Marketing is all about reaching out to your consumers. And as online media and experiences increasingly influence our lives, businesses today can succeed or fail based on that digital connection.
Yet the nature of the internet and social media is also changing the way we enjoy content. More than ever, people are seeking instant gratification. Product photography is a critical way to convey your brand’s message with impact and brevity. But how do you use photos like a professional without resorting to the dreaded stock imagery?
Cover the fundamentals
When you drive a car, you can feel if something’s wrong. You might not be able to identify the issue or know how to troubleshoot it, but you know that you have to take the vehicle to a mechanic. It’s the same with photos; one look at an image can tell you that there’s a problem somewhere. Can you fix it? Do you even know where to begin?
Digital marketing has been trending away from stock photography for some time. Modern audiences don’t connect with generic imagery; it lacks authenticity, fails to differentiate your brand, and can even divert attention from your value proposition.
But for all the downsides of stock photos, they are usually created by skilled photographers. Keep that in mind when you decide to take original pictures. You might not need a high-end camera or phone, but you’ll need adequate resolution and sharp focus so that images will hold up to modern device displays.
More importantly, when shooting your own products, you have to study the fundamentals of photography. Great lighting can make or break your photos; good composition engages viewer interest.
Experiment with different light sources, backdrops, and product arrangements. Try to adjust your point of view and depth of field. Even stock photos are carefully curated and edited; do the same, and select only the best of the batch for your collateral.
Align with purpose
Photography is an entirely different discipline altogether. It’s easy to get caught up in the details of creating good photos of your product. However, you’re not going to have these photos framed in an art gallery; they aren’t taken for viewers to appreciate their quality.
Which is more effective: a photo of shoes mounted against a white background, or a photo of the same shoes on someone’s feet as they take a brisk walk? What if that photo shows not only their feet but the entire model heading out to train? And what if that model wasn’t just anybody, but someone as recognizable as Michael Jordan?
It’s a hypothetical question, and a trick one: no single answer is always correct or incorrect. A pair of Gucci or Vuitton leathers will usually look better on display, while trainers give a more dynamic impression when seen in action. Seeing a famous athlete wear those shoes elevates the perception of value. MJ himself played a pivotal role in changing how sneakers were marketed.
The innate qualities of a good photo are essential but must be subservient to their purpose. You need to apply those many factors of good photography in a manner that best aligns with your message.
Fit into the layout
Finally, the execution of marketing collateral will also determine the best use of your product photography. Websites, social media posts, presentations, and brochures will all contain other forms of visual content. How do photos fit into these different contexts?
As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words. Photos naturally tend to grab a viewer’s attention the most by conveying an essay’s worth of detail. But other images can be employed as well; vector illustrations, icons, or even clipart. These images are simple and communicate less detail; they are the visual equivalent of a one-liner.
You might be inclined to think that product photos are superior and should be used everywhere. But every tool has its purpose in design, and visual elements are no exception. Supplementary images, if used well, can effectively support your message.
How you deploy the medium should determine your photos in question. It involves learning some best practices from layout design. You want to maximize impact by weighing the visuals, along with any accompanying text, and thus convey information in a managed, hierarchical way.
At the same time, avoid making the entire content seem too cluttered. You want to invite the viewer and make it easy to understand what your brand is all about.
With these considerations in mind, it’s easier to see why marketing efforts often tap professionals in different fields. But even in a solo effort, you can create quality content if you manage the other elements effectively.