All the way back in 1971, Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon already recognized how overwhelmed we all were.
He argued that a “wealth of information” was leading to a “poverty of attention” – and that was before the internet even gained widespread use. Today, there is more information than Simon could ever have imagined, and as a business owner, you are dealing with the exact problem he recognized 45 years ago: How to stand out in a world overloaded with messages.
A great way of doing that is by using photos: Marketing campaigns with images have a much higher success rate than those consisting solely of text. Photos not only attract the human eye but also give the viewer something to aspire to. Ideally, they let your potential customers picture themselves in the image and thereby identify with your individual business and products.
But there is a caveat: Images can be just as overwhelming as other messages. Every day, we are bombarded with them; happy families looking at us from billboards or successful business people smiling at us from website banners. You probably look right past them already. They’re easy to ignore and even easier to forget.
The challenge is to use photos that aren’t like that. Here are some tips how select great photos for your business.

Think outside of the stock photo box

The grand majority of photos available for license have the same problem: They were taken to visualize broad overall concepts rather than anything concrete. Visualizing something abstract is notoriously difficult, particularly when it comes to business.
That’s why photographers usually produce images that are versatile and work in many contexts. Think of them as the lowest common denominator: The smiling family can be used to sell both mortgages and insurance policies, their happiness is a canvas to project on. Unfortunately, the versatility of such photos also means your customers have seen them before. They have likely been oversaturated with them, and now look right past such images.
When selecting photos for a marketing campaign, try to reach individuals rather than anonymous customers, you appeal to them as people and not as target groups. Choose photos that reflect their realities: Taken out in the world rather than in a studio, with real instead of artificial lighting, and facial expressions that look unposed.

Be identifiable

As mentioned above, photos work particularly well if they give the viewer an opportunity to imagine themselves in the frame. Many businesses opt to show something that symbolizes their brand promise or service, which results in photos that are impersonal or sterile. Showing real peoples’ interaction, with their hands or faces in the frame, is an opportunity to make transfer some of the emotion or lifestyle in the photo to your product.
In social networks, many popular accounts function the same way: They show the world through the eyes of a person and allow the viewer to imagine how it would be to stand in their place. Pick images that have a similar effect and a sense of being taken in an everyday environment.

Be personal

As a small business owner, one of your biggest assets is your personality: It differentiates you from your competitors and it naturally has the authenticity that big brands are struggling to achieve. Your individuality should become clear in your marketing, and so should the fact that you are a small business. Whereas big brands advertise with incredibly polished, often impersonal visuals, try to pick images that have personality, that are unstaged and just as real as your business - this will underline your personality and drive home the competitive advantage.
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Be imperfect

At the end of the day, marketing is about branding and making money, which is what has caused its professionalization over the past decades. But since your are trying to be personal in your marketing, you shouldn’t counteract those efforts with images that look too slick or polished. Remember: You want a customer to identify with your company through a photo – and so picking one that’s too clean or static can seem off-putting, or even out of tune with your brand message. When in doubt, prioritize authentic moments over professionally staged ones. Taking marketing efforts a little less seriously can do wonders when it comes to supporting your authenticity – and ultimately credibility.

Stay on top of visual trends

Photography isn’t static: The visual culture we live in constantly evolves, as tastes shift and new styles are discovered. The imagery you use needs to look fresh and contemporary, so make sure to stay on top of the newest looks with our free quarterly Visual Trends reports. In them, EyeEm photo curators explain what trends are surfacing and suggest images to use for different cases.
Whatever you do, always remember what Herbert Simon knew all these years ago: Retaining attention works better with less information. Clear messages, contemporary photos that underline them, and smart visuals that fit not just to your business but – most importantly – also your potential customers.
Article provided by EyeEm, the place to license real photography from the world’s most vibrant creative community.
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