In this article:
- Why you need professional photos
- Define your goals
- Identify your audience
- DIY options
- Stock photos
- Professional photographers
- Expected costs
Good photography is important in our increasingly digital, “connected” marketspace. With everything you do online for your business—website, social media, online review profiles, business listings, selling products—compelling visuals are a crucial part of the conversion process.
You can obtain high-quality, professional-looking photos a few different ways: learn how to take them yourself, exploit any of the various stock photography resources, or hire a professional photographer. We’ll walk you through each of these options and provide you with some tips and tricks along the way.
Why your business needs professional photos
Professional photos for your business’s online presence and in more traditional marketing methods (billboards, magazine ads, brochures, etc.) isn’t a unique selling point anymore. It’s something that consumers expect. And if your business doesn’t look like you have your stuff together, you could be losing out on some valuable opportunities.
Some additional reasons you need professional-looking photos for your small business:
- Photos help your customers get to know you better. With on-the-job candids, employee headshots, and photos of your building, your potential customers can learn more about your business and feel connected.
- Your media represents your brand, so high-quality photos will help potential customers view your brand how you want them to.
- Images (with proper tags and alt text—read our tutorial on optimizing local SEO for more details) can help improve your business’s online visibility through image search and improving user engagement on your website.
- Good photos are versatile assets that you can use across all of your marketing efforts.
Continue on to learn what you need to know before you dive into getting your professional photos and discover a few different ways that you can get your photos.
Define your goals for business photography
Before investing in professional photography for your business, you need to nail down your purpose for the photos.
Why are you taking photos? What are you hoping to achieve with these professional photos?
Maybe you’re looking to get professional product images to help increase sales or you want good images for your blog articles to increase online engagement with your website. Determine what your goals are for these photos so you can keep that in mind as you gather them.
Identify your audience
Like all things in marketing, you must know your audience. You can’t take good photos for your business or website if you don’t know who will primarily be seeing them. Once you know your audience, you can take pictures that will attract them and better appeal to their interests.
The DIY photography option
You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get professional-looking photos for your business. If you have an eye for design and good aesthetics, then you may be able to take quality photos yourself.
You don’t even need to have a professional camera (although this can help if you know how to use it). Most of us have phones with cameras, and if you know how to use it right, you can get some great photos with just that.
Costs to expect when taking your own photos
It doesn’t matter which option you choose to get your professional photos, you’re going to be looking at some expense here. To take your own photos could range from just the cost of your time and a couple apps on your phone to the cost of a new camera and your time to learn how to use it.
Let’s break this down.
A new professional camera typically costs anywhere from $500 to tens of thousands of dollars. Unless your business is in photography or a closely related field, then you’ll probably be fine investing in one of the less expensive options here. From there, you’re just going to need to take the time to learn how to use your camera to take high-quality, well-composed photos.
If you choose to use your phone to take images, then you could be looking at just the cost of your time, depending on the capabilities of your phone’s camera. You may want to look into acquiring some lenses for your phone to enhance your photos. The cost of those can range from $10-$50.
Another feature you should look into for taking your own phone photos is professional photo editing applications, which can range from free to $20 (more on these shortly).
Best practices for taking your own photos
If you are going to take your own photos, whether with your phone or a new camera, there are some things you should keep in mind to take the best professional-looking photos for your business.
Natural light is the light that exists around us. When you’re outdoors enjoying the sun or open your windows up to let in some light, that’s natural light. And the same feeling that is associated with natural light when you walk outside or open your windows can be reflected in your images.
Use natural light sources to keep your images feeling natural and pure. Take photos outside or create a little studio for products in a room with large windows.
Test different lighting scenarios to find what works best for your images.
When taking photos of your staff or customers, you can’t beat the impact of candid shots. Take images of your employees on the job when they aren’t posing for a photo. This will help show your customers what your team is like and helps them get to know your company better.
Professional camera (or at least a good app)
The best way to get professional photos for your business is with a professional camera, lightbox, diffusers, etc. So if you can manage to get your hands on the gear and learn how to use it, that will take your photo game farthest.
