Brand Photography: How to DIY and When to Hire a Pro
It seems like everyone and their teenagers are buying fancy cameras and practicing their photography skills. It’s a smart move if you ask me — which sounds weird coming from a professional photographer, right?
At its essence, photography is a pretty simple concept: it’s the capturing of light with a sensor (or film if you’re a hipster) to make images.
Capturing moments in time.
DSLRs (those fancy cameras) do an amazing job of preserving special moments — like a child’s enthusiastic leap off the dock, or a romantic sunset picnic at the start of a relationship. It’s for this reason that I encourage hobbyists to dive in and get comfortable with their cameras.
But when it comes to photography for a business, there’s times when a professional photographer can make a huge difference.
Think about it; the internet is filled with visual content that you’re consuming on a daily basis. It’s more relatable than ever to have high quality photos on your website, advertisements, print media, and more. It’s here that quality matters and will make your business stand out for the right reasons.
The smartphones we carry in our pockets have exceptional image quality. The barrier to entry for photography has been lowered considerably since the first digital sensor was invented in 1975, transitioning the world from analog film.
When it comes to social media, professional photos are ideal for many companies, but a lot of small businesses will do just fine taking their own photos.
How Does Photography Relate to Brands & Business?
By now, you probably know that a brand is more than just a colour palette and a logo. It includes all aspects of a business’s perceived personality.
Think of a brand as a toolbox. This toolbox includes all the necessary tools for a consumer to understand who the business is. If it’s missing one of the tools — say a hammer — the toolbox won’t be complete. This goes for brands as well.
Your toolbox should include things like a logo, colour palette, tone, and — you guessed it — imagery. Without all these aspects your brand isn’t complete.
Users are often exposed to your brand through more than one channel before they make a purchase.
Photography is used in conjunction with all other aspects of your brand. Assets such as website design, social media marketing, product catalogues, blogs, and more are all consumer touchpoints that need to have consistent branding.
Consumers tend to lean towards brands they recognize because they feel more dependable. Dependable, consistent touchpoints signal that the product or service offered is also dependent & consistent.
The Power of Photography for Brands
In today’s digital world, photography is one of the easiest, but most critical ways to help tell your brand’s story.
Photographs can communicate aspects of your brand that aren’t easy to replicate; things like your interior and exterior space, your team, and your unique products or services offered.
A restaurant doesn’t need to go into details of how “high-quality and boujee” their cocktails are on their website; they can just show a photo.
A mortgage specialist doesn't need to tell people how “laid back and funny” they are over and over; they can show photos that showcase their humour online.
Photos have the power to communicate messages too, just like words can. Think about what parts of your brand’s message could be better communicated through photos rather than text.
Which Brands & Businesses Need Professional Photography?
We won’t be able to cover every photo a business might need to visually tell their story. This blog might never get finished if we tried. But here are some examples to get us in the right mindframe.
If you’re a solo entrepreneur...you need personal branding photography.
If you sell a specific product or line of products...you need product photography.
If you’re a real estate agent...you need photos of homes.
If you have team members...you need a group shot & headshots.
If you want to be unique on social media or advertising...you need photography that captures your personality.
If you...wait...do we really need to keep going?
You can see that there are pretty much unlimited opportunities for photography to help tell your brand story.
So when is it time to hire a professional?
Why Hire a Professional? Can’t I Just Use Stock Images?
The internet has everything you could ever need, including stock photography. Stock photography refers to professional photographs that are made available for download by anyone to use (some for free, and some with a purchased license).
Lots of business owners might think it’s okay to solely rely on these photographs for their brand. But I’m here to tell you they’re wrong.
It’s really easy for people to spot stock photos due to their nature. It’s rare to find a photograph that doesn’t look fake or staged.
There is one key thing that hiring a photographer has over stock photos: a professional photographer can understand who and what your brand is before photographs are even created.
Remember earlier when we covered the importance of consistency within your brand?
The photographer will work alongside yourself, your marketing person, or your team to make sure the images align with your brand. Find time to sit down with the photographer to discuss the type of photography you’re looking for and what the editing style should look like.
Let’s say you’re building a new website from scratch and you have specific photo ideas for the home page, product catalogue, and contact page. Your photographer can create a shotlist of all the necessary assets to ensure nothing gets missed on shoot day, versus searching endlessly online for a stock image that sort of works.
Not to mention, they’re professionals and have probably been doing this for years. They can bring years of expertise in their craft to help create beautiful photographs telling your unique brand story.
