Everyone hates stock photos… yet they are used constantly. How can that be?
It’s because collecting good photographs and imagery is much harder than you think. Without a large budget for professional photography, it requires long-term planning and a cultural shift in your organization.
You will need many photos in the course of marketing your business. Websites, print brochures, blog articles, social media posts, PR opportunities, etc. All will be improved with good visuals.
If you only think about photos in the moments you need them for some particular project you will be way behind. With a good plan, you can effectively create your own stock photo gallery that is far more personal and authentic than anything you can purchase.
The difficulty of producing quality photos is easily underestimated. You may routinely dazzle your personal Instagram followers but when you are on a deadline and need something that feels professional you’ll realize how few photos are keepers.
But you can rely on amateur photography if you approach the task strategically.
A big piece of the puzzle is committing to consistency and volume. With amateur photography, you’ll want a large collection of photos from which to pluck the gems.
You should harness the creativity of your entire team. Make it clear that creating a collection of photos to draw from is the responsibility of the group. Everyone has a phone camera and everyone can participate.
Look for ways to incentivize contributions. Try a weekly photo contest that recognizes people for their creativity. Try giving out little rewards to those that are making a real effort. It can and should be a fun process. Get your staff on board and you’ll suddenly have a team of iPhone toting photographers continually building a collection.
You can improve the results by providing your team with creative inspiration. Nurture a culture where everyone is constantly thinking about the imagery that defines your personality, story, process and product.
Hold routine brainstorming sessions and keep a running list of specific shots you want to capture. Get your team involved in that ideation process to harness their creativity and entice their enthusiasm. Establish a Dropbox or Google Drive account where people can easily upload their photos. A tagging system to keep pictures organized is also a good idea.
Coming up with the creative ideas for imagery is a big part of the challenge. Below are some photo types and examples that can provide a framework for brainstorming and hopefully trigger additional ideas.
Focus on the community
If you serve a particular geographic area, take pictures that reflect the community you serve. That could mean shots of local landmarks like a distinctive building or a gazebo in the town square. It could also be a landscape photo taken from the highest point in town.
Think about local visuals that all your customers will immediately recognize and associate with the community.
Showcase your toolkit
Collect images of the tools you use to get your job done. For a fine home builder the tools are quite obvious… they’re tools. Snap a few photos of the nail while framing or the cement truck when it arrives to pour the foundation.
For other businesses, the tool kit may be less obvious but it exists. A lawyer has a legal pad. A real estate agent has a sign. A yogi has a mat.
Those images become the static equivalent of B-roll for a website, blog or social post.
Reflect your customers
What photos would reflect the customer you serve? An inn can use visuals of the luggage their guests will certainly be toting. A caterer might want bride and groom shots.
Portray an event
Don’t miss the opportunity to gather photos at any events you and your team visits. If your staff attends a tradeshow, walks for charity, or has a ribbon cutting, be sure to have cameras out through the whole thing.
Diagnose the problem
Use images to document the problem you solve. An accountant serving small businesses could capture the unwieldy box of receipts from an unorganized client. A stone mason could show a collapsed rock wall or a crumbling chimney.
Before and after
Now that you have documented the problem, be sure to the capture the solution for a powerful before and after sequence. A landscaper can show the beautiful space salvaged from an overgrown mess. An engineering firm could display the detailed schematic that grew out of a rough sketch.
Highlight your personality
Not every photo has to relate directly to the work you perform. What images would reflect the personality and spirit of your brand and team?
Demonstrate creativity with photos of your team working on an artistic personal project. If you’re fun and like to cut loose, get some pics of the team clinking glasses at happy hour. Get shots of office dog under your desk.
Introduce the team
Your most important asset is likely your team. Get as many pictures of them as possible. Candids, portraits, solos, group shots, in the office, out and about, with their pets, pursuing their hobbies, hard at work, hard at play… everything!
That collection will convey the human side of your company.
Show the work getting done
An author could show herself parked in front of the computer, signing books or at the podium of a speaking engagement. A university should collect shots of professors engaging with students. A chef peeling an enormous pile of potatoes conveys the work that goes into every step.
Feature your workspace
Provide additional context for your audience with images of your work spaces. Include your office or desk but get more creative with it as well. A law firm could capture shots of an empty courtroom. A bakery might take close-ups inside the oven.
Document your process
Try presenting visuals from your planning or creative process. You could use a series of images that show the evolution of your product design. Or capture your team gathered around the whiteboard in a brainstorming session.
Display your raw materials
Get pics of the raw materials that drive your business. A farm shouldn’t just shoot the produce – photograph the seed. Caterers could snap shots of the grocery delivery. Manufacturers might have a huge rack of sheet metal that would make a perfect background image.
Show products in the wild
Don’t stop at staged product images – document your product or service in use. A builder could bring life to a client’s kitchen renovation with shots of a family dinner. Or a designer could show where their work is being displayed.
Get a bit more abstract and symbolic with images that represent your value. A sapling could convey personal growth. A rocket ship could represent business growth. Just don’t use those ideas exactly because they are really cliché - but you get the idea.
- Stock photos suck – collect your own imagery whenever you can
- Have a long term photo collection plan and weave it into the company culture
- Enlist the help of your team and inspire their creativity
- Create a system that makes it easy to contribute and organize photos
- Provide a framework of the types of images you want
Photo types to consider:
- Focus on the community
- Showcase your toolkit
- Reflect your customer
- Portray an event
- Diagnose the problem
- Before and after
- Highlight your personality
- Introduce the team
- Show the work getting done
- Feature your workspace
- Document your process
- Display your raw materials
- Show products in the wild
- Get artsy