We’ve all seen it. The perfectly posed photographs of beautiful people used on packaging, in advertisements, and even in frames on store shelves. They are smiling, happy individuals that look like us, and yet something about them feels off. That’s because they’re staged and we know it.

Stock photos can be a great marketing resource for a business, but with the influx of selfies and Instagram, it’s become easy to identify a fake, stock photograph. And when we see one, there’s a separation made between us and the image as we’re unable to see ourselves in it. This is a bad thing when trying to sell someone something.

Showing vs. Telling

The internet has brought a lot more opportunity for small businesses to reach a lot more people, which is a good thing. But with increased opportunity comes increased competition. How can you make sure you’re standing out on the same social platforms and online listing sites that everyone else is on? Best thing is to show vs. tell.

I don’t know about you, but when trying to pick a place to eat and comparing restaurants, if I can see photos of the food (especially ones posted by real people/customers) I go with that over a restaurant that only lists their menu.
Photographs are a great way to quickly set expectations, making it easier for a potential customer to select your business. So, what about your business? Do you show people what a great job you do or do you just tell them? Whether a pet groomer or plumber, showing your potential customers the services you provide will help you stand out amongst the competition. They do say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Using Photography in Your Digital Marketing

Let’s start with your business’s website. If you have a storefront like a salon, show photographs and images of it. Allow people to conduct their own virtual tour when deciding whether or not to try out your business. And if you have a business on the go, show photos of yourself and your team members. This will allow potential customers to become familiar with the people they’d be working with.

As for showing your services, everyone loves a good before and after. Start taking pictures of the job before it’s done and then another when it’s complete. Showing before and after photographs easily allows potential customers to see what a great job you do.

Run a business that doesn’t always have a ‘before’ moment such as real estate? Go for the after, and show the home owners standing, keys in hand, outside of their new home.

Another place to focus on using photography is on social media platforms. With 500 million active users per day, Instagram is a great place to show your before and after photographs.

Not All Stock is Bad Stock (When Stock Photos are OK)

While we want to avoid that ‘fake’, staged look that comes with most stock photography, sometimes we need that perfect image that can only be found in online libraries with stock photos. So, to help with your search, here are some tips for finding good stock images:

  • Avoid photographs of people staring straight at the camera. Looking for images that have someone looking away from the camera (or right past it) helps to alleviate the level of ‘fakeness’.
  • Try and select people that look like the customer you’re hoping to attract. If you’re a dentist and specialize in pediatric dentistry, showing a photograph of a 70 year old man in a dentist chair isn’t going to help tell the viewer exactly what you do.
  • Find poses that look natural. Avoid photographs of people looking over their shoulders, especially at the camera.
  • Be mindful of the scene. If you provide a child care service, showing a photograph of a happy family on vacation (which may be a nice photograph and has children in it) doesn’t help make clear to the viewer what services your business provides.

Pro tip: When using stock photos for marketing, make sure to be mindful of the terms of use i.e. for how long and where you can use the photograph you’ve selected. And while it may be easy (and tempting), never grab an image from Google and use it for yourself.

BYOP – Be Your Own Photographer

Probably the easiest, realist, and most cost-effective way to show what your business has to offer, is to take your own photos. Modern technology has attached a pretty excellent camera to most mobile phones making anyone these days a professional photographer.

The next time you finish a service, ask your customers if they would be open to you taking a photograph of the job well done. And better yet, see if they’ll get in the picture. Maybe even jump in yourself! The more you can show who you are, the services you offer, and the good job you do, the more likely your business is to be selected over your competitors.

Speaking of Competition

If you’re not doing the best job showing consumers who you are, chances are the competition is. They’re on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram sharing eye-catching images and photos of what they do, even engaging consumers with videos too.

Feeling overwhelmed with the thought of managing a social presence and a visual identity? Thryv makes it easy to post content across your social sites at once (with an image library of several good, ‘non-stocky’ stock photos to choose from).  And, we can help with creating high-quality video content to take it a step further. Learn more about Thryv’s do-it-all management software, built for small business.