Our world is more visual than ever. Decision making has always been strongly influenced by first impressions. This partially relates to our survival instinct, but it is also because our brains think in pictures. For example: if I say, "Think of a pink elephant," do you see a string of words in your mind, or a picture of a strange-looking animal?
In our high tech, online, social media driven world today, first impressions are even more important. Statistics showing people land and stay on a web site for just a few seconds proves this point.
Whether it’s architecture or business portraits, companies risk losing business by using photography that’s average or worse. Compelling photography grabs and holds your attention, whether it’s online or in print, strongly contributing to a positive first impression for your business.
AVOIDING PITFALLS: A strong business trend is a poor excuse for not creating a compelling visual narrative.
The level of competition in business these days makes any business vulnerable to quickly losingmarket share to a new player. Just because you feel you “own” a niche, nothing will stop a new competitor from displaying snappy looking architecture and making your project work look dull and outdated. Whole sectors, the accounting profession being one, are currently plagued with a high level of retirement and a diminishing pool of graduates coming into the work force. They’re beginning to realize the traditional, more ordinary head shots of their current staff are working against them.
I once joked with a marketing director that they really didn’t need to do much in the way of photographing their projects if the market they served was in the neighborhood surrounding their office. Perhaps a few fliers placed on automobile windshields now and then would do the trick. However, if you want to extend your reach to the next city, the state, nationally, or globally, you’re going to be competing against some very talented, savvy companies. If your visual presentation is average in any way, you’ll struggle to expand your reach.
PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT A COMMODITY: Creating a compelling visual narrative doesn’t just happen.
“We get what we need from someone in house who takes photos or we take the lowest bid because anyone can snap a picture."
Digital photography and smart phones have made it possible for rank amateurs to easily produce thousands of awful photos interspersed with a couple of brilliant ones. If someone says they are a photographer because they have a "digital camera," they can easily be compared with someone who says they are a concert pianist because they own a piano.
Recently, one of my clients sent their entire team to my studio to be reshot after receiving complaints from everyone about how bad the other photographer’s photos were. Several of them said, “I can tell right away these are going to be a lot better.” That was even before I took one picture. All they had to see was the camera and lighting set up and the care I took to get them prepared and posed to know the difference. Another client, an architecture firm, fired a photographer on the spot during a photo shoot because they feared the photos were going to be bad. They had to have the entire project reshot at additional expense.
What is a compelling visual narrative and how is it created?
A compelling visual narrative makes you stop. At the beginning of this article, I talked about how quickly we jump from one web site to another. Millions of images are being created every second, but just a few will make you stop and look.
A compelling visual narrative makes an impression. If it’s strong enough, it imprints on our minds. We make a memory of it for later recall.
A compelling visual narrative changes your viewpoint. “That’s an interesting company!” “I didn’t realize they designed such interesting buildings.” Or, “She looks like a smart person!” “They must do outside the box work!”
A compelling visual narrative transforms you by making you go deeper. “I want to find out more about these people.” “We need to talk to them about the way they design buildings.”
Photography is not rocket science. Rather, it is artful science. It’s one of the few creative arts combining technology with art. A good photographer doesn’t “take” pictures, he “makes” pictures.
Bottom line: create positive first impressions of your business using a compelling, professionally-made visual narrative.
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