Can We Talk About Your Photography?
How utilizing great images can dramatically increase your business’ value.
Let’s face it. If your photography sucks, you’re leaving money on the table. If your imagery is bad, boring, bland, unprofessional or “good enough” it is not working for you the way it could be. Chances are, this is you, but you think it’s not.
Most of the businesses I meet fall somewhere between blah and terrible in the imagery department. But don’t worry, you don’t have to spend a fortune to make some serious upgrades, and you will definitely see returns as a result!
Let’s start with some definitions: By imagery I mean both photography and video, and by photography I mean:
1. Product Photography—the clean shopping cart stuff with the white background
2. Lifestyle Photography—the images showing the product in context in real life—in use, at home, in nature, with pets and people etc.
Why should I care?
Great question, I love to start with the why of things. Here are five big reasons that you should care about the quality and efficacy of your imagery:
Would you book a hotel you hadn’t seen any photos of? Would you even remotely consider buying a product off Amazon if it had no product image? How would you feel if the photo was kind of crappy and there were no reviews—you’d be skeptical, right?
Hubspot.com shares, “Eye-tracking studies show internet readers pay close attention to information-carrying images. In fact, when the images are relevant, readers spend more time looking at the images than they do reading text on the page.”
Humans rely heavily on visual data to make decisions and if your imagery is non-existent, mediocre or just plain bad—you’re definitely helping people make decisions that are not good for your business.
One element of photography we cannot stress enough is authenticity. This word gets thrown around a lot, but what it means basically is “realness.” Generic or too-fake images don’t impact your potential client enough to be valuable. They do not grab attention. They’re fillers. They’re pretty worthless, actually.
Now, as a consumer, you know that you do not connect to the too-perfect shots of the fake happy family—am I right? We want to see the humanity behind the corporate entities we buy from. We want reasons to believe what they say in their marketing, and those reasons are usually confirmed for us by authentic imagery. We want to see the team, the facility, the process, the real story.
Imagery is one of the most powerful tools for brand building. More than your logo, more than your copy, more than your product claims, great imagery catches attention and instantly reinforces what your brand says it stands for in a way that no other medium can. This is a critical part of both defining and reinforcing your brand value. Why does brand value matter? Well, no reason really—other than your total viability as a business.
Forbes.com reported that after investing in an in-depth analysis, Wall Street giant Credit Suisse determined that “brand value” does actually represent a genuine, tangible competitive advantage. The Credit Suisse report says: “Companies that focus on brand building consistently generate outsize, long-term growth, profitability and return.”
Allen Adamson for Forbes.com adds, “A brand becomes a worthwhile investment only when it is built and maintained using the rules of Branding 101:
•Stand for something consumers will find different from that of your competitors.
•Make sure this difference is something that people care about and will make their lives better in some significant way.
•Stay ahead of the pack in identifying ways to stay relevant to people’s lives.
Easier said than done, which is why the CreditSuisse list was limited to ‘27 great brands of tomorrow,’ not hundreds.”
Marketing is all about impacting the behaviour of your ideal customer. The easiest way to impact human behaviour is to make them feel something. Simply put, imagery gives us the feels quickly and deeply.
Ninety percent of the information sent to the brain is visual, 93 percent of all human communication is visual and the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text.
Want to sell more? Stop telling and start showing.
All of the above basically leads to one all-important thing for your business: revenue.
On the journey through your sales funnel from stranger to buyer, there are a series of conversions a potential customer will go through. These conversions happen when you successfully impact a person’s behaviour, causing them to click, “like,” give you their email, comment, etc. Hopefully, eventually one or more of those conversions will be a transaction where they give you money.
Several case studies have proven that imagery can dramatically impact conversions. One study by vwo
.com found that simply changing an image on a webpage increased conversions by over 40 percent (tested with 11,000 visitors to each version of the webpage). If that’s not the most compelling reason to care about your photography, I don’t know what is.
So, What’s the Point?
The point is that your imagery shouldn’t just be a mediocre, barely acceptable likeness of your product. The miracle of photography is that when it’s great, it stirs desire, trust and powerful aspirations of the lifestyle your brand represents. The point is that only great imagery drives sales, so don’t settle for less.
How Do I Get Great Imagery?
The reality you’re not going to like is that most people aren’t great photographers. No matter how cheap (or free) your partner, neighbor, sister’s boyfriend or friend who “dabbles” in photography is, the likelihood of the imagery they create for you adding any value to your business is bleak.