But sometimes that doesn’t realistically fit into your budget, time constraints, or skillset, so you use the next best thing: your phone. There are some great photo editing apps out there that can help you organize and enhance images for your business.
Here are a few that you should look at:
- Adobe Lightroom for mobile: free with in-app purchases
- Adobe Photoshop Express: free
- Pixlr: free
- Camera+: $2.99 (iOS devices only)
- TouchRetouch: $1.99
Tons of photo editing apps exist, so play around with a couple and see what works best for you. You can read photography blogs or forums, and there are some great photography tutorials on YouTube.
The rule of thirds
The rule of thirds helps make your images more interesting from a composition standpoint. Basically, this rule tells you to break your image up into a grid of thirds and then focus your subject on one of the sides instead of in the center.
This rule is a general guideline but it helps enhance your images to make them more appealing to your customers.
Your business photos should tell a story, which means they need to have a clear subject. It’s hard to follow a story that jumps all over the place and you aren’t quite sure who the story is about.
For each photo you take, make sure there is a clear focus on the subject so your customers and visitors aren’t confused by chaotic and hard-to-follow imagery.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the photo editing process. Try not to overdo it. Some light editing can take you far—enhancing the brightness or contrast a little, cropping the photo for better composition, or bringing out your colors.
When you are done editing, take a look at your original photo and the finished product. If it looks drastically different, you may have taken it a little too far. Most people can tell when an image has been heavily edited, so work to keep it “real” and natural-looking.
Better yet, try to capture your photos in a way that doesn’t require a lot of editing in the first place.
Using stock photos for your business
If you don’t have the means to take your own photos but can’t justify the expense of a professional photographer for your blog or website, then stock photography might be a great option for you.
A warning about stock photography: Stock photos can make your site feel less personal and even tacky (depending on the types of photos you use).
Anyone who works with stock photos will likely recognize many of the commonly used images you might use. Be sure to choose high-quality images with a unique look and feel that help enhance your online presence and build your brand.
There are several free and low-cost options out there that you can use to get copyright or royalty-free images.
Free stock photo sites are a great option when you don’t have the budget for professional photography or don’t use photos very often. If you look around you can find some surprisingly good stock photos on free sites.
A couple options that you can try:
If you are going to be using stock photos on a regular basis (for blogs or regular ads and marketing campaigns) then it could be worth it to pick up a subscription to a stock photography site.
Here are some low-cost options that you can look at:
- Deposit Photos: $29/month for 30 images each month and rollover downloads
- Lifetime Stock: $9.99/month with an annual purchase and 33 images per day
- Shutterstock: $29/month for 10 images per month
Hire a professional photographer
Sometimes what you really need is a professional. Whether you don’t have the time to learn to take your own photos or have some products that just need a professional eye for a good photo, a professional photographer is always a good option.
Even if you do most of your photography yourself, consider hiring a pro for special projects, a new run of product photography for your online store or Instagram business account, etc.
Benefits of using a professional photographer for your business photos:
- High-quality, beautiful, well-composed photos
- The knowhow and experience to create or enhance your business vision through photos
- Their creativity and suggestions for better photos and campaigns
- Confidence that you’ll get great photos
- Staff and customers may feel more comfortable working with a professional for staff and customer photos
- Professional equipment
- Many photographers are also skilled photo editors
Costs to expect with a professional photographer
Depending on where you are and what the commercial photography market is like in your area, the cost of a professional photographer can vary a lot. Generally speaking, you’ll probably be looking anywhere between $100 and $400 per hour. Travel time and the number of photos you want edited can raise that cost.
To keep the costs down with your professional photographer, keep these things in mind:
- Consult beforehand and get a detailed price quote for all costs
- Be prepared by knowing the exact shots that you want taken ahead of time
- Schedule a time when all relevant staff will be in the store so you only need the photographer to come out once (for staff or product photos)
- Find a photographer who is in your area to keep travel costs down
- Test out a college student who is still building up their portfolio
Enhance your small business marketing efforts
Quality photography, no matter which option you go with, is going to enhance your business’s marketing efforts and give you more credibility and visibility with your customers.
Build on that momentum and continue to build customer trust by optimizing your online presence and online reviews.
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