If a picture is worth 1,000 words, your website imagery is probably one of the most powerful tools in your marketing toolbox. Jenni here, and we like to tell our clients that great images don't just fill visual spaces on your home or about pages — they start to virtually extend a hand, to introduce your brand and start a conversation. Great imagery visually tells the story of who you are and how to buy you. Not only that, but when your customers understand who you and and how to buy you, they're more likely to purchase with you. Great imagery has the power to make your offer more compelling.
But the same is true of bad imagery. Hopefully I don't have to tell you how much bad stock imagery is out there — or that your your clients have a sharp nose for cheesy, over-staged images. You can very quickly repel your dream clients by using images that aren't true to who you are, that don't clearly communicate your brand, or by using too many styles of images, weaving a fragmented visual story.
When Sophie and I were in the midst of updating our website (full story in How To Market Your New Website) we re-visting our imagery. Here are some of the internal exercises we took on in the process of our imagery re-fresh, to make sure we were telling the right story.
Questions to ask yourself before you get started
The very first step that we took was going back to basics: OUR MESSAGING. We took some time to examine what our customers were saying about us, which as a result were the main pillars of our brand story. Images are your heavy lifters in story telling, so before you even start pinning ideas on Pinterest, ask yourself some serious questions about your brand:
1. What do my customers say they love most about working with me? Are you fun loving and quirky? That should reflect in the style of your images. Are you polished and professional? If so that will be a completely different look and style.
2. Is there a part of my process that is unique to me? Your customers are going to use your website as a tool for imagining what it is like to work with you. For example, when creating imagery for one of our customers, her process was unique because she took the time to intimately connect with her end clients, while many of her competitors did not. Based on this, we specifically arranged a photo shoot for her website, that showcased her as a warm and thoughtful professional. Think about your unique offering or process, get clear about what that is, and how you can visually demonstrate it.
An Ounce of Prevention and a Pound of Cure
Once you have an idea of the unique personality and style that needs to be fused into every one of your images, it's time to start planning the specifics. Detailed planning will help make sure that you get the images you need on shoot day, which means saving you time and money (re-shoots are no fun). In the planning stage, here are some things we've done:
1. Expand your search for inspiration: Before we ever get started, Sophie and I spend a couple of days or even weeks doing our research. Not only do we look at other brands in the industry we're creating for, but how other people have told similar stories to the one we're trying to tell. For example in our site, we're not just looking at the sites of other marketing companies and web studios. We're looking at any sites that leverage a creative process, any business that helps define stories, or businesses that help provide clarity as a by-product of their end results. These inspiration sites are writers, photographers, sales coaches, and even finance professionals.
And of course, we pin all these things to a secret Pinterest Board. This will help us when we're talking with our photographer about our vision, the type of camera angles and compositions we find interesting.
2. Sketch out your webpages: Not everyone does this, but for me it's a must. You will have a MUCH CLEARER idea of what specific story you're trying to tell if you think through the details of your website. And more specifically, sketching your site will give you an idea of whether or not you need portrait shots, landscape shots, close crop or wide lens shots. One of our first sites, we thought we could skip this part, and it turned out that the banner image section on nearly every page was pretty dramatically narrow. We realized afterward that we had to reshoot many of our shots because they were cropped too close to be useable. That's a mistake we only had to make once!
3. Make a shot list: I cannot stress this one enough. MAKE A SHOT LIST. A good shot list will include:
- Shot Reference Number
- Webpage you think the image might go on
- Subject of the image (what you're shooting)
- Detailed description of what's included in that image (get really specific here)
- Ratio or Size of your final crop (really helpful!)
- Composition Notes
- Any links to a visual example of that shot
- Where any text is going to go on images: your photographer will need to plan for white space (Please don't center every single image, you will regret it)
We've found that the more specific we are, the more likely we are to think through potential roadblocks that would keep us from being able to use certain photos post-shoot.
Final Things to consider
Finally, here are some things that you should consider, and talk to your photographer about before your shoot day.
1. Number of images: for a good website you should plan to have 15 - 20 final images in 5 (or more) different compositions. This means you'll probably take about 200+ images on shoot day and dwindle down to the best 20. You don't want 20 images that are slight variations on one another though, so use your shot list to plan accordingly.
2. Top Shots You Need: your strongest shots will emerge in the editing process. But in a landscape where lots of creatives are just taking over styled pictures of their desks and tools, you can really stand out by having great images that speak to who you are. Get images of you in the flow of what you do. This is will showcase your most unique asset — YOU.
3. Brand Colors: on shoot day you will not think that the hot pink flowers in the background of your image are a big deal. In the editing process, all you will be able to see is hot pink flowers. Do not be afraid to be meticulous on shoot day. If your colors are blush, maroon and white, none of your images should have a stitch or orange in them. Ask your photographer to see the images as you shoot along, and remove everything that isn't complimentary to your brand style and colors.
Other relevant blog posts:
If you're going to be getting your headshot done as a part of your website imagery, don't miss out on this mini-blog series. If you're creating an About Page, check out our post on how images can boost your website.
WHAT THINGS HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT TAKING GREAT PHOTOS FOR YOUR WEBSITE? ANY LESSONS YOU WANT TO SHARE?
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