Visual Marketing: The Importance of Keeping the Eye in Imagery

But my brother Phil is a great photographer, can’t we just use his shots?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a bad picture worth and what’s a good picture worth? Visuals are a vital piece of marketing communication today (as they have been for at least the last two to three millennia) and almost every company needs a powerful mix of still and moving imagery to support or carry its message.

Many times, clients will ask us if the pictures they already have will work for their website, brochure, ad, or to promote their company on Facebook, Instagram, etc . . .. We also hear questions about having someone on their staff (or their brother, sister, niece) take pictures for them—will those work?

And my answer is (medium pause) . . . “Yes, but . . .”

I then explain that more choices are always better, and I never turn my nose up at “free,” but it’s not a wise area in which to skimp. If you are putting a steady stream of images on social media, the odds are pretty good you’ll want some “authentic” feeling amateur shots in there. But for the pictures that really matter?

Amateur shots are great and we’ve used many to adorn websites and printed materials for our clients, particularly ones with tighter budgets. But I’m not a professional photographer and I would never rely on myself to take a picture that a client NEEDS.

A good amateur photographer has an eye for framing shots and a sense of what makes a great photo. But they don’t have the technical expertise to get a great shot every time. Of course, they can compensate for that a bit—especially digitally, by shooting a lot. When that’s the process, normally one out of 100 pictures is a great one. One of out of 1,000 is professional quality. But often, luck plays a part in getting a really memorable shot.

There is nothing wrong with encouraging your staff to take pictures and hoping they get lucky. In many cases, the person who is there every day will magically capture a moment that no one else could ever replicate. But 99 percent of the time, compared to a professional photo, the image will look flat and dull, it will lack crispness, and, in general, look amateurish. Odds are that if the shot was taken inside, it will look even worse. Your business deserves better.

Example of in-house photo:

Example of hired professional:

If I’m putting together a photo shoot, I want to make sure every element that I can control is controlled. That means closely following the weather if the shoot is outside. It also means carefully choosing the models or instructing company employees on what to wear and how to groom themselves. I’ve scouted the locations and have A, B, and C plans. Then, I want to know WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that since we’ve done it on the perfect day, with the right people, and the best plan, every picture that CAN be great, WILL be great.

When planning a marketing budget and thinking about photography, remember that you get what you pay for, and given how much weight images need to carry in your communication today, can you afford to NOT put your faith in the pros? If you really want to save a buck, I suggest putting your D-I-Y efforts into electrical wiring, auto repair, or dentistry. There’s a lot of savings to be found in doing those things yourself, don’t you think?