Photography Power

13 Sep

A picture speaks a thousand words. And cliches are turn-offs. So let’s begin again.

How much power is in your photography? Can someone glance at your marketing materials and get the gist of who you are and what you do? Or are they at least curious to focus on you another moment or two and make that determination?If they look at your website, photography, videography, print materials, building and then they look at a competitor’s site, materials, building – is there a difference that testifies to the brand you hope to represent?

Are you using stock photos? Most of the time, that’s not so great. For example, the photo you have placed in your beautiful investment may also be used in the nearby pharmacy or card store making a completely different point. You inadvertently compromise your quality or, worse, associate yourself with another brand unintentionally. No matter what great design you do with the photo, it is always less effective than a true-to-you, one-of-a-kind original. That’s tough, sometimes costly and feels like a burden I bet. Making a commitment to original photography is worth it. Stock photos have their place, but shouldn’t be your leading piece. If you’re really looking at unleashing some photography power on your PR, originals matter. When you think photography, think ORIGINAL. Beyond that, think creative. Think people. Think expectations. Think function. I’ll explain.

1. Creative.

Photography and other visual creations can stir more buzz than most headlines, speakers and events. Remember the movie Patch Adams when they put giant bent legs up on either side of the lecture hall’s door for the gynecology convention?

Photography and creative visuals make a point. Good or bad - they can make a big point!

Photography and creative visuals make a point. Good or bad – they can make a big point!

Horribly hilarious, right?

I’m not saying that was a good idea. And that wasn’t a photo, exactly, but I encourage you to get creative with your visuals so you’ll make the lasting impact you need. Here’s a link with funny photo and guerilla marketing/visual interest examples:

Take the time to unleash real creative energy instead of sticking to the standard template or photo genre your organization always puts out year after year. It’s true that this has to be done well. You don’t want to deviate so far from the beaten path of your brand that it’s disconnected from your strategy. You must connect the dots between the creative goal and your overriding marketing need.

2. People.

Study after study site the powerful phenomenon that people love to see, look at and study other people. People also don’t have a realistic perception of who they are or how they appear. So, when you are marketing with photos of people, you’re getting into an entire realm of psychological factors in terms of your effort to trigger a positive, memorable, meaningful response. People do in fact relate most to photos of other people and are more likely to literally picture themselves in your product, service or the lifestyle associated with it when they see someone they relate to in your graphics. However, people photos can be overdone and may not be your best hook or lead piece. The book “Three and a Tree” makes many great marketing points, one of which suggests that many campus directories and promotional items feature three students wearing backpacks on a campus with a tree and a red brick building. Can’t you picture it now? The photos may be relatable in that case, but they’re not SPEAKING to the audience in a way that differentiates from anything else they’re studying. So, while photography of people can be super compelling and we’d encourage you to use them, it doesn’t trump advice to know your audience and create those meaningful distinctives early in your interactions.

Most marketers get a speech about diversity of photo subjects early on in their education; meaning a successful marketing doesn’t have all Caucasian, blond people on the cover of their products, so they broaden their appeal to everyone. Get some diversity worked in, considering race, age and other demographic factors that can be assumed or deduced from a visual. We love teasing Jordan Ihrig, our talented colleague, for being the perfect photo candidate because she’s not only beautiful, but somewhat mysterious. She could be perceived to be a broad range of ages and even races.

Beautiful, for sure!

Beautiful, for sure!

Ok, maybe we want to use her in photo/video shoots mostly because she’s just stunning. But you get the point. Diversity matters. You want to be this happy mom on the beach with a happy energetic kiddo whether you’re 22 or 36, indian, oriental, black or white; rich or poor – or a variety of other demographic factors. So, while demographic diversity matters, it only matters to the degree that’s realistic for what your organization is really like. For example, if you have a campus with lots of white people and a ton of people from Korea and a small scattering of other backgrounds, your materials for recruiting new students need to paint an accurate expectation. That leads me into our next point.

3. Expectations. Marketing is persuasive education. I know – you’ve heard me say that over & over. Really great marketing is most persuasive and effective because it carefully manages the expectation of your target audience. If your website is sleek and beautiful but someone shows up at your place of business and it’s run down and dirty, there’s a mixed message and an unhappy patron. If your leaders are displayed on the website and social media galleries wearing suits & carefully photo shopped for less wrinkles & flaws, but then they show up at an event or in business casual and tired – again, there’s a mixed message and an unhappy patron. You need to manage the expectation that is realistic to what you will consistently deliver.

Not only do you need to manage an expectation that’s realistic, but you also need to manage an expectation that’s idealistic. You need to think about not only the kind of customer and team member you have (realistic), but the kind of customer and team member you WANT (idealistic). This goes back to overall operational goals and system analyses your Beacon team is proud to offer, unlike many other creative firms. If you’re not represented by the best of your workforce, your marketing is ultimately less effective. Let’s work on attracting and representing your group with a better set of employees – whether that’s training for current colleagues or some transitions. If you’re not being honored by the customers you have – they’re unkind, slow to pay, confused, disrespectful, in-compliant – let’s develop a clear picture of your ideal customer and how to target them. THEN, you’ll have photos that not only set a clear expectation for what IS but position you to effectively transform into what you want TO BE!

4. Think function. No matter how neat the photo is, if it’s not clearly visible, it doesn’t work. Consider the medium the photo will be used with, what distance it needs to be legible, who will be attempting to dicipher its meaning, how long it will be on display and what aging protections need to be considered, the life cycle of your piece and other factors. Make sure your photo is used in a functional way, or its worth is lost. Test it in a variety of networks in case it has a connotation of which you’re not aware. Don’t get so creative that you forget the basic function of the end project.


I bet I’ll think of more photography advice, but it’s Friday night and we all gotta go be with our loved ones. Right? Right! Thanks for reading. Pass it on & share your thoughts or favorite photos with us somehow. We’d love to see.

Oh & here’s a super quick video summary from Beacon Marketing Strategist Lane Bruder on photography:

If you’re looking for a professional photographer in the Stillwater, Oklahoma area, we’ve had great success with Brent Niles lately of BBJN Designs. We have others we’ve worked with well and there are a few members of our team with high tech cameras and professional training. We’ll be glad to connect you and/or help oversee the creative process, including photography efforts.


:: Have a great weekend. Our best to you always. Enjoy that photography. TELL A STORY WORTH TELLING! ::


One Response to “Photography Power”


  1. Understanding Instagram | Business & Life - November 14, 2013

    […] Now that you have a basic overview of what it is, try it out. Then watch for our next blog on how to maximize it for your business. If you’re wondering what photos in general may do for your promotional and customer education efforts, also see Laurie’s previous blog on the power of photography. […]

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