From The Rock

Building a visual identity – capturing stellar photos

By | July 29, 2020

In public relations, we often talk about crafting language or materials that tell a brand story. We associate certain words, phrases and concepts with the essence of a company, and we use these words throughout our materials to reinforce key messages for our constituents. As PR professionals in a world where digital and promotional lines are blurred, we are often tasked with creating companion elements that assist in telling the brand story. From photos to videos and graphics, it’s expected that we can tell a strong client story visually and linguistically. 

Though many of us are multitalented, we don’t all possess the je ne sais quois to create gallery-worthy photographs or Addy-worthy graphic materials. There are amazing professionals who specialize in these disciplines. However, that doesn’t mean that our photos should look like they were taken with a disposable camera or that Microsoft Paint images are acceptable for social media. We can use the tools we already have at our disposal, many of them free, to create a brand story that is compelling to customers and impressive to clients. Use our tips and tricks to inch closer to visual excellence, even if you don’t have the most refined artistic pallet. 

Let’s start with photos. 

When taking photos for clients, there are a few elements to consider before you start snapping shots. First, think about your desired outcome or call to action. What do you want the end customer to do after they see your materials? If your goal is to sell a dress, a model wearing the dress casually is likely to garner more clicks than a dress on a hanger. If you’re hoping to encourage donations, a photos series that demonstrates an animal’s growth from shelter intake to adoption is compelling, where a scary injury photo might not be. 

Then, think about the vibe, colors and aesthetics that would most effectively represent your client’s brand. Stage your materials in the right environment, grab a recent generation smartphone and take a few test shots! See what you’ve got and evaluate how you can improve the photo.

Evaluate the lighting and colors. You want to make sure that the lighting and colors don’t take away from the object you’re photographing. Natural sunlight has always been my go-to in photo shoots, and it’s easy to manipulate once you’ve found a great spot. 

  • Tip #1: If you’re taking pictures indoors, stick to taking pictures near windows. The organic lighting usually reduces the need to edit as much on the back end.
  • Tip #2: Utilize your phone’s functions! iPhones allow you to adjust the exposure through the AE/AF Lock feature. When it comes to colors in the photograph, make sure to highlight some but not all. Too much can be overwhelming to the eye, and you don’t want your images to distract from the call to action. 

Check your backgrounds and featured objects. Backgrounds can be a bit trickier. For restaurants, many people feel that there needs to be an elegance to the photo and its background. While understandable, it’s not always necessary. I believe that a casual, simple background that is clearly identifiable as part of your brand adds a depth to the photograph that you couldn’t get with a rigid background. I’ve also found that off-center photos tend to draw the eye to the product more. 

  • Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to utilize the grid function on your phone or camera; these help you effectively execute the rule of thirds when taking photos. 
  • Tip #2: With backgrounds, less is truly more. People and activity in the background leave room for confusion. Plus, you don’t want to post a photo to your Instagram featuring a patron making a distracting face as they take a massive bite of a burger. 

Ready to learn more? We talk about graphics and adding flair to your photos in our next post. You can read it here.