There are a few things I did inherently when starting my business – perhaps a gut instinct or maybe just plain luck, but a handful of things that I believe have truly helped to shape the path of my business. Investing in professional photography is one that’s at the top of my list.
Now I must start this story by telling you that I’m a scrappy entrepreneur. I like to think I can do it all but after investing in that DSLR when everyone else did I quickly realized that a knack for photography was something I simply didn’t quite have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about capturing a shot or a video clip with my iPhone and working a little VSCO magic for Instagram because I love being in the moment, but as the days go by I try more and more to only post visuals that help my brand put it’s best foot forward.
My longtime, go-to photographer Heidi Geldhauser has shot all of my “big moments” in life, and in business – my wedding, newborn photos of each of my three kids, all our family photos and of course, all photos for my business as well. There is such a comfort and confidence in knowing that each time I have a shoot I will be getting exactly what I want, and what I need, to properly run my business from a visual standpoint. Getting to this point and finding exactly the right person to fit your needs may take some time, but doing a little work up front to hone your aesthetic will help move you down this path.
If you’re not already investing in photography here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider taking the leap…
Even for a very small business, professional looking photos will help elevate your products and your brand as a whole. Branded photos should give an overall visual consistency that will paint a very clear picture of who you are and what you’re all about. If you’re truly looking for a way to take your business to the next level, this may just be one area you should focus your efforts on.
Sometimes having beautiful photography gives people the impression that you’re bigger than you really are, which can be both a pro and a con so just be ready for it. People like to feature pretty pictures, so you might be surprised by the increase in regrams, shares or even press features that you’re able to capture simply by having a stronger visual presence. It also gives large companies the impression that you’re a legitimate business who has their act together and could probably handle a larger volume order. These are all benefits I’ve encountered first hand, and I’ve seen tangible business growth as a result.
Honing your visual aesthetic and the tiny nuances of your brand from a visual standpoint will likely be a work in progress, but taking the time up front to tell your story properly will help you get more bang for your buck in the long run.
I’ve always had a clear picture in my head of what I wanted my brand to be about. You’ll see a consistency in my visuals that show classics and tradition, a neutral palette, styling that includes vintage elements, and a lifestyle approach in my content that spans food, home and family most strongly.
I love these two photos below. The one on the left was taken at our very first photoshoot, nearly 10 years ago. The one on the right was taken about a month ago. I’ve used the shot on the left as our profile image on most all social media sites and on our website since our business began. It has survived our rebranding, and quite frankly, provided a strong visual consistency that allowed people to understand they were still hearing from us, just with a new name.
I’ve certainly grown into my brand over the years, adjusting the saturation in our images, focusing more heavily on lifestyle vs. product imagery, and being so much more thoughtful in my photoshoot planning but all in all when you style and photograph something that screams “your brand” then it will never go out of style for you. I try to constantly pull from this library of photography that we’ve created, and also to repurpose shots and stories year after year so we always have something new to talk about.
If you don’t take control of what your brand is then someone else surely will. By going out there with a strong stance you’re able to control the conversation and show people exactly what you want them to see.
Think about the top 1-3 benefits or details that make your product unique. Maybe it’s a shirt with a super-soft fabric. The consumer should look at your photography and instantly think “Wow, that shirt looks so soft.” While good photography will get you on the path, there is also a strong combination of proper styling and propping, thoughtful planning and a good understanding again of what actual elements you need to come away with when you have these images in hand.
Taking control through your photography and positioning also helps to make you easy to work, both internally and externally.
When you thoughtfully plan your photography, you’ll have everything you need internally to properly launch a new product or merchandise your website during the holidays. You’ll have the vertical shot you need on the product page, a front and back view, but also have a lifestyle shot or two so you can talk it up on Instagram or Pinterest without being shunned for feeling like an advertisement.
Externally, when an editor calls you up and wants to feature your latest design, you’ll have hi-res, high quality imagery to pull from at a moments notice which could make the difference of you getting the feature over someone else. With budgets and deadlines the way they are these days, if you can provide the photography sometimes that is a game changer.
Gift guides often require a knock-out shot on a white background, while feature stories on a blog or in a magazine may want 20-25 quality lifestyle and detail photos to choose from when crafting their story.
Whenever you get the chance to showcase your brand the way you want to, choose to take control.
“With budgets and deadlines the way they are these days, if you can provide the photography sometimes that is a game changer.” – Ashley Schoenith of Heirloomed
Whether you decide to tackle a photography revamp or not in the new year, just remember that you can always dip your toe in the water with a few thoughtful shots instead of a complete overhaul on your imagery. Taking an “ad campaign” approach can be just as successful by crafting 3-5 signature shots that you can use over and over in prominent places for your brand to set your tone. But I will warn you, once you get a taste for the photoshoot bug you just may want to shoot more and more.
I’d love to know what you have in store for 2017 to really make a difference for your business!
(photos: Heidi Geldhauser)