Why commercial photography is essential to a business’s success

Professional photographer teaching young people in studio.

Establishing a distinct and professional visual brand identity is crucial for succeeding in today’s digital-first environment, with its emphasis on image-heavy social media platforms and websites. Add to that the fact that many buyers today are making even large purchases solely through images they see on the web and it’s easy to see why commercial photography has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years.

Across industries, forward-thinking companies are upping their photography game, starting with taking advantage of the growing quality of stock photos. Meanwhile, ever-improving cameras and photo editing software means brand owners with the time and interest are well-positioned to try their hand at capturing their own photos.

That said, in most cases investing in professional, personalized commercial photos is one investment sure to provide lasting dividends both in business growth and customer satisfaction. Here’s how.

Make a great first impression

Whether seen online or offline, photos are often part of a customer's first interaction with a company. Professional photos help your business make a good impression and may even help convert people into customers.

Melissa Grant, a freelance consultant and former senior manager at Deloitte, explains that keeping things all about the customer is the real goal. "Because everything is so media rich, a consumer's expectation is for quality,” she says. "This means that a high-quality level is also mandatory to be competitive."

In other words, putting your best foot forward with something like an eye-catching photo isn't just about what it takes to attract potential customers. In today's market, it's about clearing the higher bar required to retain them. "You want to identify with your audience in a way that stimulates in them the same message you're trying to present with your brand," says Grant.

Sell the experience

No matter what your business is selling, photos present your products and services in a way that words cannot.

In a business setting, commercial photography lets you signal attention to detail, taste level, and professionalism — elements that amateur or low-quality photography quickly compromises.

And when it comes to considering whether or not to make a purchase, customers need these elements to help make their decision. The ability to zoom in and see a product's detail, for example, is one way you get a customer to move past browsing and click "Add to cart."

Low-quality photos, on the other hand, could mean all the careful stitching of your handcrafted pillows or the painstaking detailing in your painting dissolve into fuzzy pixels upon closer look, undervaluing your product and costing you missed sales opportunities.

Build your brand

Creating a business isn’t just about selling a service or product to customers. It’s about building a brand identity capable of developing and retaining relationships with its target audience.

Factors in brand creation include well-crafted elements like a mission statement, a name and tagline, a logo, and a clear definition of your products as well as intended audience of customers. The goal: create a brand that audiences would recognize anywhere.

However, this only works when you present people with consistent visual elements and styles across digital devices and print. By working with a professional photographer who can help build your brand’s style and mood, you’re not just building a portfolio of branded imagery that’s sure to make good impressions and improve the customer experience. You’re also taking a significant step toward maintaining your brand identity. Rely too heavily on amateur photos, in contrast, and you risk revealing an incoherent visual brand story.

Go digital

Once upon a time, a customer had to get in their car, drive to your store, and see a cashier in order to make a purchase. Now all that stands between a potential customer and your bottom line are a few clicks of a button. Unfortunately, the same goes for your growing list of competitors.

To stand out in today’s crowded marketplace, your digital marketing strategy must be as diversified as it is data-driven. Email campaigns, savvy search engine optimization, affiliate relationships to blogs, ads, and active social media accounts are all necessary tools for connecting and converting customers. They are also all highly visual.

This is particularly true for social media, perhaps your best and most cost-efficient avenue for developing closer relationships with customers and reaching more members of your target audience. That’s the good news. The bad news is that social media is voracious, demanding a constant stream of new visual content. Here again, having a deep portfolio of professional, branded images is critical to keeping up with customer expectations without compromising your brand authority.

Become a jack of all trades

Look at ways to use both digital and print tools to power your business growth and improve your bottom line.

Maintaining your website and overall digital presence is critical, although time-consuming. Remember that print is still a relevant and useful tool for many businesses.

Just as it does for your online channels, there are countless ways commercial photography can provide your brand with a robust and reliable print platform. Your customers expect you will include high-quality photos in brochures. You can also create well-designed catalogs where commercial photographs highlight your products and services. Plus, print advertisements still show up in our mailboxes and on store countertops worldwide.

Express yourself

Your business is not only a product or service provider. It's also a living entity with a unique personality.

Creating opportunities for customers to see your brand as something more than utilitarian makes them feel like they're part of an experience, even a community, and it keeps them coming back for more — perhaps with their friends in tow. Whether you want to create your own photos or you're convinced that hiring a commercial photographer is the way to go, give your business the upper hand with images that shape your brand for success.