YOUR WEBSITE VISITORS make snap judgements about the professionalism and appeal of your business. If you fail to make an instant positive impression, they bounce back to the search results page faster than oil on a hot skillet. One of the most effective ways to keep their attention is with excellent photography.
No, we’re not talking about product photos (though those are exceedingly important). Nor are we talking about a cold real-estate photograph that shows the inside of your beautiful, empty store. We’re talking about photographs of your store alive with activity. Photographs that current customers will recognize when they visit your website. Photographs that make website visitors from afar feel like they physically entered your store.
Lifestyle visuals can communicate big messages quickly, and they are much better at conveying emotion than written words. The goal is to create a realistic (if rosy) image of what it feels like to engage with your store and your team. These visuals include images of people in your store, laughing at the counter, coming in the front door, or looking in a mirror. You should consider images of your employees working with customers, at the jewelry cases, and at the bench.
To build your quality library of store images, consider using a professional photographer. Professional photographers do a lot more than point and shoot: they frame, compose, visualize, light, manage people, contextualize information, and use technology to make your photos look brilliant. Are you dialing your sister to ask for the number of her daughter’s wedding photographer? Hold off on that, because photographers aren’t one-size-fits-all.
As you can imagine, the people skills required to do still life photography are different than the requirement for wedding photography. The athleticism required for sports photography is different than the requirement for portrait photography. The guy who shoots photos for the local newspaper may be completely out of his depth if asked to do a fashion shoot. Choose a photographer with the experience you require for your project.
The best photographers are specialists, and those specialties are loosely categorized as:
- Portrait Photography
- Documentary Photography
- Fashion Photography
- Sports Photography
- Still Life/Tabletop Photography
- Editorial Photography
- Architectural Photography
Most photographers can and will do more than one type, but they’re all best at something. For a project of this type, you need someone with talent for editorial or documentary photography.
Your goal is to get as many workable photos as you can, and to be able to use the photos in multiple media for many months to come. Be clear with your photographer about this goal in advance. You need well-lit, brand-reinforcing, natural looking photographs, and you may end up cropping and recropping those images for a variety of social media and website uses. Sure, if you were producing photos for a $10,000 advertising spread, you would want the photographer to produce the best possible single image for the ad layout – framing, retouching, and all. But when you’re developing a portfolio of commercial/lifestyle photos, you need a bit more flexibility.
This is not the same as asking for RAW photos. Most professional photographers won’t deliver RAW photos, and you don’t want them to (otherwise, you could just do all the photos yourself with your iPhone). Post-production of your images is part of the deliverable from a professional photographer. On the other hand, the type of framing and retouching necessary for portrait or wedding photos is not necessary for your commercial lifestyle photos. So choose a photographer who is willing to work with you to deliver a good volume of images for an hourly rate plus reasonable editing fees. You should be able to find a professional photographer in the $200 – $500 per hour range.
Make a plan for your photography day. Talk with your sales, advertising, and website support teams about where and how you will use the images. Will you run social media ads? Create landing pages? A drip campaign? A new “About” page? Will you use them to illustrate blogs, and then syndicate those blog posts with additional images? The effort of imagining all the possible applications will result in better photographs and better utilization of your photography investment.
Next, plan the day with your photographer. Discuss how many shots you can expect to get in the time you have planned. Share your goals for the types of shots you need and how you are planning to use them, and ask your photographer for suggestions.
Finally, don’t skimp on details! Use your own team — and not professional models or stand-ins —for the shoot. After all, you’re building your brand and they are part of it. But consider bringing in someone to do hair and makeup. Discuss wardrobe and accessories with your team, and plan for a change or two of clothes during the shoot. These touches will result in better photographs and a better range of images to work with for future marketing efforts.
One of the worst things a retailer can do is have a website and online advertising presence that looks like every other retailer. If you’re blending in with the crowd, then all you’ll be able to compete on is price. You’ve already made the effort to create a differentiated, special, store experience. But the work isn’t done until you’re successfully conveying it online.