Goldilocks and the photo.

Can brilliant corporate photography save a failing business? No. BUT it will be part of what makes success easier to achieve. Conversely if a business is using snaps or stock imagery, this can be, as an American business guru might put it, a drag coefficient on your success rocket. *blech!*

I don’t pretend that the photos I take will turn you into an overnight sensation and put you in contention for The Sunday Times Rich List, but it’s fair to say that when marketing departments go to the trouble of getting a lively, engaging web design together with compelling text and a user-friendly interface, what often lets the whole project down is the lazy or cheap approach to the accompanying imagery.

call centre staff on telephone

Quality photos say “quality business”.

Head shots of key staff needn’t be cheesy, and they certainly mustn’t be low quality just because they’re going to be used small. You never know when you might need to reproduce one to a larger scale and in print, and that’s when poor lighting and composition as well as poor resolution really start to show up. The purple gargoyle look doesn’t suit anyone. Neither is it helpful if an over-compressed file leaves you looking like you have some kind of skin disease.

Photographs of products and processes, people, places (and all the stuff not starting with p) all require a level of quality. After all, shot once you can use these images over and over again and they’ll pay for themselves in time, whereas low-grade, badly taken images will simply remind potential clients how little you care for quality every time one of these photos shows up.

Equally, if you get great imagery but either don’t use it at all or don’t use it properly, you’ll be wasting your money and you’ll think it wasn’t good value. This comes back to using a quality photographer who can give good after care, and a marketing specialist who knows how to use pictures for maximum impact.

Where’s all this going? Well I believe it’s possible to overstate the importance of photography in business, but what’s happened since the mass-accessibility of digital is that things have swung too much in the other direction. General opinion is often that photography has no, or very little importance. Often I’ve seen web designers refer to the photos in their designs as “eye-candy”. If the photos are just eye-candy, why bother with any imagery at all? And why do I have so many clients if what I do has no impact on their business?

If your business uses photography it should be as a way of communicating something to existing and potential clients. Not just showing that which is in front of the camera, but the quality, composition and presentation of the photo will all be shorthand for the kind of business you are.

Now, that’s not going to save a business which is already circling the drain, but dismissing photography on your website and in your literature as “so much fluff” won’t help you to the top of your market either. As Goldilocks might have said, you need to get the balance just right.

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8 comments

  • Robert Day January 17, 2011   Reply →

    Tim,

    All very true. The current terminology is “adding value”. As photographers, we have to show potential clients what sort of value we add. The question is, do we let our work speak for itself or do we seek out glaring examples of poor practice to use as ‘knocking copy’? (Personally, I suspect that there will be clients out there who would need knocking copy to have it spelt out for them…)

    • Glass Eye January 17, 2011   Reply →

      Hi Robert, and thanks for your comment.

      It’s again a question of balance. We’d like to knock clients on the head who just don’t understand the damage they’re doing to their businesses by not taking the still image seriously enough. But show them where they’re going wrong and the risk is we’re seen as patronizing or preaching.

      I do believe there has been a change in the past year or so, and I’m getting clients coming to me who are ready to move away from DIY and cheap stock to start taking things more seriously. It’s heartening, but I know I have to continue to add value in different ways to suit different clients. There’s no point cutting prices to do this, there’s always someone cheaper to undercut you, but as you’ve hinted, there are better ways to add value than just dropping prices.

  • Ken of London January 17, 2011   Reply →

    Content is King – great content rules the empire!

    So great photography goes far beyond just mere eye candy, those that miss this point do so at their peril I say !!

    It could mean the difference in your client stealing a march on their opposition or you being the key in handing you clients ass to their direct competitors !!!

    Today is exclamation mark monday and I love it !!!!

    • Glass Eye January 17, 2011   Reply →

      Agreed, though I’m always wary of the use of the phrase “great photography”. I’m less convinced it exists any more, but that’s a different discussion (on which I blogged before).

      It is definitely about differentiating your own business from all those that use the same imagery as yours. That can be a drag on your attempts to thread the needle of success with the thread of entrepreneurship. Or something.

      Nurse? NURSE?! Ken’s out of his bed again!

  • Ken of London January 17, 2011   Reply →

    Damn straight in fact I was laid up for 3 whole and 2 half days last week, work got worried as I never take sick leave.

    However I have had my meds and I am ready for action again !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Paul Adams January 19, 2011   Reply →

    You speak so much truth Tim. I blame graphic designers and PR companies who are worried about their budget being eaten into. Also I think many business owners cannot see the value of something they can ‘do for themselves’, there are a few enlightened individuals but not many. Photographers in general need to be more proactive in educating potential clients rather than leaving it to the said graphic designers etc. who just try to get it as cheap as possible. Anyway enough of my rant.

    • Glass Eye January 19, 2011   Reply →

      Paul, thank you for your kind words. I do worry sometimes that I’m just talking nonsense, but I get the impression from general responses that rather a lot of people do agree with me. Including some designers and clients.

      I think the problem with the educational route is that most photographers fear that speaking out will harm their reputation, but done correctly I think it can do the opposite. We have to be seen as helpful and guiding, not whining and barracking. In some fora I whine and barrack, but usually to the people who need the real wake-up call (designers mostly).

      Of course people can also help by spreading the word about my blog, and then they can educate and enlighten others without being seen to be the whiners 🙂

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