by David Griffiths
Ansel Adams once said, “A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words.” This statement speaks to the power and impact that a photograph can have on its viewer.
Photographs are one of the most powerful ways to communicate to other people. Think about the popularity of Instagram and other social media platforms that allow people to post photos. People are drawn to, and are impacted by, images. Such is evident when “true” photography or, I would argue, “good” photography is used in design.
As a designer and photographer, I work with a lot of clients who want their businesses to have a look and feel that is personal, tangible and friendly. Photography is a great way to do this. Many people will use stock photography for their websites and other advertising, which is fine for some applications, but not if you’re trying to add a personal touch. So when clients say, “We want to look more local and approachable and we want to have pictures of our employees on our website,” I say, “Great, but they need to be taken by a professional photographer.” When I say “professional” I don’t mean Jim’s wife who occasionally takes photos of the kids that look nice. I mean a true photographer, which means spending a bit of money.
I’m adamant about this for a few reasons:
- The quality of the photos used on your website/marketing materials equals the perceived quality of your business. Customers or potential customers see your photos and determine one of two things: bad quality photo = bad quality company or good quality photo = good quality company. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been turned off by a company because they use poor photography in their advertising or on their website.
- Photography should pull in your viewer, entice them to read more, and make them more interested in the business, product, or service that is being presented to them. Pixelated images and photos taken in bad light with a smart phone will do the exact opposite.
- Coupled with illustration, typography, and other graphics, good photography can enhance design, but bad photography will destroy it.
Some of the best advertisements I’ve seen use one powerful image and very little copy to convey the message of the ad to the viewer. As the above quote says, “A true photography need not be explained…” In other words, the photograph is doing the explaining. The ad doesn’t need a lot of copy because it’s being said through the image.
What makes a photo so compelling and intriguing is the emotion that comes from it, the emotion that is being pulled out of the viewer. It may be joy, hate, confusion, surprise, excitement, and so on, but there will always be an emotion. And emotion is what makes the viewer connect or disconnect from the photo or ad.
In short, use good photos, hire a photographer if needed, and choose the kind of photos that will have an impact and draw people to what you want to share. Here are some examples:
Professional photography of a business who wants to be seen as friendly and approachable:
Powerful image used in an ad:
That print ad from Brazilian agency Heads Propaganda is saying, “Every day, more and more cyclists are being killed in Brazilian streets and roads. Let’s respect the cyclists. Let’s stop hunting.”
Example of bad photography: