Thinking about photography throughout history, images have played a vital part in our shared experience.
The human mind is primed to remember what it can SEE.
Even thousands of years ago, people were creating simple images on cave walls to represent the world around them– simple stick figures, animals, handprints. We’ve come a long way since then, but our shared human experience of creating, and appreciating beauty represented visually has not changed.
When we’re thinking about BRANDS, it’s photography and the use of images which have really been the most powerful driving force in bringing brands to life.
If we try to think of brand campaigns which have been memorable for us over the years, it’s the IMAGES which come to mind first– think of the Guinness adverts, with their moody, swirling atmospheric imagery, or the iconic Wonderbra shot from the ‘Hello Boys’ campaign. Images can become instantly iconic, as great photography is such an immediate route to our emotions, desires and passions.
The images you use when you are building your brand from the ground up are SO important. With your photography, you set out your stall, SHOWING not telling your ideal customer exactly:
Who you are
What you are all about, and
HOW you will make them feel.
Your brand has to encapsulate ALL of this, and sometimes you will only have a split second to communicate all this! Your images are the route to creating those instant connections with your customers.
It’s this power that with the right help you can learn to harness, to build your brand a solid foundation that INSTANTLY connects with your dreamy client.There are a couple of things to keep in mind as you start to think about how to make photography work for you and your brand. So let’s take a look!
Making photography work FOR YOU
The photography you use has to really capture the essence of everything your brand is. In the early stages, it can be tempting to try and shortcut the thinking behind this. I see a lot of people who fall back on familiar kinds of images which, whilst they are very beautiful, don’t actually tell any kind of story about WHO they are.
Try to keep the EXPERIENCE your brand will create at the front of your mind when using photography. Is that experience which is shown in your potential shot, really telling your audience anything about how you are going to make them feel? About your core brand values?
Be mindful about choosing RELEVANT images for the emotions and feelings you want your audience to feel. Just because you work daily on a laptop, does that mean you have to use this in an image because everyone else in your sector is? NO! Maybe for your dream audience, a better way to showcase what you do is to look at images which will transport THEM to where they want to be in life!
What is the photographic style of your brand?
Let’s think back for a second to that glossy perfume ad we just talked about. Perhaps it’s a Chanel advert for a classic fragrance. You can guarantee that every single thing about the shot on that glossy magazine page has been thought about in MINUTE detail, from the composition, to the colours, to the model, to the styling, to the accessories, to the makeup, to the lighting, to the pose ...The list is endless.Thousands of hours of preparation will have gone into creating that one, single image.
Because a global powerhouse brand like Chanel know EXACTLY who they are. They understand the VALUE that their images have. They know PRECISELY how to create the emotional connection they are looking for with their audience. They know that in a single second, that image will speak to YOU, and spark your interest.They also understand how that one, single image makes sense in the context of all the other single images and campaigns they have ever run.
The success of that one campaign image in stopping you in your tracks comes because it is part of the bigger brand story. It perfectly captures on its own everything you need to know about WHO the Chanel woman is, but it also is part of their ongoing brand story.
So what does this mean for us, as legacy brand building ladies? How can we identify and start to build this kind of incredible brand consistency in our images?
The trick is to identify where and how you can be consistent in your images. We’re all familiar with the idea of Instagram filters, and how you can use them to build a consistent look and feel. So think about the overall style of your brand, and what this could look like for you. We need to make sure that those styles –whether it’s the colours in your logo, or the tone of voice you use in your writing comes across visually too.
When and where should photos be used within your brand?
The short answer is that there are a LOT more places you’re going to need great images than you probably realise when you’re just starting out! If we start from the very basics, you might be thinking about needing a headshot, so your audience can SEE who you are. But think –once you have this, WHERE are you going to put it? On your website? Of course you are. But then how many OTHER pages are there on your site which are also going to need some great shots? And how often are you going to need to refresh your website, to keep things fresh?
We all know by now that an online presence is SO much more than just a website. How many social platforms are you active on? What about content for each of them? How does your audience across the various social media sites differ? Are they coming to you for different parts of your offering on Facebook to how people engage with you on Twitter? If so, you’re going to want to tailor your content specifically for these people, which is likely to mean a different suite of images for both.
Then there’s also all the more ‘traditional’ offline ways you can communicate your lovely brand to the people you need to reach. Maybe you take part in lots of events, in which case you might need to think about what printed materials you can physically GIVE to your ideal customer. Take it from me that if you try to print out low res shaky screenshots you’ve grabbed online, your clients are going to notice, and NOT for the right reasons!
So, feeling ready to dive into the world of photography?! Here’s a quick checklist to make sure you’re covering the basics in your planning:
SHOW your customers who you are
Build EMOTIONAL connection through your images
Think as your customer does, and create for THEM
Map out your image STYLE – are you bright? High contrast? Saturated?
Think about image treatments –will you use full bleed images, or borders? What type?
Plan for different image uses
Most importantly, EXCITE your audience. Draw them in. Ask questions. Grab their attention with your images and DO NOT LET GO!
Photography and Storytelling
MIND SHIFT - Nothing is more powerful than a story
Photography gives an INSIGHT into the story you want to tell. Photography gives a suggestion of the story without telling the full thing.It is the most powerful tool to draw people in, to connect with them, to create a reality where everything is exactly as it needs to be.
You might have heard talk about ‘storytelling’ in the world of brands. In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with information, how can we cut through the noise and help our dream clients UNDERSTAND the value of our wonderful brand? We do this by creating STORIES. We build a narrative which takes the customer on a journey. Makes them ask questions. Gives them a FEELING they love, and want to share.
Think about a story you know well, perhaps off by heart. You can remember every detail about what happens, who the characters are, WHY they are making the choices they do, and you get that insight from a story into how they are actually FEELING
This is what you need to create for your own audience
The human brain can remember lots of facts, but it’s the ones which are woven into STORIES which stay with us the longest.
Your images have the power to start that conversation.
SO imagine you are actually sitting with a friend, telling them a story. You’re having a conversation. Now depending on a number of factors –how much time you have, how well you know that person, what sort of mood they are in – will determine the way you tell your story.
Maybe you know that time is short, so you’ll tell the entire story in one go. Or maybe you know they’re already interested in hearing what you have to say, so you can take your time a little, elaborate on the details. Perhaps throw in a few jokes, or ask what they think.
The principle is EXACTLY the same when thinking about your brand and your photography. Sometimes, you’ll need to use a powerful image which tells you entire brand story, even if it was to stand alone. Your image needs to communicate all the important things in an instant about who your brand is, how you can meet your audience WHERE THEY ARE, and WHERE your brand will take them.
Then, there will be other times where your images will need to work as part of a bigger picture. When the story itself becomes the sum of lots of parts. When you treat your images as part of a SERIES, building the story and narrative as you go. The more your client sees, the more their understanding and emotional response to your brand will grow to
So don’t forget:
Your brand tells a story
Your images start that conversation
Your photography is the MOST POWERFUL way to build the connections you need with your desired audience
With a great visual narrative, the viewer will find themselves wondering HOW the emotion they are feeling came to be.
So let’s try something. Think of an image from your past which really spoke to you. Perhaps it was a page from a fashion magazine you used to have pinned on your wall. Or maybe an image of a destination you loved, which you dreamed of constantly. Or a still from a film where you longed to experience the same life some day.
Can you identify the EMOTIONS these images brought out in you at the time? What was it about them which captured your attention? Try to list out in your mind the words which that picture made you feel about the person you wanted to be:
Fearless? Brave?Confident? Adventurous? Free?
Beautiful? Content? Loved? Strong?
Now think back to what else was taking place in your life during the time that image became important to you. The chances are that the emotions you’ve just listed FIT into the overall narrative of your life story at that time.
The image called to you because it MET YOUR EMOTIONAL NEED.
WHAT IF YOU DIDN’T USE IMAGES?
Imagine a world without pictures. Pretty dull right?!
The importance of using great photography and great visuals for you brand is about so much more than being ‘interesting’. It’s about capturing people’s attention in a moment.
Did you know you have approximately six seconds to make an impact?
Your audience will make snap judgements constantly on where to spend their attention. We’re surrounded by images now, in every medium. In a world where everyone is competing for attention, you have to make sure that you’re keeping up in order not to get lost.
Our brains are AMAZING!
The human brain processes images around sixty thousand times faster than words. Sixty THOUSAND. If you think about it, over 90% of human communication is visual.
Those words someone is saying? Whilst you are listening to them, you’re also WATCHING their body language to try and pick up on how they are feeling. You’re monitoring their lips, so your brain can reinforce the sound they’re making and truly hear the words. You’ll be checking their expression for clues as to the right response – should you be smiling? Commiserating? Outraged?
Most of our understanding comes from what we SEE, whether we realise it or not. We all have a gut instinct, and innate ‘sixth sense’ when something is just not right, and often this will have been brought about by the subtle visual cues we pick up on without even realised we’re doing it.
This visual information is instant in a way that traditional written ways of communicating are not. In a split second, your audience will have made a judgement on whether or not to pay attention to your brand and your story. So it’s no surprise that articles with images can get up to a 94% increase in views than ones without.
Why WOULDN’T you want to tap into this?
You need to make it EASY for your dream customers to find you. Easy for them to understand your offering. You need to make it so simple for them to WANT to engage with you, and the quickest route to generating those emotions is through imagery.
IF you’re not making full use of all the amazing platforms available to you to WOW your customers with incredible images, you are not going to be doing yourself justice.
So let's look at how we can STOP THE SCROLL and grab attention with your beautiful brand images…
Lighting your branding images for the perfect shot
Light makes your images interesting, special, beautiful. Light is the cornerstone to a great branding image. Find a big beautiful light source, like a large window to fill your image with stunning soft light.
The trick to a flattering light is to light from the side. Find a big light source like a window and make sure any harsh indoor lights are not directly above your head. The key is to light from the side and avoid too much light coming from directly above.
Light your flat lays I again suggest finding a window and setting up your very own photo box. Simply use a1 or a2 size boards - white with black on one side - from the craft store and create a 3 sided box around whatever it is you are shooting. By creating a box you will bounce the light and get soft airy pictures. If you swap the card round and use the black side you will absorb the light and have much more contrast moody looking images. Create your box and always have great images, the best part it works no matter how much space you have.
Think outside the box with this one.
We can all take an OK photo, but is that really going to stop the scroll of your target audience?
Think about setting up so that your camera captures a picture of you as a reflection in a mirror - much more interesting and intriguing. Or through a door or window. Think outside the box and get creative!
Best advice I can give you here is to find your go to pose. Practice in the mirror until you find a pose that makes you smile makes you feel good or silly but happy.
Then perfect getting yourself into it so you can pull it out whenever you are going to be on camera.
Colours props and location
Here are some questions to think about when you are planning and styling branding images for your business:
Think about anything you are including, Are they relevant to your story? Are they enhancing the experience your reader is having? Are they telling the story of your brand? Are they consistent with what you believe and your ethics and ethos
Does the location make sense? Does it work with the outfit?
Does everything in your photo feel right for you and your brand?
What story are you telling?
You need to break your story down to work out the exact images you need. Think about how many images do need and what types of images you are looking to use going forwards. For example if you need 10 photos for a blog what are the most important parts? Is it a step by step? Is it walking through the emotions of an experience before and after?
Break down the steps of your story as you experience it.
This is a great tip because having a purpose for what branding images you want from your shoot will make you more productive when you spend time creating your photos videos and visuals as you are going to know what you need and where they are leading to.
What is your editing process?
Do you edit your images at the moment?
Think about how to give your brand a distinctive look with your editing process, if you are using a professional branding photographer then i’m sure they will make sure this is taken care of for you, but remember to make sure the edit is consistent throughout your brand.
Branded images = keeping core values the same
How much time do you take creating consistency and affinity between your photos and images by editing them in the same way with the same filters?
Some of my favourite Apps and processes for editing and photography on your smart phone.
Key questions for creating branding images and visuals for your business:
Are your branding images Instantly recognisable to your audience?
Are you telling the right story for your brand and for your audience with your branding images?
Are your branding images impactful enough to stop the scroll?
USING VISUAL IMAGERY IN YOUR BRAND
WHAT YOU NEED VISUAL IMAGERY FOR!?
We all want to know how to stop the scrolling behaviour on social media right? Even on websites and other online content, the SCROLL has become a habit that lots of business owners spend HOURS agonising over how to break.
As well as being business owners, we are all also consumers too, and probably all intuitively know the feeling. We KNOW how many feeds we will simply skip past as they are just not delivering what we need at that precise time.The images do not excite us. We don’t feel that CONNECTION.
Luckily for us, there are some specific areas you can improve on, to make sure that your lovely brand IS one of the ones which commands attention!
It is all about creating, with intention, the RIGHT kind of branding images.. Creating those stunning visuals which will transport your potential new customer out of their zombie-state of scrolling, scrolling and instantly put them in a place they want to be –asking questions, interested, wanting to find out more.
So here are my top tips for creating images that are going to be used on social media.
Your brand images HAVE to be instantly recognisable to anyone who comes across them. Your visual language needs to shout from the rooftops without saying a single word! We’ve talked already about consistency, and this is where it really comes into play. When you start to build a coherent visual style for all your brand images, it becomes your calling card.
You NEED your customers to recognise you ANYWHERE.
Think about HOW your customers are going to recognise you - what is it about you, and your photos which will really set you apart from everybody else?
You need to foster that sense of familiarity with your loyal followers. DELIVER, time after time, the 100% emotional EXPERIENCE that they are seeking from your brand, and you will see how much power your images can create in your favour.
2 - STORY TELLING
Creating powerful images for social media is all about storytelling. Now that we know how important visual communications are in creating a narrative for your brand, you can start to craft exactly HOW you are going to achieve this with your social media images.
For every image you choose, or use, put yourself in the mind of your perfect customer and ask yourself:
“What is this image SHOWING me?”
The thing about stories is that they are always moving forwards. There’s always a next step. It’s this sense of ACTION and discovery that you can build with the right choice of images for your brand. You want your social media scroller to STOP. To TUNE IN, and take action to click. To find out more.
You want to create a split second experience which will WOW your social media scroller, and draw them in. You want to show them EXACTLY the best life they could be living if they would only decide to buy your incredible product, or use your wonderful services.You want to show them vitality! Energy!
To create images for social media which have IMPACT, you first need to understand your scroller. KNOW your audience. It might be that all your intentions are in the right place, but the actual quality of your execution, your choice of shots is letting you down at the last minute.
In our next section we’re going to take a much closer look at how and where you can use your images for MAXIMUM impact for your brand to truly STAND OUT.
HOW TO USE IMAGES ON YOUR WEBSITE
My secret sauce
I am a big fan of websites that have a simplistic feel. Sites which are very direct and obvious about the journey you want your viewer to go through. Sites which are easy to use, easy to understand and easy to navigate through features.
Keeping it clean and crisp and SIMPLE is king, to help provide a clear view of the showcased item, service, product. Your images and the use of them on your website need to follow the same structure.
Here is a quick rundown of the bare minimum 3 branding images you have to use on your website.
1. Lots of negative space
Create the feeling of space and light in your images, even if your website is about being dark and moody, create an atmospheric feel of what it is like to work with you by using a wide shot, negative space heavy image to grab attention.
2. Get Personal
Choose an incredible and emotional headshot for the win. A photograph that really shows your true features and characteristics, exactly what people will get when they meet you in person or Skype with you online.
3. Go for the money shot
Create an image that screams you are the expert. That your offering will solve all their problems or AT LEAST THEIR MOST IMPORTANT ONE! Make this image approachable and professional and hot as! Make sure they know in no uncertain terms that you mean business, and that you are THE TOP DOG in what you do.
HOW TO USE IMAGES ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA
So, this is going to be a really basic run down of MY favourite social media platforms and the best ways to use images to showcase your brand.
MIND SHIFT - YOU CAN NOT USE THE SAME IMAGE ON EVERY PLATFORM!
MIND SHIFT - POORLY TAKEN SMARTPHONE SNAPS ARE NOT PROFILE PICTURE MATERIAL WHEN YOU ARE PLAYING WITH THE BIG BOYS!
Now, Facebook is multifaceted - there are so many different places you can exist on Facebook that images, and lots of them, are imperative!
Your personal Facebook profile
Needs a STRONGLY RECOGNISABLE image for the profile picture.
Your Facebook personal profile pic should be instantly recognisable as YOU, but also, be a clear and consistent link to your brand.Even though you will have a separate, business area on Facebook for your biz, you really have to maximise every opportunity to live your brand, and your personal page is likely to be many people’s first experience of you. Make it count!
I also recommend having a branded cover image on your personal Facebook page- whether that be a link to your Facebook community, or your recent opt-in, or maybe just your website. Utilising this space for the free marketing capacity it provides is a no brainer.
Your Business Facebook “Like” Page
Again you need a STRONGLY RECOGNISABLE image for the profile picture. You can use the same picture as your personal profile page to keep consistency, and if you only have a small amount of images at your disposal right now.
Your business page is where you really supercharge your branding. This is where people are expecting to find your best – the good stuff, which will really excite them! They KNOW they’re looking at your brand, and it’s up to you to make sure that the images and content you are showcasing here can really deliver. So use your best images. Make sure you are building the right narrative.
For sure your Cover Picture Space needs to be fully utilised, with either a link to your group, your opt-in or your web page. I suggest using a picture with plenty of negative space of either YOU or YOUR PRODUCT on the cover photo with a STRONG call to action!
Following in the success of Instagram stories, Facebook stories can be a brilliant tool for reaching your audience quickly. They appear at the top of the feed, so if you’re constantly keeping the content on their fresh, it’s a great way to catch people’s attention before they scroll off somewhere!
The great thing about Facebook stories is that you can use it to showcase your brand slightly differently. To show another angle on what you do. Because users have to click to view your story, I like to use stories to show more informal content and images –the kind of things you might not be sure would look right as a permanent fixture on your feed, but that still builds your credibility.
THINK: What else could your brand be saying here?
INSTAGRAM: THE CURATION PLATFORM
Instagram is all about what you have on the outside.
It is definitely judge a book by its cover platform.
Your images NEED to be strong enough in suggestion of STORY to stand alone without a caption until clicked.
They need to DRAW in your target client from a simple enticing insight into the world of you.
So, HOW do you achieve this?
Well this really is very simple…
Create Images your AUDIENCE WANT TO SEE!
Give them what they want.
Know what they desire from your business and show it to them.
Instagram gives you an amazing outlet where getting nitty, gritty and behind the scenes is what it is all about. It allows you to get raw with your audience and show them really what drives your day to day business.
But the key point to remember is:
You need to SHOW THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO SEE
So, for example, if you are targeting really techy social media loving audience - they probably don't want to know what you had for breakfast-this isn't going to get them to stop their scroll. However in your iInstagram stories, you can quite naturally show what you had for breakfast and how you start off your work day.
If you are a health guru then your followers are going to LOVE your gorgeous organic breakfast photographs, and this IS going to stop their scroll. Whereas if you put up a load of techy, marketing statistics in a graphic - that's probably going to turn them right off.
Stick to what you KNOW your target market LOVE and then show them every single in and out of it!
Your Instagram feed allows you to show the reality of your business - ALL of the INS, and ALL of the OUTS, so you can really showcase and highlight the unique experience that your clients get and LOVE from you and your business.
Instagram Stories allow you to go even deeper and show the reality of how YOU go about making that day in the life of your business happen.
My top tips for a FABULOUS instagram Account
Use a Clear and Close up profile image so your tribe can find and recognise you instantly.
Curate your content.- LOOKS DO MATTER ON INSTAGRAM! Plan out your content in a visually appealing way so that your feed is gorgeously delicious and tempting to all those new followers checking you out.
Pick a theme and Stick to it!! - Whether it’s a filter you use ALL THE TIME, or a frame shape, size or colour you just love, make a choice and keep it consistent.
Make sure EVERY image you use is brand specific and recognisable. Don't be tempted by quick fix colours or items that don't make strategic brand strategic sense to you and your business. Create your own stock image bank so you always have GORGEOUS and UNIQUE images to use when you have something to say.
Utilize the highlights roll feature - Simply repurpose a recent Insta Stories image to the highlights roll to draw more attention to what you got going on.
What is your social media FOR?!
What is your social media FOR?!
Your social media, your profiles, your activity, your content should all be part of your strategy to FILTER AND FUNNEL your potential clients into exactly where you need them to be. You can use your images to take people from one place to another.
Optimising your profiles is so important to draw people in to what your brand can offer them. We want to be ENGAGING them, exciting them first, and then –and here’s the important part – GIVING THEM A CLEAR DIRECTION TO GO NEXT!
It’s all well and good having a beautiful business page, but if there is no ACTION for your interested audience to take next, then you are missing out on an opportunity!
By mapping out who the various platforms are engaging you with, you can understand WHERE you want to take them, to get them to convert that love and excitement you’ve made them feel with your gorgeous brand images, and turn it into sales!
It’s all part of the process:
Use your images to challenge and excite, then…
Filter your audience, take them to…
The right LINK, for them to…
ENGAGE, and take ACTION!
Facebook and Instagram are GREAT ways to establish these connections. All the platforms also have ads which you can use to target people even further. The level of detail you can get from a Facebook ad is unbelievable, so you can know exactly who you’re talking to, and filter your messaging and your creative just for them.
When you are filtering and funnelling all your lovely prospects, keep in mind the three important checkpoints we learned about earlier when you’re planning out your images and brand content. You need to be:
1. Instantly recognisable.BE your brand, STAND OUT, let people know EXACTLY who they are talking to!
2. Telling the right story. What is it that this person needs and desires, and HOW are you giving it to them?
3. Be impactful. Create stunning, high quality and CONSISTENT images which will blow their socks off!
By hitting these three focus areas, and keeping them front of mind when you’re using social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, you’re very quickly going to build that CREDIBILITY for your brand that money can’t buy!
Once you establish with your audience that they can trust you to always deliver exactly what they need, you can start to position yourself as the authority, and up level your brand to bigger and more incredible things!