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. Let me clarify… Every company that sells a product on-line needs to have their products photographed and styled professionally. Why shouldn't you try and do it yourself? Because your company website is your shop window, your one chance to impress, 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.' 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 amateur pictures. If you want your business to be taken seriously, you NEED a professional photographer (and preferably someone to direct and style the shoot too). Here's why: 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. QualityTaking your own photos for social media is fine, but when you then get a great opportunity to promote yourself on a billboard (for instance), your 72dpi image won't cut it! Uploading low resolution images on Facebook might look fine, but then when press require the same image, your fuzzy ad will look unprofessional. 3. Good InvestmentI understand that a good photographer isn't cheap, but when it comes to promoting your business (no matter what size), having a file full of professionally edited images that can be used indefinitely is still better value than having to patch up your mistakes. 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. 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 please don't 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'm biased. I've 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've spent many a fun campaign art directing fashion and product shoots for lifestyle businesses. In fact, photos of some of the campaigns I've worked on are interspersed among this blog - a mix of behind the scenes and finished pictures for various projects. TThe 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 an unprofessional picture speaks volumes.