Iconic brands need iconic images Chapter 1: The fundamentals of brand photography

It's funny. Not haha funny but hmmm funny. A brand will spend thousands developing a tasteful-yet-memorable logo and a distinctive tone of voice. Maybe they'll go the extra mile and pay a designer to create an original typeface. But when it comes to brand images, it's often straight to a free photography website like Unsplash or Pixabay.

If you look closely, you'll notice that many companies tend to gravitate towards the same photos from the same sites. For example, you've probably seen this one (below) before. Could you name any of the brands that you've seen using this photo? Probably not.

The entire point of a brand is to stand out, but when everyone uses the same stock images, identities begin to blend.

While we admit to being a little biased on the subject, the goal of this blog post is to give an overview of the fundamentals of brand photography and talk about the benefits of images that have been custom-fit to a brand's identity.

Brand images are an integral part of a brand's expression. They tell the story of who you are and what you stand for. They build an emotional bridge between the brand and its customers that can't be replicated with standard placeholder stock photography. (Above example, Kyrö Distillery)

What is brand photography?

Just as a visual identity is more than just a logo, brand images are an integral part of a brand's identity; one of the paints in its palette of expressions. Right there alongside the logo, typography, and tone of voice.  

Is brand photography the same as product photography? Well — it depends.  

You'll want to consider things like the brand's positioning, ambition and of course, values. Are we talking about a product-focused brand with lots of high-level imagery and key visuals for each product — or a lifestyle brand that needs the photography to evoke emotion.

However the overall brand imagery concept is structured, it's important the components work together to tell a unified story about the brand and its offering. Consider how the images will vary across mediums and styles: from campaign images to lifestyle photography, people portraits to key product visuals.

Brand photos aren't (only) for blog posts

The marketers and growth hackers currently reading this post are probably wondering how brand images can be woven into a content marketing strategy. Because what's the point having original brand photography if they can't be used for content marketing?  

We're here to make the case that brand images play a much bigger role than breaking up the text in a blog post. Bespoke brand photographs are the spearhead of your visual marketing. More like Batman, not Robin. When it comes to content strategy, they serve as the inspiration and benchmark for the brand's visual content marketing going forward. Helpful when scrolling through the millions of images on Unsplash.

The value of investing in brand images

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, "they" are right. There will be many times when a distinctive tone of voice and bold typography aren't enough to convey a brand's core message. Your audience simply doesn't have the time — or the attention span. This is where brand images take over to show the audience what you want to say.

The photography connoisseurs in our ranks will tell you that the best brand images grab viewers by the heartstrings. Iconic photos don't just support the brand, they express it in a more meaningful, relatable way. When considering that all purchase decisions are heavily driven by emotion, well-executed brand photography can be a formidable champion for the bottom line.  

But nobody falls in love with conformity. If you want to take your customers on a memorable, emotional journey, navigate the free stock photography websites with care.

How iconic brand images are created

Before you start shopping around for photographers and agencies, it's important to create a strategy. Otherwise, it’s hard to brief the creative team, including the photographer, and explain what you're looking for.  

Brand images need to be based on the original brand identity concept. This is why many of our clients continue to work with us to create their brand photography once we have developed the strategy and identity together.

Photographs bring a powerful narrative angle to the brand’s visual vocabulary. Without unique and strategic images, the brand’s positioning and authenticity begin to fade. (Image for illustration purposes only.)

When we develop brand images for a client, it’s our job as creative directors to keep a holistic view and ensure the photographs perfectly support the brand’s expression. The images bring a powerful narrative angle to the brand’s visual vocabulary. Hence, the project starts with carving out the key photographic themes. Defining the stories we need to tell, the subjects we need to photograph, and the touch points they need to be seen in. A visual concept is created to determine the right style, subject matter and treatment for the images.  

When the brief is in place it's time to set up the team. Along with the creative director, typically a producer, a stylist and, of course, a photographer and their assistants. Much consideration goes into choosing the right professionals — the heaven-made match with the client’s brand and strategy. Scouting and securing a location, finding models, sourcing a wardrobe, choosing accessories, recruiting assistants — sometimes even talent animals — are all in the to-do list. Every single element is a critical choice to bring the concept to life and creating powerful, magical images.

All the preparations culminate in the shoot...

… which we'll cover in the next chapter, when we bring you along on an on-site client shoot!

Iconic brands need iconic images Chapter 1:The fundamentals of brand photography


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