The Photo Playbook
…contains a series of chats with experts across marketing, media and online, that seeks to help businesses make the best decisions with photography.
Today’s chat is with Samantha Hurley, on the topic of Marketing:
Click play above to listen to the conversation.
Below, are our top takeaway tips on how photography fits with marketing.
Read on below for the full interview transcript.
Tip #1 In order that businesses owners connect with customers, they need to have a photograph of themselves, that’s the minimum.
Tip #2 A head shot should show ‘who you are’, taken in context and with a clean background.
Tip #3 Photography should be used as a visual tool to denote the company or people within it, its vision and its values through online and print.
Tip #4 The effort that’s gone into photographing the item reflects on the effort that’s gone into making it.
Tip #5 Online 90% of customers will click on a beautiful photograph compared to its poor equivalent.
Tip #6 In the context of working with innovative businesses, customers want to see something different. Innovative imagery sets the business apart.
Tip #7 Stock imagery can work, but it can be impersonal and miss heart, so it needs to be chosen very carefully if it’s going to be used.
Tip #8 Once you know who you really are in business, your vision and values, then photography comes in after that.
Tip #9 Great photographers bring something to the table, see opportunities and require minimal direction.
Tip #10 Any company wants to get exposure through media – take a magazine, they want to work with great images because that helps them tell the story, sell the article and ultimately, the magazine.
Welcome, Sam. What’s your background?
I’m from the UK, but now consider myself an Aussie. Here are the roles I’ve had in marketing over the years:
- Design agency managing creative processes including photography.
- Sales and marketing manager in sports photography.
- International Sales & Marketing Director in press photography, so we were marketing the photographers we represented.
- BAPLA (British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies) and lobbied the government for photographers’ rights with copyright.
- Commercial Manager for Lonely Planet Images in Australia, using photography to market destinations.
I’m now the business partner in Marketing Entourage. We are a marketing consultancy specialising in human-centred techniques to ensure businesses are effectively connecting with their customers.
Who needs to consider photography for their marketing? Everyone, if they want a presence online and to connect with customers. They will need to have a photograph of themselves, that’s the minimum.
What would be the ideal in your world? Depending on the client and who they’re dealing with, photography should be used as a visual tool to denote the company or people within it, its vision and its values through online and print. If you get a request on LinkedIn from someone who doesn’t have a photograph you’re not likely to connect with them. Customers are known to be more likely to connect with you by being able to see who you are. Photography, if done well, can be a great tool for that.
Where would photography be required in relation to marketing? Where does photography get used to market a business?
- Brands: a photograph can be used to help support the brand and logo. We have a company now we are working with that are using a photograph of the texture of wood as the background that sits behind the logo and supports it. The brand is expressed through different platforms and media like graphic design, website, printed collateral, shopfronts and banners.
- Websites: tend to be the next place we focus on. If you don’t have a photograph on your About Us page you are less likely to connect with your customers. If customers aren’t sure about what you do from the written word, research has shown that they want to see what you actually do. Photos can aid the understanding of what you do.
- Values: photos can give a sense of who you are and the values of the business. For instance, if the brand and website is minimalist for a product like jewelry, then really beautiful photography can capture the values of exclusiveness and luxuriousness.
- Print: you then might have a digital or printed brochure which explains more about what you do. Photography can allude to what you do and how you do it. Your business card could have a photo on it.
- Social media: so important nowadays for business. People are more likely to engage with your content if there is a photograph there. The use of photography is crucial for engagement. Often the most-clicked content contained a photograph. It’s the photos you use for your profile and banner that are fixed and there’s the photos you use in the content feed that promotes what you do.
Why is photography important or relevant for marketing? The effort that’s gone into photographing the item reflects on the effort that’s gone into making it. If you have a beautiful product but it’s between poorly photographed, then that’s reflected. A customer will think less of that product. Using the jewelry example, if you have really badly taken photographs of the pieces, a customer is less likely to want to spend $1000 on it, than if it was captured in really beautiful photos where a lot more effort has been put into it.
Can customers tell the difference between a good photograph and a bad one? Yes, statistics and analytics will prove that. That’s the beauty of digital now. Online, you can put up two photographs and compare the customer interactions by their responses analytically, where one has been captured with a smart phone and the other professionally. The statistics are astounding – 90% will click on the beautiful photograph compared to the poor equivalent. Whether it’s a conscious or subconscious thing, customers will gravitate to the higher quality photography. We live in such a visual culture now, customers know the difference. I’ve noticed with my own personal behaviour on LinkedIn, if an article contains a really beautiful photograph, and I don’t even quite know what the article is about, I will more likely click on it just because the image has pulled me in. It’s an automatic response.
What sort of photography gets great results with relation to marketing? Traditionally stock imagery did serve a purpose. Because the digital camera has made it easier for more people to take images and submit them to libraries, we are seeing a lot more repetition of ideas and compositions. There’s not much innovation or thought given to the idea or the context. So it will just be the standard image of a landscape, or here’s a person on a boat. You can see very similar reproductions because that’s what the photographers think other people want. Especially in marketing, in the context of working with innovative businesses, we want to see something different. Innovative imagery sets the business apart. It still could be a stock image, but very careful thought has gone into which image, how is it composed and what story is it telling. Stock can work, but it can be impersonal and miss heart, so it needs to be chosen very carefully if it’s going to be used.
When do you find you most need photography? We do the thinking behind who the business is, we get clear on their brand and messaging, and then we start to think about where photography will be used to support those ideas through the website, social media, etc. Once they know who they really are, photography comes in after that.
Can you describe an ideal photographer to work with? We like working with photographers that have similar values to us where they also care about understanding the client and what they are trying to portray through visual imagery.
What are the indicators of poor photography? I’ve worked with photography for a long time, so poor photography sticks out straight away for me. I can think of signs, where there’s blue sky in the background, or the same stock image you’ve seen for 15 years, or something that’s badly lit. Head shots – they need to have a clean background. A bad one would have a brick wall, a tree, a house and a car in the background. This example would be a selfie and you see this a lot with professionals and business leaders that use an image that doesn’t show them in their best light. A head shot needs to show ‘who you are’. If you worked in a funky environment, then the choice for background should reflect that.
Describe a great experience with photography? Fantastic photographers require less direction, know how to get the best out of a situation and the subject, they take beautiful images and really see opportunities or know how to get great smiles from people. Great photographers bring something to the table and that makes our job easier, we want them to be the expert.
How can a good photography outcome help your client reach their goals? A great image can go into many places in multiple ways – onto a website, billboards. Any company wants to get exposure and a great photograph can give them that. Take a magazine, they want to work with great images too, it helps them sell the article, and sell the magazine. So if a business provides great images, they are helping the magazine to do their job. Take a local restaurant, and they provide The Age, The Urban List, Broadsheet or QANTAS magazine with inviting photographs, their chances of being picked up will increase considerably because the outlet doesn’t have do the work to source an image. The restaurant has done the work for them. The image gives them a story and something to fill the page. And, what they are providing is a true photograph of the restaurant, which helps with brand awareness at the same time. A poor photo will decrease your chances of being featured.
What’s the big one take home? Like marketing, people often think they can do it themselves – and they can, but it will often tend not to be as effective. If they employ an expert it’s often not going to be as expensive as they think, because the return on investment is exponential. Engaging a photographer who can convey what you’re trying to say in an image means you’re more likely to succeed than you would be if you were trying to do it yourself.
Marketing Entourage – we are Melbourne based but we are happy to have a conversation with anyone Australia-wide.