There are basically three routes to getting great imagery:
1. Become a great photographer/videographer yourself
2. Hire a great photographer/videographer
3. Find authentic stock photography
1. Become a Great Photographer
When I say “great photographer” I mean a skilled and savvy image creator who is capable of consistently creating great imagery that accomplishes all of the five points listed earlier. That doesn’t just require technical skill, decent equipment and experience, it also demands time, a resource most of us petpreneurs are pretty short on.
Not to mention, it also requires objectivity—the ability to distance yourself from your brand enough to not get attached to concepts, boring images or the past. You need to be able to look from your customers’ point-of-view. Plus, running your business can be a full-time, energy-sucking lifestyle—how can you do all of that and do all the photography? It’s
just not realistic as your business grows. Eventually, you’re going to be the plug in the efficiency flow of your marketing.
For all of these reasons, it is my professional recommendation that you don’t attempt this one, and you pick from option #2 or #3 (or both).
2. Hire a Great Photographer
As with most things, the more sophisticated and busy you get as a business, the more money becomes less important than time and results. You’ll experience a wide range of pricing options, bid processes and conversations when you go to hire a photographer for your business. Some photographers will quote you a flat fee, while some will quote you a long list of creative fees, expenses to be reimbursed and then licensing on top. Keep in mind, nearly every photographer is happy for you take the lead on what you’re willing to spend, and if it’s remotely realistic, they will find a package or option that will fit your budget, or refer you to someone else who may be able to help.
Here’s are two facts you need to know:
1. Photography does not have to be the most expensive part of your marketing budget.
2. Photography can be the single most effective tool to instantly connect with your buyer emotionally.
Investing in and properly utilizing exceptional lifestyle images of your product, services, team and/or process will yield spectacular returns. So, when hiring a photographer, first decide what kind of impact you want your photos to have on your audience, and then pick an artist whose portfolio makes you feel that way. Do not just go with the cheapest or nearest or most available—if the images aren’t impactful, you might as well not bother.
I have curated a list of some of the world’s best pet photographers who are available for commercial work. This list is a great place to start, no matter your budget or location: stockpetphotography.com/founding-members.
3. Find Authentic Stock Photography
If you feel like you can’t afford a professional photographer, don’t know where to find one, and you’re not one yourself, then chances are you’ve looked and looked for authentic stock images for your pet business. If so, then chances are also good that you’ve spent a whole lot of time and not come up with much. If you’re searching on sites with royalty-free images where the prices are more affordable (or even free), the quality is often terrible.
Photographers who don’t know animal behavior don’t always know the difference between an animal that looks cute and one that looks stressed. But you and your customers can tell the difference, so those images with yawns, ears back and wall-eye are just unusable. On top of that, most of the lighting and environments in these images are just totally uninspiring. Finding those few authentic, aspirational images of pets and their people is like finding a needle in a haystack.
Or maybe you’ve looked on more premium sites, where nicer images are slightly easier to find, but the prices make your eyes water. What small business can afford $500 for one basic high-res image!? Not mine.
An Affordable Solution
This year at Global Pet Expo, we have unveiled your new best friend: stockpetphotography.com—a niche stock site featuring only pet-related images starting at just $19.
All our images come directly from professional pet photographers, featuring real pets and real pet parents—and they are grouped into easily searchable collections like, ‘pet professions,’ ‘dog body language and behavior,’ ‘pets and people,’ and ‘pet lifestyle’—so you can easily find what you’re looking for, fast.
Use this coupon code and get 50 percent off your first purchase (before May 1, 2018): AH2018LGD
I hope this article gives you reason to pause and think about what can be your most valuable marketing asset: photography.
EXPERT TIP: Walk around the show floor here at Global and flip through these dailies—make notes on what really grabs your attention and how the images make you feel.
Is it time for you to stop ignoring it or DIY’ing it? Have questions or want us to match-make you with a pet photographer near you who can meet your budget? Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
J.Nichole Smith is the author of the Million Dollar Dog Brand, co-founder of Dog is Good, founder of Working with Dog, the Official Club for Petpreneurs, and founder of Animalhaus Media, the home of stockpetphotogaphy.com. For over a decade she’s been helping solopreneurs and billion dollar corporations alike build exceptional pet brands in the U.S. and U.K. Learn more at jnicholesmith.com.