Should your brand invest in original photography?

  • Categories:

    Creative, Photography, Work

  • Date:

    August 13, 2020

Should your brand invest in original photography?

Creative Photography Work

With little more than an internet connection, anyone can easily access hundreds of millions of stock photos. With so much stunning photography available to license for creative use, does your brand really need to invest in original photography?

Without question, yes.

Strategically planned photography allows brands to not only control the visual message, but also ensure that it resonates with the target audience(s). With so many brands competing for attention in a crowded, noisy marketplace and equally crowded marketing media, you must be able to showcase your unique identity and value.

Consumers want to interact with brands that are relatable, and they’re becoming more and more savvy. Even if they don’t directly judge brands based on their use of mass-produced stock photography, they’re much more likely to connect and engage with photography that feels authentic, true to the brand and true to their own needs.

Reasons to Invest in Original Photography

Original photos increase audience engagement.

An image captured with the express purpose of representing your brand and capturing your target audience naturally has more stopping power. That’s why photographers and art directors work to compose authentic visual moments.

Resulting images don’t feel mass-produced: Instead, they’re personalized to highlight the target audience’s values. Perfectly imperfect and different from anything else out there. Aspirational yet relatable. The element of aspiration causes people to pause, while the subtle elements of relatability help them connect to the image.

Creating this connection is crucial in inspiring the target audience to have feelings about the brand or take action.

Original photos are true to the brand.

As important as it is for individuals to own a personal aesthetic, it’s also critical for brands to have their own unique look, feel and style. A brand tuned into those elements has an unmistakable identity and personality. It isn’t just any brand. It’s a brand whose products make people feel a certain way, like they’re not just a passive end user but part of the story.

For example, consider Moen®, the #1 faucet brand in America. Moen leaders believe their photography is the clearest expression of who they are and what they stand for, so it’s no wonder they hold it to such a high standard. That’s why Wray Ward built elaborate personas describing the brand’s values and unique aesthetic, both of which deeply influence Moen’s original photography. We also created photo articulation guidelines. These help ensure every shot is informed by key elements that align with the values of the target audience, acting as both a mirror to their lives and a validation of their dreams.

We also identified personas and a specially designed photography approach for steam shower company and industry leader MrSteam. Although a lot of thought went into developing our understanding of Moen, those concepts wouldn’t be relevant for MrSteam. (Remember, consumers are extremely savvy and will notice when brands take shortcuts.)

MrSteam targets an extremely affluent audience that favors day spas and international travel. When we design the brand’s sets, we look at things such as Moroccan architecture and other international influences. Think even the tiniest details don’t matter? Think again: For this client, our photographers and art directors consider everything from the type of shampoo bottles and soap in the shower to the texture of the bath towel hanging on the hook.Original photos complement marketing elements including brand identity, colors and fonts.

Do you often feature certain objects or themes as primary elements in your marketing? What shades make up your color palette? Incorporating these into your brand photography will help create a collection of photos that feels realistic as well as authentic.

What It Takes to Get the Shot

From the right equipment and lighting to the right on-camera talent and a strong working relationship between photographers, art directors and designers, getting the “shot” takes a big-picture perspective. We strategically and meticulously plan shoots down to the finishing set details. Which dish towel will best resonate with our end user and why? This is the kind of question you may hear as a fly on the wall in preproduction meetings.

Why? Because what we do isn’t just about building a beautiful set or having the best equipment or even the most skilled photographers. Instead, it takes a unique formula to produce images with just the right balance of aspiration and authenticity. Photos that don’t feel composed or staged. Talent that says, “I’m a real person, just like you.” Little details, like pillows rumpled just so and the messy beginnings of family breakfast on the kitchen counter that say, “This is the real world. Your world.”

As an art director, this is one of my favorite parts of the job. I may not directly handle the lighting, but I make sure it feels true to the brand. I may not physically place the props on the set, but I make sure they’re placed in a certain way. A lot of studios have a go-to propping solution — for instance, they may always drape a towel over the sink or place a bowl of fresh artichokes on the counter. But we want to create an authentic space. We direct talent to feel comfortable in their environment on set, not like they’re models. We compose the narrative and conduct even the smallest elements to create a single image that will tell the right story and speak volumes about the brand.

The Life Cycle of a Shot

Most people will only see the final images culled from many hours of shooting and editing. But the life cycle of a great shot is much more complex, stretching beyond even preproduction, production and postproduction.

When you work with an agency that offers a full range of marketing solutions as well as in-house photography and video production, you’ll benefit from a team that understands the core concepts and the strategy behind them. A team whose editors sit next to the photographers and whose social media content creator colleagues work down the hall. A team that had a place at the table when the Insights team dug into the research on what makes your target audience tick. How do they live? What’s important to them? What will they connect to? Which styles resonate? What products are they buying? What other brands do they engage with? Which influencers inspire them?

This fall, Wray Ward will also add an on-site studio when we move into our new office. This gorgeous, purpose-built space will allow us to build sets from the ground up, controlling everything from set craftsmanship to making sure every last detail is exactly how the client and our team envisioned it.

Putting It All Together

What’s the real secret to making an impact with photography? We believe it’s about working holistically to create something original that your brand can own — something no other brand can create or claim.

When it comes to getting “the shot,” that’s the mark of a great one.

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