I have a secret love for stock photos. Probably because when I first married The Cowboy, I was a complete failure when it came to taking good photos.
I tried. I really did. But most of my photos would include portraits of friends with lamps “sticking” out of their heads or landscape shots that were dull.
Bottom line: I didn’t know how to compose a photo.
Thankfully, The Cowboy also is a cracker-jack photographer. He started to show me why certain photographs were magnificent while others were bland. He taught me about light, position, and composition. After awhile, my photos began to improve. Once I learned the principles of good photography, it wasn’t too difficult to find ways to frame a shot.
Which means smart businesses will stop using stock photos for their websites and blogs and start using their own photos.
Stock photos have the advantage of looking slick and professional. But your business’ heart and soul are absent from them. With your own photographs, you’ll have the opportunity to continue to tell your story, in your way, emphasizing what you want to emphasize.
If you received a digital camera over the holidays, you can start taking photos that will be meaningful for your audience. Here are some ideas:
Take fun portraits of your team.
The “About” page of a website is usually either the second or third page clicked on when someone visits your site. It’s important. Do you have photographs of your team or is there a large stock photo at the top of your page, featuring polished models flashing perfect smiles at your visitor?
Why not have an unposed group photo featuring your team doing their thing in the office? (Or warehouse, or wherever.) Or have them pose with something having to do with their hobby or their role with the business? When you include a little creativity, blended with your brand messaging, you create a visually appealing page that will resonate with your audience.
Include snapshots of your workspace.
For some reason, photos of other people’s work areas intrigue me. I don’t know if it’s because I have a secret voyeur within, but it’s interesting to see what people have on their desk and walls. This can also include bookcases filled with books. (I always tilt my head to read the titles to see if I’ve read any of the same books or if there are titles that look promising.)
Close-up shots also make for interesting photos. Maybe you have an old, beat-up coffee cup with a motivational quote that you love. Or perhaps you love your bulletin board, filled with images, quotes, and other items that keep you on track.
Don’t forget to take photos of incoming or outgoing shipments, too. Maybe you’re expecting a box filled with training manuals. While that may not sound fascinating on its own, you can position the delivered box as proof your organization is on the move and sharing valuable information with others. If part of your business’ brand is sharing knowledge, it would support that message.
Don’t forget events.
If you and your team attend an industry trade show or conference, take plenty of photos and feature them on your blog or even a website page, such as “Live Events” or “Resources.” If you have a page specifically for press releases, you can feature such a photo at the top. It will communicate that your business is staying current with your industry’s trending developments.
Also feature posed photographs on your Twitter, Google+, and Facebook company pages with attribution. It’s one thing to read a blog post by someone but it’s nice to be able to match a name with a face.
Shine the spotlight on your product or service.
If you have a product, take photos of it in use or in the hands of others. If it’s a service, you may be able to talk a few clients into being photographed (make sure to get a model release form). See if you can capture emotions from your willing participants. Smiles, laughter, a delighted look — all will convey the message that your product or service brings happiness. Happy customers are social proof that you’ve got something worth buying.
Using unique images to tell your story greatly humanizes your business and carries with it a wonderful air of authenticity. When prospects see real people featured on your website and on your blog, a door is opened to trust you. After all, you’re putting yourself and your business “out there.” By showing transparency, you’re sending the message, “See? You can trust us…” to your visitor.
You may already be using your smartphone to take photos. Start using a good digital camera, one that can deliver a crisp, large image that can be tweaked in a photo editing program. Once you do it on a regular basis, you’ll get better and start to develop a “photographer’s eye.”
We’ll be posting more about how to take great images, but now you have a few ideas of how unique images can be vastly more interesting for your marketing efforts than stock photos.
And for those who notice my own use of stock photos and saying, “Physician, heal thyself!” Duly noted. I’m going to take a slightly different route but will be also customizing my own images.