When you're promoting your business, the right images can catapult you to greatness or sink your ship. We've all seen the generic photo of the smiling blonde lady with perfect teeth wearing a headset phone receiver in a sunlit office on the contact page of some company we're attempting to do business with. Does anyone think she's really going to be on the other end of the phone when you call? Of course not. You're lucky if you get a native english speaker. Does that photo make us any more likely to call? Maybe.
Images are powerful. Just the suggestion that the person on the other end of the phone COULD be smiling is enough, sometimes, to make us a little more patient when we inevitably pick up the phone, punch or shout our way through the automated menus, and spend forever on hold before we [maybe] get our problem fixed.
The thing is, we've all seen that image, and we've all had that experience. Novelty over. Illusion destroyed. Consumers: over it. As a small business owner with a LOT of images at my disposal, I know that picking the right one is a challenge, and keeping it fresh is necessary. That image of the blonde on the headset is such a cliche because it's a stock photo. It was bought from an image licensing agency who has 100 slightly different shots of the same woman, conveying more or less the same idea. Stock photos are taken by pro photographers who sell them to stock agencies for pennies a shot. Then the agencies turn around and license them to buyers for MUCH more than that. Want to get a stock photo that's exclusively yours to use? Be prepared to pay even more...and that doesn't prevent someone else from buying an image that's technically a different pose, but has the exact same look and feel.
What people are looking for now more than ever is authenticity. Consumers are smart. They can smell cheesy too-perfect stock images a mile away. Stock photos say "There's no person here. You're dealing with a faceless corporation that can't even be bothered to take its own pictures." They are also looking for professionalism. Snapshots or iPhone captures can work for blog posts, or "look how relatable our staff is" twitter posts, but people expect professional images from a professional business, whether internet or printed material. Plus, consumers expect to get a discounted rate from businesses they perceive as having homespun/amateur/unprofessional marketing images.
What's the answer then? Commissioned images. Pro photographers know better than anyone whats out there in the world of stock images, and how to make your work stand out. When I look at a store’s website, or read a real estate brochure, or see an advertisement, I can tell if it’s a stock photo, or a low quality image, or if it simply doesn’t capture how great the product/store/agent actually looks in real life. A good photographer can help business people understand the world of possibility when it comes to getting and effectively using powerful original images in a business context.
Commissioned images can be any kind of photo that effectively and authentically communicates what your brand has to offer. For a real estate agent, that might be a killer headshot that sets them apart from every other real estate agent out there (Can we do something other than a suit jacket, a frozen smile, and a mottled grey backdrop?) For a restaurant, it might be a set of images that shows off the candlelit glow that radiates out into the street on a busy winter night. For a craftsman, it might be a well composed photo of unique tools or specialized equipment that the public doesn’t get to see, that makes people feel like they’re let in on a secret. A Pro photographer can imagine what’s visually possible when they step into a business. They also have the advantage of seeing your space and your products as an outsider (aka customer) would, and being able to bring out the best.
The first step toward amazing profitable commissioned images is to get in touch with a pro photographer whose work you love and have a conversation about how images might best be used to promote your business.