Why Hire a Photographer?

Working in this industry, I often hear business owners say “Let’s just get a stock photo”. As a photographer with a branding background, I find this to be potentially bad for your brand. Why?

The proper photograph can enhance or ruin your marketing/advertising campaign. And whether you decide to use a stock photograph or hire a professional to take a custom one can make all the difference in the world. After all, the image is what gets their attention and makes them remember the advertisement, even more than what the advertisement says. “A picture is worth a thousand words” has stood the test of time for a reason!

In fact, with the advent of social networking and the hyper-connectivity of the internet, a picture may be all you have. People want their messages delivered quickly and succinctly. They are trying to keep up with several social networks, their own and others blogs, their work schedule, and that doesn’t even take into account their personal lives.

Harvard Business School ran an entry on their blog stating that 70% of social networking activity is related to people looking at others photographs and that these photos are effective with the social-networking-savvy in conveying messages about people and products quickly. And this was written before pinterest and instagram became popular. I would suggest the numbers are probably higher today with how comfortable people are with photo blogs.

While there are many stock photo sites out there with very high quality images, taken by very talented photographers, there are many times where they are not a good solution.

Companies usually choose this solution because they are pressed for time or they fell a professional is too expensive. However, what they fail to take into account is:

1. The time it takes for a designer to search for images is going to be part of the cost to design their marketing materials

2. Chances are likely the image chosen will be one that is “Good enough” or one that isn’t quite what they’d like, but, rather, one they settle on due to time constraints or inability to find the perfect image.

3. If the image they choose had been used by several companies for either the same or different products/services. They will actually be diluting their branding rather than strengthening it.

A good designer charges hourly for their time. And searching stock sites for just the right photograph can take hours. By the time you pay a designer to do that work, you could easily pay a photographer, and even a model and makeup person for a half days work and get exactly the photograph you need, and have it be unique to you. You could own it as part of your branding.

Several years ago, 2 computer companies (Dell and HP) used the same photograph of the same “College Student” that their agencies found on a stock photo web site. It even became a social media phenomenon on where the “Everywhere Girl” would appear next.

These were major companies who spent significant amounts of money in print and on the internet on advertising production and placement only to have each others ads dilute their brand because someone was trying to either save time or money on a photo shoot.

What they saved, they easily lost in brand dilution and brand confusion. Not to mention re production of the advertising. These companies were technically too large to really worry about it long term. But imagine the same effect for a small business whose advertising budget is critical to them. If you blow that budget for the year to dilute your brand, it could be deadly to your business.

Furthermore, when it comes to your product, you need to have your own product in your own marketing. Taking it yourself might be tempting. But the opportunity cost of you trying to do it perfectly and color correct it perfectly for print may not be worth the risk. There are so many nuances to understand with color across different printing processes, as well as the web, you could be setting yourself up for a very time-consuming disaster that will only cost you more down the road to fix.

And, finally, when it comes to your own personal head shot, let’s face it, you are your own brand. You want to make the best first impression.

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