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Issue: 41 - May 15, 2012
Let Your Photos Help Build a Strong Client Connection
By: Maureen Blaney Flietner
Mavourneen LLC/MBF Communications
Photos in your print and online communications can enhance the connection you have with clients. But too often, businesses use generic images that waste that opportunity.
 
We’ve all noticed them. Anywhere images on direct mail pieces. Website homepage photos of no place in particular. Newsletters with the happy young woman or man who represents everyone but no one.
 
“In this digital media age, we are constantly being bombarded with images. Those intended to market a product are almost always contrived, posed, or staged in some way. We've become numb to it all,” says John Suler, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychology at Rider University, Lawrenceville, N.J. Suler has researched “photographic psychology,” applying psychological principles to how people create, share and interpret photographic images.
 
“The photos that stand out are those that look real, with real people, in real situations, acting spontaneously and naturally. We relate to such photos much more readily. We might think of it in terms of what Roland Barthes called ‘punctum’ - a photo that stirs up emotion, which happens more in candid photos than staged ones,” says Suler. “We might also think of it in terms of what Henri Cartier-Bresson called the ‘decisive moment’ - the moment when the visual and psychological elements of a scene spontaneously and briefly come together in perfect resonance to express an important facet of human life. These rare photos, and ones that come close to them, are those that catch people's attention.”
 
Pick up a newspaper or magazine, visit a website or look at a marketing piece in your mail. Do the images look real, familiar, local? If so, you probably want to look closer, to see who is in the photo and what’s going on. Even just a photo of a local business façade can help you connect the place with its “face.”
 
Many businesses probably have good intentions about including photos in their communications. There are so many opportunities: grand opening or expansion, service offered, charity efforts, educational outreach, open house, special client cases. More often than not at these times no one remembers to get out the camera.
 
Start taking photos on a regular basis. Consider these tips.
  • First ask your staff (or individual clients if you plan to feature them) if they mind being photographed. And don’t forget shots of yourself! Any photos used to advertise may require signed model releases. Discuss what’s needed with your company attorney.
  • Get a digital camera designated for the office. Don’t forget large-capacity memory cards and a notebook.
  • Have at least two “staff photographers” so one is always available if the other is away. Give them time to get familiar with the camera, including shooting modes, flash and recharging needs.
  • Set the camera to its highest resolution to save original images. Later, at the computer, save any cropped or downsized photos as separately named images. Remember that a small-size low-resolution image cannot be enlarged without having it turn out very “fuzzy.” 
  • Save images as jpgs. It’s the standard format for compressing photographs.
  • Take a few minutes to check out your “stage.” Look beyond the subject(s) and remove distractions behind or at the sides. Shift your shooting positions so that annoying empty space between subjects is eliminated.
  • Try different angles, close-ups and overall views.
  • Take LOTS of photos. With digital, it’s relatively cheap to shoot. Don’t take just one or two shots of your subject – take 10, 15! Insure that there are some good ones to choose from after the closed-eyes shots are trashed.
  • Review images while the activity is still going on or the subjects are still there. There’s really no excuse anymore to not have any images turn out. With a display screen embedded in the back of nearly all digital cameras, you can review images in just minutes, trash the bad ones and take more if needed.
  • Write a caption in the notebook for each photo. Include the image number/name and the names of the photo subjects as shown from left to right in each image
  • Update photos of yourself and your willing staff members every year or so. Instead of “up-against-the-wall” shots, photograph people engaged in their activities at work – and don’t make all of them staring at the camera. The images also will come in handy when you issue press releases about your business and can release relevant photos.
  • Set aside time to copy the usable photos to the office computer and to organize them into folders. Depending on the photo software available, you should be able to name and include identifying information with each image.
 
Generic stock images and professional photo shoots still have important roles. But having some photos specific to your business in your communications may strengthen that personal connection between you and your community of customers and potential customers.
 
Maureen Blaney Flietner is a freelance writer, editor and designer. If there is a topic you would like discussed or want to learn more about her services, contact her through her website at www.mbfcommunications.com or email: Maureen@mbfcommunications.com