The Short Answer
It comes down to three things
The Short Answer, Explained
In the last few years, improved phone technology, apps like Instagram and third party filters have mad it easier than ever to take photos. Everyone has a camera in their pocket and can document life on the fly. And the software makes it so easy you don’t even need to know about the technical side of photography to take a decent photo. The entire process becomes purely creative and even the novice can make digital art.
Further, hashtag organization has made it simple for guests at a wedding or party to set up a custom tag and save all the photos to one place where they can all be viewed. Making everyone on the invite list part of your photography team. And this definitely has a place and a value.
However, it should not be considered the only solution. Nor should it be the primary one.
When it comes to your branding, whether it be your personal brand or your company’s, is your first impression. The proper photograph can enhance or ruin your marketing/advertising campaign.
When it comes to your personal photograph on social media, your photo is the the first impression people have to gain insight into who you are. And, a good Instagram photo can certainly do the trick in a pinch. But more times than not, when it comes to printing a business card or marketing materials, the quality will not hold up. Printing requires specific resolutions and quality that an Instagram photograph will not always meet. Printing on a press is completely different than printing at a lab for framing.
Whether you decide to use a stock photograph or hire a professional photographer 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.
The Place for Social
As far back as six years ago, 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, that was before cell phones had such great quality cameras and Instagram. Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest made it so easy to document life in real time. BUT, even with that great technology, the camera sensor on a cell phone is a mere fraction the size of a digital SLR camera of a professional. Add to it that the filters we use cause quality reductions to the original photo, and you have the making for a disaster if you rely solely on that for printing. Social media definitely has a powerful part of any marketing campaign as an add on, but it should be kept separate from print campaigns.
Engaging your customers in your product is important. But professional photos of your product, and people using them are also necessary for tying together your branding across all forms of media.
Why Not Use Stock?
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 feel 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 day of 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.
Weddings and Events
Cell phones and social media have made it easier than ever to have great photos of your wedding or event taken from the perspective of your guests. And, you can even print them as photo books. So, why would you need to hire a professional?
There are many reasons actually.
You can’t, nor should you, rely on your guests to capture all the moments perfectly. They are there to enjoy the party and your big day with you.If they are having fun but miss a key moment of the day, you won’t have that memory captured to look back on. The stress should be on the professionals.
Your guests aren’t experienced with lighting, correct angles, nor the timing of things. And, a cell phone cannot capture the same quality photo of you reciting your vows without interfering with the other guests. This is especially true if your event is occurring in low light.
Furthermore, the quality of the images will not be guaranteed. If you decide you want a large print to frame or hang on a wall, you will be disappointed in the quality.