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Using Photography For Your Brand

How to Use Photography to Tell Your Brand’s Story

In our last newsletter, we talked about how to use colour, fonts, and illustrations to express your brand personality and influence your audience’s emotional response to your message. In this issue, we’re going to talk about how photography can tell your story and connect with your audience in ways that words can’t. Not just in terms of what you choose to shoot, but how you shoot it. Great photos instantly attract attention, make people pause, elicit emotion – and stay with the viewer for a long time.

By now, you know that we’re champions of intentional design choices. When you know what your communication goals are it gives your project an anchor – you can make stronger choices regarding the brand elements and style that will most effectively achieve your goals. Strong design solutions are rarely a case of “winging it” creatively; they are a combination of research, strategy, and brainstorming.

A room of a design studio, showing a combined desk with 3 computers, 3 grey office chairs, white drawers, and a center wooden table. Across the walls are a series of framed graphics and quotes, with a shelf on the right wall covered in printed pieces, created by the graphic design studio

Choose a photography style that expresses your brand goals and personality

The choice of a photography style begins with a review of your brand goals, your brand personality, and your existing brand elements. Photography is a great opportunity to fully express your personality – whether you’re fun, serious, adventurous, or values-oriented – in a way that achieves both your high level goals, and your specific goals for the communication piece.

Establish some goals for your photography – what overall message do you want it to send about your brand? For example, if you are a local Chamber of Commerce, the goals of your photography style might be to:

  • Build trust in your professionalism
  • Appear authentic, welcoming and inclusive
  • Show community engagement and networking

Once you know your goals, you can establish some guidelines around what subject matter you will feature and how it will be shot. Your guidelines should give you the flexibility to produce a range of visual messages that differ in tone, but that still look cohesive.

This might sound like extra work up front, but it will make for easier decisions down the road and ensure brand consistency. (A quick review of why brand consistency is important: it preserves your brand equity – the value and reputation of your brand – and builds trust, recognition, and engagement.)

Going back to the Chamber of Commerce example, you might determine that your photography style will:

  • Feature images of diverse peoples in a range of business settings, from corporate offices to small bakeries
  • Use a cheerful colour palette with warm lighting and an open, airy feel
  • Showcase small groups over crowds
  • Use images from Chamber events or photo shoots, rather than stock images of office environments, or images that are overly posed or Photoshopped to perfection

These are fairly simple guidelines, but they let both the staff who are populating your social media pages, and professional photographers, know what story your brand wants to tell.

Images can tell a story about your brand values

Most of us know that you can tell an entire story in a single, carefully chosen photograph. With one image, you can talk about your company values – whether it’s support for diversity and representation, community, or giving back – without saying a single word. You can offer “proof” of who you are and what you stand for.

You can show how your brand thinks about itself in relation to the world – whether it’s as a partner, an observer, an authority, or expert. You can even show whether your brand thinks of itself as a person or corporation. Is your photographic point-of-view intimate and empathetic, or arms-length and business- or project-focused? Is it designed to invite people in, inform them, inspire them, intrigue them, or entice them to buy? There’s no right solution, just the solution that’s right for your brand.

Your subject matter is the starting point for your brand story  

Your choice of subject matter, composition and lighting are all key to depicting your brand’s point-of-view and getting the desired emotional reaction to your story. Consider a single image of people in a coffee shop – the focus of the story changes with each of these decisions:

  • A smiling face taking a sip from a cup (the story is about the personal experience: the coffee, the satisfaction, the relaxing break in the day)
  • An image of a customer walking through the shop with a coffee past tables of talking customers (the story is about the environment: the “feel” and popularity of the shop, the sense of community, the excitement)
  • A line-up of customers shot from behind with no faces on view (the story becomes more abstract and open to interpretation – is it a story about waiting and impatience, busyness, or popularity? The viewer is “shut out” by the row of backs.)

Similarly, how you choose to shoot a product influences the audience experience.  The focus of the story shifts and becomes more complex depending on whether you show the product alone, in use, or with props.

