Are businesses or consumers winning the image battle?

Every business needs to be aware that there’s something happening to your customers that you should know about.

Your customers, and consumers in general, are becoming much more visually experienced and are gravitating towards those businesses that are communicating to them with better designed websites, more creative advertising and better images.

One area where consumers’ experience has jumped massively in recent years, is in photography. As smartphone ownership grows and better quality cameras are incorporated into them, people are taking more pictures than ever before and increasingly, are integrating them in real-time into their social networks.

Instagram raised everyone’s game further, and the rapid, and unprecedented growth of this social network, is clear evidence of just how interested the mass market are in images, and what a fundamental part of peoples’ everyday lives they’ve become.

There’s an interesting parallel here.

While the general public’s interest, understanding and engagement with photographic images has been exploding, the general quality and standard of images used by businesses has continued to decline. A strange parody, because images are a common currency for the mass market.

For many years there’s been ‘no money for photography.’ Photography is often the final piece of work done for a marketing job or a last minute arrangement to cover an event. Companies commissioning new websites trawl their files to find old images they have to use in their shiny new, expensive website. With no time to commission their own images, they look to stock for something that will do.

When there is a shoot commissioned, it’s very common for photographers turn up to jobs with no brief, there’s no time or money to have any pre-shoot briefing meetings to discuss or think about different types of photographic styles. Many businesses, including ad agencies, really do find it difficult to know how to brief a photographer, so they don’t.

Let’s look for a minute on how a business would commission a piece of creative or artwork from a design agency. No client would ever get a singe idea presented from a design agency. There are always at least a couple of different creative options and ideas to choose from, to help form a discussion about the merits of different ideas and what they say about the client or the business they are promoting. This doesn’t happen in photography. Which presents a real missed opportunity. Photography is a highly sensitive tool, and there are so many different ways an experienced commercial photographer can approach any project. But there is rarely the opportunity to do this.

Businesses are genuinely missing out on the opportunity to create really powerful and individual images that speak volumes about their business, engage with their customers, and provide those valued customers with an identity and a real differentiator between them and their competitors.

Brand identity is a concept that most businesses would recognise and attribute a value to, so why is there no concept or value attached to a commercial photographic identity?

Who’s winning the photography battle – the business or the consumer?

If these trends continue then there’s going to be a point where customers are producing better images than the brands that are so desperately trying to get their attention.

A better way

The only way out of this for businesses is to really start to pay attention to their photography and invest time in raising the standard of images they are producing.

We’re all aware of the pressures of the economic climate, so we know there are no blank cheques flying around anymore. But that’s not what’s needed. Smart businesses who begin to recognise the true value of a high-quality commercial image would make huge gains in reviewing how they plan and commission photography; better briefs always create a better end product.

A cultural change where the norm is thinking about photography earlier on in the process will allow businesses to really consider and plan their photographic needs more holistically and look at scheduling shoots which are designed to create images that work across a wider range of channels, including social media, and importantly will make an accurate contribution to representing a brand’s personal identity and the values it wants it’s customers to recognise.

Images are the common currency for the mass-market and businesses need to accept that they can’t ignore this powerful way to communicate with customers, because they fit in seamlessly with the natural preferences of our image-obsessed culture.

If you would like advice on planning and briefing any type of commercial photography, please contact tim@eposure.com

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