybe for them, but for me, I couldn’t even hear myself speak. All I could absorb was that water stain. It ruined the whole clip and we ended up not using any of the footage.

Work with the pros

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There are good uses for stock photography, including product shots and other office photos. You may be able to take a nice, clean photo of your product, but you may find that these images aren’t as good as those taken by a professional photographer using high-quality equipment. I highly recommend that brand and product photos be handled by professional photographers.

In fact, I also recommend using a professional photographer to take photos of your staff. A professional can help you with more than just lights and lenses that exceed the quality of your standard iPhone. An experienced professional can help you with composition and visual storytelling. The image will have the authenticity of real employees and the quality vibrancy of a professional photo. If you can afford it, it’s a win-win.

Speaking of budget, consider hiring a hairstylist and makeup artist. You can find local talent on Craigslist and at your local beauty salon. The costs will vary depending on the artist, of course, but the value is immeasurable. People want to look good in photos and will relax when a makeup artist helps them look their best.

Work with your team

As you begin this process, it’s important to plan your visual story. Think about what you want to say. Are you an accounting firm that wants to show how much you care about my finances? Are you a design agency looking to showcase a range of creative solutions? Are you a durable goods manufacturer who wants to showcase the quality of your products? All of this can be effectively expressed through visual storytelling.

Have an open discussion with key people on your team, including anyone with a background in photography. Get feedback from your creative director, corporate communications team, and sales and marketing staff. Browse major competitors’ websites to see what they’re up to. Explore award-winning websites, including those that won a coveted Content Marketing Award.

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