Professional brand photography: Are your pictures worth a thousand words?
Capturing the essence of a brand is a difficult task.
While you can begin to describe what your organisation is about through a logo mark, website, and even a strong social media personality, there’s more to communicating your company ethos than you might think. Since the average person only skims the content they read online, it’s safe to say that a lot of the relationships we build with our audience members, are created through visual experiences.
While your logo, your colour pallet, and even your choice of website design will all contribute to that optical background, your brand photography represents the guidelines that links your visual identity together. With professional brand photography, you encapsulate the style and character of your company, through a careful blueprint of what all the imagery in your portfolio should entail.
Often, brand photography will include everything from the pictures on your marketing materials, to the images on your product pages, and even your staff headshots. Done correctly, bespoke photography can complement your brand identity, and enhance recognition to the point where people recognise you based on just the visual elements of a picture.
The best brand photography should align with the values of your organisation, tell a story on the behalf of your brand, and differentiate you from your competitors. Unfortunately, while most businesses recognise the value of visual content, finding a way to represent your brand consistently through images alone can be a daunting prospect.
The good news? We’re here to help
The role for photography in branding
Every brand, no matter their industry or background, uses visuals in their brand story. After all, we all find it easier to understand something when it comes complete with helpful pictures. Visuals help to translate your personality into something more recognisable for your audience. After your fonts, logos, and other design elements are in place, professional brand photography is what brings it all together.
Beautiful bespoke photography gives your business an additional layer of appeal and trust. What’s more, with the average person becoming distracted in eight seconds or less, images also give you the power to maintain the attention of your audience.
Of course, if you really want to tap into the power of pictures, then you’re going to need to establish a consistent visual style right from the very beginning. This will make sure that all the images you use align with the essence of your company. Think about some of the world’s most famous brands for instance. There are some companies out there that have established a “visual presence” for themselves that makes it easier for us to say “Oh, that’s a [brand] photo”. For instance:
Fashion companies like ASOS use bright and evocative imagery, packed full of people (usually models). This helps to give people an insight into the lifestyle offered by the clothes these companies sell.
Dropbox uses colour and illustration heavily in its branded imagery, and steers away from photographs entirely. This identifies the company more as a tech-focused organisation, concentrating on icons as their supporting imagery.
National Geographic uses vibrant, focused, and powerful images of some of the most stunning locations and animals on the planet. The shots are raw, wild, and brimming with quality, so they’re easy to recognise.
Your brand photography is your library of images that you can use to tell a stronger, more cohesive story about what makes your organisation unique. The result is a set of resources that not only radiates who you are to your customers, but also:
Helps you to connect with your audience: Images breathe life into your brand, giving authenticity and humanity to your story.
Highlights your position in the marketplace: We live in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with new messages. Professional brand photos help to grab your audience’s attention and get you noticed.
Elevates your expert status: Bespoke photos speak to the professional nature of your company. If you’re willing to invest in powerful branding materials, then your customer is more likely to believe in your value.
Steps for using photography to build your brand
While you don’t necessarily have to be a visual dynamo to be a successful brand, photographically strong companies can be particularly powerful. With bespoke photography, you can constantly engage your customers with new evocative images, and form emotional connections through multi-sensory online (and offline) experiences.
Think about it for a moment. Would you feel more engaged by a website that’s brimming with text, videos, and imagery, or one that’s simply a block of font?
Of course, professional brand photography is more than just a way to enrapture your audience. It’s also a solution for helping you to create a stronger brand and enhance every aspect of graphic design. All you need to get started, is a set of sustainable brand photography guidelines:
Brand photography guidelines step 1: Concept and visualisation
Just like any great idea, developing strong brand photography guidelines will start with a concept. Think about how you want to resonate with your brand. Are you looking for something that’s down-to-earth and sophisticated? Would you prefer images that are bold, colourful, and fun? Your personality and tone of voice should guide your decisions here, as your verbal and visual identity need to go hand in hand. The following questions will help:
What’s your underlining characteristic? Are you serious, trustworthy, intelligent, or creative? Does your photography communicate those attributes, or suggest something different?
Where does your photography need to focus to bring attention to your identity? Pictures of people show humanity, while images of nature can portray an “epic” experience.
How will you share your photos to highlight your unique character? Will you be posting on Instagram and social media channels as well as your website?
