Cultivate | How a picture the size of a smartie can launch a business
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How a picture the size of a smartie can launch a business

It’s a fact: 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. Images are also processed 60,000x faster in the brain than text. So producing quality, original visuals to supplement a story is no longer a nice to have, it’s a priority.

The challenge is the cost. Especially if you are a small business. Good photography is an expense you may not have budgeted for when you began your public relations or content marketing efforts. But it really can make or break a campaign. And don’t take shortcuts; stock photos are seen to be 30% less credible than original images – besides they could be used by anyone, making them unremarkable at best.

The power of an original image can also quickly tell the crux of a story – and even lead to a sale. Consider the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show campaign that we recently concluded for its 2015 tours. Being its 10th year – a cause for celebration – our creative platform was bubbly. The concept was carried through to the event where a pop-up Bubbly Bar was erected, we wrote fun stories about the origins of fine fizz and, most importantly, produced a series of beautiful, original images starring bubbles. Working with the talented Carmen Lorraine as well as stylist and creative entertainment specialist Lee Rath, we used the Mount Nelson’s Planet Bar as our backdrop against which to shoot a series of compelling and glamorous bubbly-inspired shots.

The images were a hit and were used 84 times in national traditional print and online media, on social media and in some of the show’s direct emailers to exhibitors. Compared to the 2014 shows, where we didn’t have original images, this was a major improvement on the performance of our content. And it reflected in ticket sales.

An engaging and striking visual can do wonders for your story; it can even be the story! Just remember to include a punchy caption that conveys your message without being overly salesy. There is so much clutter online these days, as well as in the press, so to capture peoples’ attention you need to create a little piece of theatre, something memorable, artistic, unusual and visual. We’ll even go as far to say that if you only have budget for one thing, choose photography.

While the bubbly campaign was a real winner in terms of proving the value of a good pic, the same holds true for corporate profile shoots or announcements of JVs or launches. A quality image can really make or break a story. But it needs to be planned as much as an article does, and it’s not up to the photographer to develop the creative hook; it’s yours. At the end of the day, a photo must be on-brand and on-message as much as your written content so it pays to approach it in much the same way and spend some time considering how you want your image to be received. And ideally shared.

To get you started, here are just a few top tips to capturing that “front-page” pic:

  1. It must have a story to tell: A photo can instantly tell a 1000 words. Plot your scene so that it captures the drama and emotion of your piece.
  2. Work with good talent: There are plenty of good photographers out there who are really worth their value. If you’re not a pro yourself, rather use an expert as they bring their visual eye and creativity to the table, further enhancing an image’s potential. Just check out their portfolio first and ask for a few references before booking them.
  3. Shoot a few options: Media especially don’t appreciate receiving the same content as their peers, so create more than just one image. You can also use these as a series online.
  4. Frame the photo: Even if you’re taking the pic yourself, ensure that the subject – be it people or objects – fit neatly into your frame. For social media pics, consider taking images from an aerial view and arranging your objects into a neat square. But don’t over-clutter; the image needs to work in the size of a postage stamp.
  5. Ensure your subject is dressed properly: Perhaps an obvious one, but a picture lasts forever so suggest they wear a new jacket, shirt or blouse. Hire a make-up artist if you really need to – although we feel less is always more – and brush or comb their hair. Most importantly, make them feel comfortable. Pictures capture the tiniest nuances in facial expression so comfort shows as does the opposite.
  6. Include a few fun props: Depending on what the story is, you can spice it up by asking a subject to hold or play around with an object that represents what they do e.g. a rugby ball, a computer, a hat. Even corporate pics work better with props as they allow the subject to relax and their personality is better reflected. Just choose the prop carefully; you don’t want the image to look cheesy.
  7. Format for print, online and social: Images need to work on different platforms so they need to be high res to be blown up as a full page in a weekend newspaper or clear enough but low res to work as a thumbnail. Your photographer will do this for you, just remember to ask them as part of your brief.
  8. Photos date: Like fashion, styles come and go. So if you’re still using an image from 1990 it is definitely time to reshoot. People also age so it’s recommended to shoot new profile shots every two years. They will be more honest and representative of who you are now.

Armed with a contact sheet of images, choose the top ten that best communicate your story. Then work with your photographer to Photoshop to get rid of any stray hairs, shadows or to enhance the image with brighter or lighter colours. A photo is really a piece of art so working on it until it reaches perfection is part of the process!

Once you’re happy with the product, it’s time to share. If you’re in the travel business, galleries of wish-you-were-here pics work wonders on Facebook or on your website. Just remember to tag them correctly. Or, if you’re looking to establish your credibility as an expert in your field, show your true self through your portraits – no crossed arms or blue steel faces please! Then use as your Linked-In, Twitter and Facebook profile mug shots, and share with media who may wish to feature you in a story. People like to see the person behind the opinion as it builds trust and familiarity. An impression is made in an instant, so if you’ve not yet met your customers, you can sell yourself and what you stand for through a well-shot and purposeful framed image.

A clever image can even launch your business! Consider timber lighting and furniture designer minima. With a limited budget it shot an engaging image to attract the attention of décor and design editors and fellow creatives. Given the Scandi-style ply timber lights were very new at the time in South Africa (2012) they were fresh and just what journalists and bloggers were looking for. Jacques Cronje, minima’s designer, cleverly used a striking image of himself posing with a range of his lights and used it as his Twitter profile pic. Knowing that people used to look at who their new followers were, he unfollowed his most influential followers, and then refollowed them along with a long list of editors, bloggers, retailers and interior designers – many of whom followed him back instantly. And voila! minima’s orders started to roll in – thanks to a simple, but exquisite photo that was the size of a smartie. Proof that pictures really can make the pudding.

Need a great photographer? Visit for creative, strategic and natural corporate, lifestyle and interior photography.

Or for more tips and guidance on how to tell your story, get in touch with us. Email, call us on 021 713 4833 or follow @RebeccaCronje.

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