Easier Said Than Done: Building a Brand Through Photos
Easier Said Than Done: Building a Brand Through Photos
Focus on Photography: Building a Brand Through Photos

When I was younger, my mother told me that the most valuable thing I’d ever own is my reputation. I lived in a town where everyone knew everything about everyone, and gossip was king. Did I want to be remembered for being honest, kind, and trustworthy, or did I want to be remembered for being a “Queen Bee” nasty girl?

In business, reputation is called branding – big league storytelling.

Marketers and communicators build brands by telling stories through visuals, content, and design. They highlight the qualities that make companies attractive and unique to their audience. Our job is to focus on the imagery. With every photo shoot, we are helping a company build the most valuable thing they own – their brand.

This is easier said than done. Successful brands implement a strategy to their imagery. How can you do that?

Create a guideline.

Every brand needs a style guide to maintain consistency. It is easy to pick out an Under Armour or GAP image because they have a unique, easily recognizable look. Pick out the keywords from your story and figure out how that works visually. Is your company bright, colorful, dramatic or monochromatic? Should your images reveal actual clients or should you use a model for a polished look? Do you have to have that branded coffee cup (pen, shirt, whatever) in every shot? A clear guideline alleviates the stress of image creation and keeps everyone focused on the same story.

Think. Think really hard.

Images for websites and marketing collateral have to be grand slams. These photos need to be strong and impactful in order to drive home the key points of a brand. Social media and blog photos are quick sells as they are in someone’s feed for a second. These images are the supporting acts for the website meant to humanize a brand. Ask yourself: Where is the image going? What is its purpose? What part of the story am I telling?

The epic battle: Stock vs. Custom

We will always, always tell you to go custom. We recently heard from a large institution’s marketing vice president. He used a stock photograph on the cover of every quarterly magazine. He held his breath every time the publication came out, waiting for one of his competitors to use the identical image on their quarterly covers. Stock photography has its good points (relatively low cost, noninvasive), but you take a risk of being on the “Who Wore it Better?” list. Are you trying to be bold at the Gala, or are you trying to fit in with the crowd? Custom photography will allow you to tell your unique story and set the trend.

We’ve all heard the cliché that “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” Using an image that doesn’t fit your brand is a wasted opportunity. If your brand is the most valuable thing you own, can you afford to waste that impact? What kind of picture is your company painting?

This blog post originally appeared on and is republished with permission. Coyle Studios is a valued sponsor of the American Marketing Association Baltimore Chapter.