Pretty rad, right?
Feel Like Doing It Yourself?
Maybe you’re the type of person who likes doing things yourself. That’s alright, but you’ll need some important equipment to get started, depending on what type of photos you’re looking to create.
Photographic equipment can get ridiculously expensive and the array of gear is vast. You could sink a fortune into a camera body, multiple lenses, lighting, memory, an editing computer, and many more accessories.
Oh, and you need to learn how to use the gear and edit your photos, too. It’s not as easy as pointing and clicking.
But if you’re serious about diving into photography for your brand then we strongly recommend spending time online researching gear and watching tutorials. YouTube is a great resource for beginner photographers to learn the basics.
Gear to Get the Job Done
Here are the most common pieces of gear you may need:
The camera body is what contains the digital sensor and all the controls necessary to make images. This sensor captures light entering from the lens to make digital images.
There are two main types of camera bodies to choose from: DSLR vs. Mirrorless.
A DSLR will let light into the camera through the lens which reflects off of a mirror onto the sensor. Hence the name Digital Single Lens Reflex. DSLRs are known for exceptional image quality, form factor, and manual settings controls. They also have a vast range of interchangeable lenses to choose from.
A mirrorless camera is basically the same thing as a DSLR; however, they’re more compact without the internal mirror reflecting light onto the sensor. The benefits of a mirrorless camera are equivalent except for the fact that lens availability is slightly lower, but is steadily increasing with more demand. Mirrorless cameras tend to outperform DSLRs in video capabilities, too.
Lenses can completely change the look of your photography depending on what focal length you choose. Focal length is the angle of view of your image. Essentially, how much of the scene is captured and at what magnification.
Common focal ranges are wide, standard, telephoto, and macro. Each has unique characteristics.
A wide angle lens will capture a lot of the scene in front of the lens. This is useful for landscape & real estate photography.
A standard lens is the equivalent of what the human eye can see. These lenses are often used in lower light situations because their wide aperture (the opening in the lens) allows more light to enter, which in turn creates a shallow depth of field (a blurry, out-of-focus background). These are often used for portrait & lifestyle photography.
Telephoto lenses are used to “zoom in” and compress the background. They’re very useful for getting close up photos without having to get close, physically. They’re commonly used for portrait, product, & wildlife photography.
Lighting is often more important than any other gear you’re using. Whether your lighting is natural or artificial, it must highlight your subject in a pleasing way and must express what emotion you’re trying to convey.
Light sources have different characteristics. Take a bright sunny day, for example. When the sun is high in the sky without cloud cover, the light is more directional and casts hard shadows that tend to be unflattering. When the sky fills with clouds, they provide diffusion, which means the light is being softened.
The source, direction, power, and temperature of light all contribute to the story you’re telling with a photograph.
Beginners can start off with natural light (the sun) to understand how different lighting conditions affect the photographs. Try setting up your subject near a big open window at different times of the day and you’ll start to understand.
If you feel that natural sunlight isn’t giving you the results you’re looking for then it’s time to upgrade to some artificial lighting in the form of LED or strobe lighting. LEDs are a great choice for beginners because you leave them on while you shoot. This allows the user to see a preview of their lighting on the subject.
Listing out every camera related accessory would be like trying to list all the different sub-genres of electronic music. We’d be here for days.
Most beginners will need a few basics to get them started. And as they progress through their photography journey, they’ll somehow end up hoarding a mountain of accessories.
A tripod is the first piece of equipment I’d recommend. A tripod allows for stabilization and will prevent your photographs from coming out blurry after you’ve had five cups of coffee (hey, I’m not judging).
It’s easy for equipment to get dirty when you’re out shooting. Lenses seem to attract all sorts of smudges from fingerprints, dust & dirt, or food grease. It’s good practice to always have some camera-specific cleaning supplies handy. We recommend a lens pen, microfibre cloth, cleaning spray, and rocket blower.
Finally, you’re going to need somewhere for your gear to live. Find a camera bag that fits all your current gear but leave some room in case you decide to buy more in the future. Not only will a camera bag hold your gear for easy transport, but a high-quality bag will protect your gear from getting damaged when you’re not using it.
It should be a no-brainer at this point that photography is necessary for any brand. If you’re ready to grow your business and showcase exactly what makes it unique—pick up a camera and get shooting. Or, reach out to our team, and we’ll help you craft your brand's look.