Brand Photography: Do you have a unique style?

Photography is often a core element of a company’s brand. But truth is, not every picture is worth 1,000 words. Some companies use brand photography that can be characterized in four words: “What were they thinking?”

It isn’t difficult to start a list of corporations that rely on outstanding photography to convey their essence to consumers: Nike, Target, Condé Nast. But your brand doesn’t have to be a household name — and you don’t have to be able to afford the world’s most expensive photographer — to make photography work to your company’s advantage.

Let’s take a look at some examples of photography that are consistent, compelling, and on brand.

First, how do you create a style?

When creating your unique photographic style, start by thinking about your brand and your core attributes. Are you technical? Serious? Intelligent? Trustworthy? Helpful? Creative? Fun? Now look at your photography. Does it communicate these attributes? How you want customers to view you is the key to your photographic style.

You should also seek consistency by setting limits and narrowing your focus. Decide, for instance, if your photography will primarily be product-based, people-focused, scene-focused, or metaphorical. There are countless appropriate choices; which is right for your brand? Once you’ve decided, narrow again. If you decide to focus on people shots, maintain consistent lighting, background, and point of view so that all of your photography appears related. The reality is that the tighter you keep your parameters, the more interesting and consistent your images will be.

Please note: Consistency doesn’t mean “sameness.” No one wants to see the same photograph over and over. A consistent style is one where there are recognizable similarities between photos — in subject matter, background, color, lighting, and attitude.

People Photography

Photography using people can be highly effective if done purposefully and professionally. It’s especially important when shooting people to have an overarching concept. In the examples shown here, Wausau Paper wanted to convey a relaxed, Zen-like quality through photography. The images are contemplative, quiet, and simple, yet intriguing and surprising at the same time. There is a notable consistency of mood, and tone.

Photography: Lise Metzger

If the people you are photographing are actual employees, your approach should be equally purposeful. What is the message you want to convey? Trust? Expertise? Competence? Friendliness? Your photographic approach should capture the character of your company and lend an authentic, warm quality to your brand.

Product Photography

Photography: Lars Hansen
Reprinted with the permission of Medtronic, Inc. © 2011

Need to make a your product look enticing? It can be done if you think more like a marketer and less like a product developer or an engineer. Surprise your audience. Shoot your product from different angles, use close ups. Place your product in an unlikely setting. Use lighting in creative ways.

In the product example shown here, a set of percutanous leads for Medtronic RestoreULTRA™, the leads are upright, rather than flat, seeming to dance. The reflective play of light and shadow and the simple background all serve to highlight the product. The image captures attention and holds interest, and by so doing, it serves its marketing purpose far better than an expected, straight-on shot — that might not be distinguishable from a competing product.

The point is this: Product photography can be both accurate and beautiful.

Metaphorical Photography

A metaphorical approach can be highly imaginative and powerful. Whatever metaphor you choose, keep it simple and use it consistently. The Deluxe Knowledge Quarterly (KQ), a magazine for financial professionals, uses a relatively simple metaphor on the cover of each issue to convey the overarching theme inside. Although the subjects are everyday objects, they are photographed at unexpected angles and often extremely close up to give the image more drama and eye-appeal. Issue after issue, this magazine clearly establishes a recognizable brand through photography.

Photography: Lars Hansen

A library of images

Once you have defined your unique photographic style, create a strong, deep library of images for various marketing venues — ads, brochures, websites, direct mail, packaging — wherever your brand appears.

By creating a simple, consistent, and creative style, you can help your audience move from “What were they thinking?” to “How did they do that?”