Good Design Matters: The Benefits of Hiring a Professional Photographer

Personal photos and selfies vs professional business photography

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

We knew we couldn't make it through a blog about the importance of photography without resorting to the oldest photography cliché in the book. So, here it is: A picture is worth 1,000 words. And why does this overused cliché hold true?

Because photos are just that powerful. Photos are valuable because they communicate many things at once. They are the culmination of 1,000ish signals that evoke an emotional response in the viewer. When done well, they are attention-grabbing, visually engaging, and memorable--qualities that all promotions should aspire to.

Marketing without design is lifeless. Design without marketing is mute.

Von R. Glitschka

And what about the alternatives to using quality, custom photography as the basis of ad design? There's not using photos (simply not an option), bad DIY photos (perish the thought), or stock photography (which, we'll admit, has its uses). No, thank you, we'll stick with the pros. A professional photographer combines the three essential ingredients of business photography: high-end equipment, an inherent artistic talent, and the ability to deliver custom images that reinforce your brand.

Good vs bad photo of cherries
A professional photographer can take and edit photos that really stand out (bottom, by Aaron Watson) when compared with everyday photos (top).

Professional Equipment and Software

Professional photographers do not travel light. Photography studios and off-site vans are packed with equipment and tools such as lighting packages, tripods, and lenses designed to capture the best image possible. First, there's the camera itself. We won't deny the growing competencies of an iPhone (we've been known to use them ourselves from time to time). But some capabilities are, quite frankly, out of the poor little smartphone's reach. A professional camera outshines a smartphone with zoom, focus, flash, and other expert terms best explained in a photography class. Suffice it to say that a fancy camera takes better photos. Without add-on lenses and a lighting package, smartphones can't compete.

Who doesn't love auto-enhance--sharpening the focus, removing red eye, and brightening the image in one simple click. If you're taking selfies at the beach, auto-enhance is all you need. If the photos are destined for more than Facebook, editing software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom grant total creative control over an image.

Another bonus of turning to a pro--a better photo on the front end saves time and money on the editing end.

Welding class photo by professional photographer Andrew Shurtleff for VA community college
The Ivy Group worked with photographer Andrew Shurtleff to capture action shots for Dabney Community College.

Artistic Eye and Technical Experience

The best camera in the world is only as good as the photographer wielding it. Machines aren't capable of replacing humans just yet! As in any industry, successful professionals benefit from both a natural inclination to the work and experience in the field. An "artistic eye" is a professional photographer's greatest asset; they see things others don't, viewing the world through their unique creative lens.

More than that, their "eye" and inherent talent contribute to photo composition: capturing the overall look, the right angles, and movement. A sure hand with staging and lighting ensures that light is captured correctly, not simply beamed at the subject from a lighting package.

Gem Runner product photo for AccuTec Blades by Jackson Smith
Best known for his portraiture work, Jackson Smith also took some product photos for AccuTec Blades.

Then there's the human element. Anyone who has ever tried to take a family photo knows that crying babies, cranky husbands, and surly teenagers aren't the easiest subjects. A good photographer has the people skills to put even the trickiest subject at ease, capturing expressions or eliciting emotions if they aren’t happening naturally. By blending into the action, a photographer can also capture candids without disrupting the flow of the moment.

Photograph of building company owner by Andrew Shurtleff
The Ivy Group teamed up with local professional photographer Andrew Shurtleff, who snapped some cheerful and natural shots for a client of Blue Ridge Bank.

Custom Photos are Essential to Branding

Stock photos can be gorgeous and are appropriate for certain contexts. (We’re looking at you, Cute Puppies 2017 Wall Calendar). However, they aren't always a good fit for business photography. Think about it: your brand is unique, it has products, people, and an environment that are inherently you. Can a stock photo really do the brand justice?

A great photograph not only tells a story, it represents truth.

Andrew Shurtlef

When it comes to business photography, custom is essential for visual branding. You wouldn't trust a restaurant menu with a stock photo of their house special, would you?

Photos that show the business's product in context, introduce customers to the in-house team, or create a sense of place for the business environment signal authenticity and support a recognizable brand presentation. Marketing is about trying to evoke an emotion to incite an action from the viewer. Recognition is a curical motivator for emotional investment. In-brand custom photography is consistent, professional, and a key ingredient in any marketing endeavor.

Photo of senior living home by professional photographer Dan Iott
There are times when a stock photo just won't do, like for the virtual tour the Ivy Group coordinated for Branchlands Senior Living. Photograph by Dan Iott.

Final Thoughts

Custom, professional photographs are the foundation of good design. Without them, marketing is lifeless. Do yourself a favor: hire a professional photographer.

A good photograph brings the subject to life. Paired with good design, they tell a great story.

Andrew Shurtleff

Not sure who to hire? We've worked with many of the photographers in town and are happy to make a recommendation based on your needs. Give us a shout and we'll point you in the right direction.

Interested in other design topics? Read on in our Good Design Matters series about the perils of poor design.