Take the time to envision your brand, and what you want your audience to think, or feel when they see your brand photography. When you’re ready, start adding photos, colours, and snippets to a mood board that you can use to convey your company essence. Remember, choose visuals that look like they belong together, but try to think outside of the box.
Brand photography guidelines step 2: Curate your collection
Once you have all the images you need in one place, you’ll need to take on the role of a ruthless editor. Look through your collection and start searching for patterns. Filter your selection, and remove anything that doesn’t seem to correspond with your brand identity. This is going to be a tough process, but it will help you to design something that really speaks to your leads.
Try placing yourself in the shoes of your audience, and imagine what they’ll think when looking at your bespoke photography. This will help you to avoid keeping hold of images that don’t work for your company just because you like them.
Once you’ve got an idea of which images are working best for you, you’ll be able to search for patterns that you can place into your style guide. This guide will work alongside your marketing mix to help ensure consistency for your brand. When designing a playbook for your professional brand photography, make sure you think about the following considerations:
What kind of content should you include in the photos? (E.g. products, nature, people, lifestyle, etc).
What kind of story is your imagery trying to tell?
What emotions and thoughts will your pictures convey to the reader?
How should your photos be edited? (Remember that minimal desaturated photos provide a calm, sophisticated feel, while vibrant imagery offers a more cinematic, fun feeling.).
What are the essential “do’s” and “don’ts” for your brand? (Is there a colour or style you want to avoid? Which angles are the worst for your products and people?).
Brand photography guidelines step 4: Satisfy your inner storyteller
Since your bespoke photography should speak volumes to your audience, it’s a good idea to start with a strong idea of your user personas, and who you’re trying to communicate with. With your customer base in mind, you’ll be able to make decisions more critically about your visuals, asking yourself, “What does this photo say to my customers?” Ultimately, you’ll want to select images that can help to tell your story in a specific narrative style.
When you immerse yourself in the idea of telling a story with your pictures, consistency and style will begin to unfold naturally. You’ll start to see patterns emerging in your choices, and your selection of images will become more coherent as you move towards your goal.
Brand photography guidelines step 5: Focus on quality
Your brand photography, just like any other part of your visual identity, needs to convey a certain level of professionalism to your audience. That means that you can’t just stick to grainy old stock photos, or pictures taken on your iPhone. Evaluate every photo the same way you would a website design, or poster print, keeping the following principals in mind:
Contrast: Is there a good amount of contrast? (If it’s too high, it could make the image appear dark and daunting, but if it’s too low, it could cause your picture to seem washed out).
Lighting: Is it too bright or too dark? (Are the important parts of your photo properly exposed, or are their details lost in blacks and whites?).
Distractions: Is the image free from clutter? (Are there any distracting elements that might draw the eye away from the primary images? Do the clothes have stains, or is there someone walking through the background?).
Composition: Is the composition compelling with a strong sense of depth?
Authenticity: Does it feel forced or real? (Posed shots can have a great impact on your imagery, but they need to feel authentic and true).
When to use your bespoke photography style guide
It’s important to remember that professional brand photography isn’t just a way to show off your style through your company headshots. Your bespoke photography style guide is your way to communicate what you do, who you are, and what it’s like to work with you to customers, clients, and shareholders. The more you use your guide with your imagery, the more likely you are to create photos that dig deeper into your brand story, and share your core message.
Brand photography focuses on the visual art of leaving an impression of your company in the hearts and minds of your customers. It demonstrates a personal, human side of your business, that not only creates a stronger connection, but also sets you apart from your competitors.
Your corporate photography should be used in any image that you want to represent your brand. While a lot of companies will begin to think about brand photography when launching a new business, or rebranding, it’s also something you should keep in mind through everything you do as a company. For instance, you should use your photography style guide when:
Posting pictures of products on an eCommerce store.
Publishing headshots of company leaders.
Taking team photos.
Always be consistent
At Fabrik, we often wax poetic about the value of consistency for branding. This is because brands are an experience created through countless interactions over time. One slip in the way you portray yourself to the world, and you could lose the loyalty of your customers. Once you have your brand photography style guide ready, use it to tell the stories of your company, or product time and time again.
