Now more than ever, having a well-defined brand identity is how companies stand apart from their competitors and establish themselves within their space. Since there are so many ways customers consume content, every aspect of a brand needs to be intentional and support the overarching brand persona. A well-defined and ownable photographic style is an often overlooked but powerful way to add a unique perspective to a set of products or services. We’re all sick of the cheesy stock photography. So let’s take a look at how brands can approach photography in order to build a more engaging and unique brand.
Product or Service
The first thing to ask yourself is, “What am I selling?” Is it a piece of enterprise software or a politically-driven call-to-action? An artisan ice cream cone or a luxury tour through the amazon rainforest? What you are selling has a dramatic effect on how you should approach shooting it. It will drive whether the images are more instructional and demonstrative or evocative, in order to generate an emotional response. Understanding that balance has a dramatic effect on key decisions like lighting, environment, models, and styling.
Once we’ve established what you’re selling, it’s important to think about who would buy or support it. What do they like? How old are they? What do they do in their spare time? How do they see the world? A compelling photographic style is the most direct way to demonstrate that the product or service fits in with their life and solves their problems. It also demonstrates that the brand itself has a deep understanding of the audience. Truly knowing your audience should have a profound impact on styling, environment, and color. For example, the way you would shoot something intended for a 7-year-old is probably pretty different than the way you would shoot something intended for a technology brand.
The next key consideration is context. Specifically, what step is the consumer at within the marketing funnel? If this is more of an awareness play, taking more of a lifestyle approach and showing the product or service in use can be a great way to approach your project. However, if the consumer is closer to the purchase stage, it’s important to give them an understanding of specifics, features, and functionality. One stage can utilize methods like aspirational environments, stylized lighting schemes, and evocative colors, whereas the other should be much more straight-forward in it’s lighting, angles, and styling. The other aspect of context is thinking through where your images will be seen. If your brand exists primarily on social media, you would probably shoot things a lot differently than if it invested heavily in print. The way people consume content on social media vs. a website vs. a tradeshow is very different. Being intentional about producing imagery that lends itself well to the different mediums will generate better results.
The last thing to consider (and your designer will thank you for this) is the interaction between photography and design. Think about the visual elements that have been established in the brand guidelines and how that can be incorporated into photography (and the overall photographic style) in order to create photo assets that complement the design elements like color, texture, typography, and composition. If your brand makes financial software, it probably wouldn’t make sense to create provocative imagery that has asymmetrical compositions, grain/blur, or alarming colors like red. But for other brands, that’s the perfect solution.
No one wants their brand to look like all of the others. People expect a higher level of thought behind the visual expression of a brand’s unique product offering or services, and photography plays a major role in that. It helps your brand attract the right customers, create separation from competitors, evoke an emotional response, and demonstrate utility. Every small choice that goes into creating a photograph, such as environment, lighting, styling, models, scale, color, and composition, creates a huge impact on how your product or brand is received.