How to Use Modern Photos In Your Business Marketing to Stand Out

Tyler Walch

Product Growth Hacker at Twenty20
Tyler is a huge fan of everything media. He's your guy for everything from geeking out on marketing tactics, to trading photography tips, sharing your latest new music finds and chatting about Netflix's latest original series.

Keeping your small business successful as technology evolves means making sure that your small business marketing continues to modernize, too. As tech improves, so does the standard for what is considered professional-looking promotional material. And that certainly applies to the photography you use.

Classic cheesy stock photos, which many companies have been using to promote themselves online, don’t work any longer. Neither do amateur photos taken by non-professional photographers. In 2018, all they serve to achieve is blending in with the noise that occurs on a typical social media timeline.

If you want your small business to stand out, your best bet is to use modern imagery to promote your goods and services. What do we mean by that? 

Here’s how to use modern photography in your small business marketing strategy to win customers and stand out.

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Authenticity

“Authenticity” has arguably become the marketing buzzword of 2018, and with good reason.

In a recent survey conducted by researchers at Cohn & Wolfe, 87% of consumers said they valued integrity most in a brand. This ranked as more important than innovation (72%) and product uniqueness (71%). And results from studies indicate that fewer than 1% of millennials respond to traditional advertising. The overwhelming majority are turned off by the agenda-driven nature of this marketing, and would prefer to see the authentic truth behind a brand.

So, what does this mean for imagery that small business should be using? Well, it certainly doesn’t mean that the obviously staged traditional stock photos are going to appeal to young adults. It also doesn’t mean that overly airbrushed product photos are the way forward.  

Instead, focus on real photos. Consider taking behind-the-scenes shots from your business or gathering user-generated content.

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Focusing on Lifestyle

More businesses are adopting photography that captures the lifestyle their brand stands for. They sell the lifestyle that your products create, rather than the product itself. This a very modern, yet effective marketing technique, which is subtle enough to appeal to millennials and other audiences who are turned off by traditional marketing.

Lifestyle photography focuses on the experience that people in a photo are having, rather than trying to emphasize the benefits of a product or promotion. The most effective visual brands leverage this to paint a picture of the desired lifestyle that their customers are trying to achieve.

These photographs typically capture happy people of a demographic that matches the brand’s target audience. They capture more personality and include more emotional influence compared to staged photos of products on a blank background.

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Are Stock Photos Dead?

Absolutely not. Traditional stock photos might not be as effective as in the past, but there are a few high-quality lifestyle-based stock photo websites that are thriving as a result of this trend.

By using stock photos from these websites, small businesses can create an attractive brand image, without having to waste money on a professional photographer. It’s arguably one of the most effective free marketing techniques to use in 2018.

These images allow small business owners to create an eye-catching website and keep up with the growing demand for high-quality social media content without it taking up too much of their time.

The key to doing this while maintaining a unique brand is consistency. Choose stock photos with a similar color scheme and aesthetic to other imagery you’ve used. Add your own filter to your photos, or typography that is unique to your brand. By doing this with high-quality stock photos, it’ll feel like every image you use is independent to your business.  

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The Brands Making the Most of Modern Imagery

Apple is a great example of a brand that have nailed the use of authentic imagery for their marketing. For its Shot On iPhone campaign, the tech giant curated a wealth of user-generated content in the form of photos from actual iPhone users. These were blown up on huge billboards across major cities like Paris, London, and Dubai to demonstrate the quality of the phone’s new camera. This strategy has been replicated for its I Am The Greatest iPhone X campaign.   

Dove is another brand doing incredibly authentic marketing. Its marketing efforts over the last few years have focused on “real beauty,” not the airbrushed fiction we see all over traditional healthy and beauty products. Its Real Beauty Sketches campaign, which included the most-viewed viral advert of 2013, is a perfect example of this.

Urban Outfitters is a good example of a brand which uses imagery to create an aspirational lifestyle. All of their photography communicates a fun, quirky carefree attitude. They are also one of the trendsetters for the curation of quality user-generated content from a hashtag.

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Modern Photography is a Great Tool to Make Use Of

Using modern photos is one of the easiest, quickest ways to stand out and make your business look impressive. In doing so, you can boost your brand image, brand awareness and, ultimately, brand advocacy.

If you‘re a small business owner, you shouldn’t ever underestimate the importance of building a strong brand that targets a specific audience. This is arguably crucial to convincing customers to choose you over more established multinational companies.

Luckily, thanks to these modern stock photo websites, you can do so without spending a penny. It’s almost definitely worth browsing these websites and investigating how updated imagery could benefit your bottom line.

Images by MelFrancesca AnnLelia MilayaIngrid NagyCallie Moorepetch/Reshot

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Tyler Walch

Product Growth Hacker at Twenty20
Tyler is a huge fan of everything media. He's your guy for everything from geeking out on marketing tactics, to trading photography tips, sharing your latest new music finds and chatting about Netflix's latest original series.

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