Professional photography - do you really need it?If there is one thing guaranteed to amaze me it’s how small business owners distribute their promotional budget, and one issue that comes up time and time again is their reticence to invest in professional photography when it comes to marketing their business. So let me clear this up… Every company that sells a product on-line needs to have their products photographed and styled professionally. Shall I say it again? EVERY on-line business. Why? Because your company website is your shop window, and if you don't have something amazing in your shop window then people won't come in and, most importantly, they won't buy. 'Easy,' I hear you cry, 'my mate John has one of those posh SLR cameras...I'll just borrow it for a few days and take some pictures. Can't be that hard.' Okay, off you trot, then come back to me in a few days and ask me to make your disaster of a picture look better. Maybe I can magically 'Photoshop' it (yes, the program does have a magic wand function but honestly, it isn't REAL magic). The problem is, in this day and age of technology, everyone thinks they can do everything themselves. They believe that just because there are programs, Apps and free YouTube demonstrations on how to create your own website and manage your own social media that they can also fill it up with shitty pictures. Please. Stop. And read my list of five reasons why, if you want your business to be taken seriously, you NEED a professional photographer (and preferably someone to direct and style the shoot too): 1. Experience Have you spent ten years doing nothing but taking photos? Do you know about framing, aperture, exposure, lenses and editing? You don't? Well a professional photographer does and that's why his/her images will sell your products and yours won't. No matter what clever retro filters your iphone has. 2. Quality You know that when you take your own photos, and then get a great opportunity to promote yourself on a billboard, that your 72dpi image won't cut it? You know that, right? You know that uploading low resolution images on Facebook might look fine but then when your local newspaper uses the same image (no, they won't tell you how awful they are) that your fuzzy ad will make you look unprofessional and cheap? Oh good, just checking. 3. Good InvestmentI understand that a good photographer isn't cheap, but then I personally prefer to spend money on a beautiful piece of art (yep, good photographers ARE artists) that will help me promote my business, sell my products and then have a disc full of amazing edited images that I can use indefinitely - rather than spend the same amount having to patch up my mistakes. Nothing is more expensive than a mistake. Nothing. 4. Style Photographers are not stylists, so don't expect them to be. If you have something that needs photographing (for the sake of argument, let's pretend it's a new line of dresses) please don't book the photographer, bring the dresses along and expect him/her to perform a miracle. A stylist and art director will have spent a month planning the shoot. They will have found the right location, the model, hair and beauty, put story boards and creative briefs together for all involved, thought about lighting and weather conditions and created a timing plan for the day. And that's all before the shoot has even begun. On the day they will talk to the models and contributors, ensure the photographer knows what is being shot, how and when and then the photographer can do what he/she does best – take photographs! All the while the stylist and photographer will work together with lighting, angles and the client’s brief to ensure that what evolves is priceless, on-brand and professional. Can you do all that? 5. Marketing Do you know how you intend to use your images? Do you need them landscape or portrait? Are they going to be cropped for website banners or do they need to be framed in a certain way for copy to be overlaid on it? Do you know what resolution they need to be shot at? If you don’t know, then the photographer certainly won’t know, so how can you expect him/her to supply you with the right images for your needs? This is what the person directing your promotional photo shoot will have asked you first. That is why they will be following a strict story board that you signed off – resulting in images that will sell your products. That’s why you need to bring in the professionals. Yes, I know I am biased. I have worked for nearly twenty years in the marketing industry briefing designers and photographers (my first ever work experience, at the tender age of fifteen, was in a photography studio), and I now spend some of the most fun days of the year art directing fashion and product shoots for lifestyle businesses. Also some of my clients are part of Spain's most renown wedding photographers. Like every lifestyle client I work with, I adore their work. In fact I put my money where my mouth is and where possible hire them to shoot promo pieces for my fashion clients - because I trust them and they ‘get’ me. When I plan a shoot we work seamlessly side by side, and my clients are never disappointed. How can they be? I work with the best, photographers that know what they are doing, plus I understand my client’s needs, I translate their objectives into a tight creative brief, plan the shoot to the minute and I am there on the day to ensure it doesn’t go belly up. Sounds like good value for money to me. You may have spotted some pictures interspersed among this copy. These are a mix of behind the scenes and finished pictures for various projects. Take a look in my portfolio and see the finished results. The pictures look effortless, right? Like they were taken on the spur of the moment, the models caught naturally off-guard, the products at just the right angle and the light perfect? Well it takes a lot of effort, time, experience and planning for an image to look that naturally perfect. Something that only a professional can do. So remember - a picture speaks a thousand words about your business…but a crap picture speaks volumes.