We’ve been telling you for years of the importance of using photography to connect with readers and how this can help keep readers engaged, but we rarely talk about the type of photos or the origin of the photos being used and how the right photo could help you make a deeper connection.
We’re not really telling you to stop using photography to connect to readers, but rather, to rethink what imagery to use and how to use it.
When you’re first starting out in business or just have limited resources to gather your own photo bucket, it’s easy to get started with great stock photo options. But, at some point two common concerns will arise and both are associated with brand uniqueness techniques when using photography to connect to your perspective consumers.
- Are you using a lot of popular imagery commonly found or used on other local brands?
- Does the imagery showcase your local communities, products, employees or clients?
We’re not saying, “never use stock imagery“… we use stock imagery a lot to help enhance our stories and convey a message, but having a plan to blend that stock with imagery truly unique to you and your business will help create a better connection with your readers and consumers. If you are using stock imagery, be sure to infuse your brand and character into the imagery.
Add your branding through color optimization or logo overlay. And try to search through more “unpopular” images… the ones buried further down in the search results of your favorite photo bucket resources. (And don’t forget — NEVER, ever, scrape images from search engine photo buckets to use in your brand stories because they will most likely have licensing and copyright restrictions).
If you find yourself in a creative photo rut or are ready to start infusing your own imagery… don’t dismiss the power of that smart phone! Camera technology on most of the newer smartphones today have the ability to produce ready-to-use, beautiful, high-quality imagery. And, with the convenience of a powerful camera right in your hand, people are taking more photos than ever, so let’s put them to good use.
Here are our top five tips for taking and using photography to connect with your readers and consumers through your own lens.
1. Consider the composition of the photo
The composition of an image refers to the placement of the individual elements within the framework that produces the holistic output of the final image. Sometimes you have to take a photo on the run, and casual imagery that do not give a lot of thought to the composition still have a place in your conversations online, but if you take a moment to think about the composition before you click that photo, you’ll end up with a product that gives you more versatility in use and more polished output.
Avoid falling into the common trap of taking multiple pictures of a subject or scene that end up looking exactly the same from frame to frame. Instead, take a moment to look at the subject from different perspectives and how you would like to use this image in your print or online marketing in the future. Do you have enough varying angles in horizontal or vertical view? Are you positioned to get different angles and lighting in the frame? Try to push yourself outside of your normal perspective when taking that next photo.
2. Timing is everything when you’re taking photos
Who doesn’t love looking at that perfect sunrise shot or the photo of the moon going into an eclipse? How about that perfect shot of the puppy propping up the baby just learning to walk? Or, the moment the cork is popped and the first pressurized contents spray from the neck of that colorful bottle? Some of these moments are by happenstance, but others can be orchestrated to get you the most out of that next frame. A stunning sunrise or sunset can be caught when you set your shot during the “golden hour” that happens right before your full sunrise or sunset and from a location that eliminates distractions in your frame like extraneous amounts of overhead wires, street lights, automobiles, road signs or freeway overpasses. In some cases you may want other elements in the foreground to create a depth of view with spectacular colors of moment in the background. If you do this, you can most likely expect your photographs to have deep and vibrant colors and tones that evoke an emotional response from the viewer.
Another great “timing” tactic is creating photography with time elapse features. Set your camera in one stationary space over the course of hours or days to capture strategically timed shots of your subject matter. This could be something easily applied to environmental, landscape, production, or lifestyle compositions.
3. Consider the lighting
Some of the more ‘substantial’ smartphone cameras come with a technology that will let you play with the lighting before a shot or even after a photo is taken. But, if you don’t have one of these powerful options or are not sure how to effectively use it, your best bet is to try and set up your shot with the most optimal lighting possible before hand. In most situations, especially for landscape type imagery, it’s best to have good sunlight overhead, and preferably positioned behind you and in your subject’s face or faced. Having strong lighting behind your subject matter will cause shadowing to the face or facade of the subject. If taking a photo of a room or subject sitting in front of a sunny window you’ll end up with that same washed out background and shadowed forefront, so instead, try to take those interior room photos at a slight angle to defer the amount of light coming through the window toward other sections of your framed shot.
Another great technique is using mixed lighting between natural lighting and interior fixture lighting that will draw the eye to specific focal point in your imagery. This is great technique for those taking imagery for real estate purposes; REALTORS®, property managers, interior designers, furniture or furnishings retailers, and more.
4. Personalize the shot
One of the biggest ways you can enhance your emotional intention of an image or the reinforcement of your brand, its products or services in your local area is to create a moment of recognition to that community. So, in addition to including photography of your own business, signage, workforce, or product shots, consider including photographs of subject matter from within and around the local geographic areas you serve. Incorporate other local community businesses: retail, civic buildings, entertainment venues, schools, groceries and restaurants. Also look for those nature-like shots using local parks and recreational areas: large regional parks and smaller community parks, trails, and waterways like rivers, ponds, lakes or ocean fronts if you’re a coastal business. Finally, look for landmarks like water towers or popular, historical, or famous local buildings, structures, or community artwork.
5. Keep practicing this craft
No one starts out consistently producing the perfect shots, but the more you can practice taking photos in different elements with different perspectives and for different uses, the more you’ll begin to develop a unique style all your own that can be used across a variety of application. And, the more you’ll be able to reproduce the same style and quality again in the future.