You might even consider posting your brand guidelines online within your company intranet, so that other members of your team can use them when making important marketing decisions. The more you stick to the rules that you’ve set for your photography, the more likely you are to create a recognisable brand image. Eventually, someone will be able to look at one of your images without any context or caption and say: “That looks like a [brand] photo.”
The importance of professional brand photography
Ultimately, brand photography plays a pivotal role in highlighting the unique personality of your brand. It gives you a competitive edge, and when it’s done with the help of a professional design agency, it can even increase your ability to attract new sales.
Just as businesses budget money aside for new logos and websites when they hire a graphic designer, they should also be placing capital aside for a photographer. Unfortunately, a lot of companies fail to see the importance in their professional brand photography. Some even believe that a phone camera, or an entry-level photographer is good enough.
The problem is, cutting corners on your visual identity increases the risk that you’ll disconnect with your customers, through lesser-quality images. If you want to attract attention to your company for the right reasons, and engage your customers, then you need to instantly show them your value with bespoke photography.
To help you sidestep the risk of devaluing your brand, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Always hire an expert
How much is your brand worth to you? Just as you would invest money in your digital marketing strategies, and your website design, you should also be budgeting for your photography. Remember, anyone can change a lightbulb, but we’re not living in a world of electricians. Just because you can take photos on your smartphone, doesn’t mean you should.
2. Don’t over-edit your images
When you’re relying on images to help portray the unique essence of your brand, it’s important to make sure you maintain consistency. Because of this, a lot of companies feel tempted to place a filter on all their pictures to make them more streamlined. Unfortunately, over-editing, and strong filters can come across as inauthentic, which may damage your relationship with your customers.
3. Never use stock photos
While it’s true that stock images are easy to use, and access, that doesn’t mean that they’re a good way to showcase your brand. Most of the time, the pictures that you can get for little money online will not properly represent your branding, and can be generic and boring. The last thing you want is for your company to look the same as every other brand on the market, so make sure that you always use fresh, original images in everything you do.
4. Know how to prepare a brief
While writing a design brief isn’t always a simple task for non-creative companies, it can be a good way to improve the chances that you’ll get the results you were looking for. With the information you gathered by preparing your brand photography guidelines, you should be able to provide a creative agency or photography company with everything they need to understand the essence of your brand. Remember to choose your photographer carefully. After all, you need someone who can capture the heart and soul of your company with every image.
5. Make an effort with professional photography
Finally, as tempting as it can be to simply overlook your professional brand photography when you’re so busy focusing on other things like your identity, website, and marketing strategy, it’s crucial to ensure that you’re making the right impression with your images. Quality brand photography gives customers the impression that your company knows how to take its work seriously. With bespoke images, you can convince your audience that you take your work, and your brand presence seriously.
Whether you’re taking pictures of your people, your products, or even the places in which you work, professional photography allows you to access the experience you need to present your audience with compelling, emotional imagery.
The best brands have creativity, credibility, and a strong visual representation, in the form of consistent colours, design elements, signatures, and photographs. Your brand photography can be a critical element when it comes to ensuring that you’re presenting a consistent, memorable brand to your consumers.
At its deepest level, photography is simply a medium for telling a story. It’s a way to connect with your customers on a deeper level, and create affinity that goes beyond your brand name or logo. As human beings, we’re all attuned to visuals, processing images more quickly and deeply than any text or sound. Of the 35,000 conscious decisions we make on a daily basis, a huge number are driven by the visual cues around us. For instance, you might make a specific choice to wear a certain outfit, or eat a particular item for lunch.
Some of the visual choices we make are habitual. We do things so often that we’re no longer aware of the decisions we’re making. On the other hand, many can be influenced by outside forces, like marketing, advertising, and personality. Your brand photography is just one of the many elements that you can use to influence customer decisions, by helping them become more attuned with your company, and your brand story.
Using professional brand photography to reinforce what your company stands for, and what characteristics represent you, is an excellent way for brands to take advantage of the visual drive in the human brain. Whether you’re running an online business, building a portfolio, or simply trying to transform your online presence, photography is one of the simplest and quickest ways to instantly connect with your audience.
With the tips above, you should have all the resources you need to create a strong, consistent brand photography guide, that will help you to make important decisions about your visual media. Remember, a brand is something you design through experience, interactions, and design. Brand photography is just another piece of the puzzle.