Your choices will be determined by your goals for the image – is it to inform, provide a place to “click”, tell a deeper story (what it stands for, where it comes from, what the feeling is behind it), or to give the potential customer a sense of what it would be like to experience the product?

Two images side by side, with "VS" text in the center in blue script. The image on the left shows a low quality photo of a "summer days" beer can on a dark wooden table, within a room. The photo on the right shows the same can laying in a bed of fresh hops, as a high quality image.

Use composition and lighting to influence your audience’s emotional reaction

Composition and lighting are where the value of professional photography really shines through. A clean, visually balanced layout is created through colour, objects, and perspective. Not only do the pros have the experience to know what will work, they have access to equipment, lighting and editing tools that the average photographer does not.

Good lighting eliminates unwanted shadows and creates highlights while maintaining depth. It can flatter skin, reveal texture, make colours vibrant and subjects luminous. Lighting determines not only the bright and dark areas of a photo, but also the tone, mood, and atmosphere.

Use the light at different times of day to your advantage as it can have a huge effect on the overall feeling of the photo, and save you editing time in Photoshop. When we go on outdoor photo shoots with a pro, they are very specific about the time of day they want to take the shot, to achieve the desired effect.

The front of a yoga studio, taken in the evening after sunset. The orange glow from the studio lights create a warm contrast against the evening sidewalk and tree. The large windows of the studio show a variety of people inside chatting as the class has ended

Editing, cropping and colour overlays can change the mood of your photo

After the photo is taken, the editing process can further change the story you’re telling and the mood you evoke.

How you crop a photo changes the point-of-view and, therefore, the story – it’s the difference between an image of an eye, an entire face, or a person standing in a room. Cropping can create intimacy, drama, empathy and connection.

Side by side images of two people on the hard wood floor, with papers laying in a horizontal line across the images. The photo on the left (original) is in colour, and larger in height. The second photo (right) shows the cropped height of the photo, to include a better view of the people, and focus more on the center. It also includes a blue duotone effect to create a dramatic look.Colour overlays are another way to change the mood of a photo, integrate text, or add interest. In the photo below, when we apply a blue overlay, the image acquires depth and a strong, serious tone, but when we change it up with a gold overlay it becomes warmer and lighter.

Professional photography versus DIY Smartphone images

Here in the studio, if we’re posting to our Instagram or Facebook pages, iPhones are a quick and easy tool. But if we’re creating images for websites or marketing collateral – from product catalogues to ads or annual reports – we always use a professional to get a polished result.

Professional photographers know what works; they understand how to take the picture to tell the story, and they have a toolbox of photographic and lighting equipment that the average picture-taker doesn’t have access to.

A photographer will compose the scene and pose people for the best effect – they notice things that an untrained eye wouldn’t even consider. They understand composition, can eliminate extra noise and use lighting to isolate and highlight the subject of the photo. A pro will arrive at your photo shoot with an organized shot list, and they will take the photo at the right resolution for the application.

Side by side images of 2 white shelves covered in a variety of beer bottle and can designs, as well as some framed designs. The photo on the left shows a lower quality photo, with poor lighting, taken with an iPhone. The photo on the right shows a professionally taken photo, with high quality bright lighting and an appealing straight on angle

Help with your Social Media is just an email away!

We get a lot of calls and email from people wanting help with their social media – and we feel your pain! A well-thought out social media strategy takes time and effort to implement, but it’s how you consistently reach and engage your target audience.

Indalma offers a range of social media services, from Discovery sessions to determine what you need and how you need to implement it, to audits and full-on social media management, scheduling, and posting. We also offer Coaching Packages in which we walk you through how you can improve your pages.

Sound like the answer to your problems? Give us a call or send us an email so that we can discuss your needs!

Our photographer recommendation

Tyler Garnham

One of the photographers we use frequently is Tyler Garnham. Besides being easy to work with and a complete pro, Tyler has great all-round skills. We use him to shoot people, products, and businesses – no matter what he shoots, the people look great, the products look amazing, and he communicates the intended message in every shot. On top of that, he’s an accomplished wildlife photographer – you can see his work at