Photographs get your business noticed, they are generally the first impression people have of your brand, your business and you. We all buy with our eyes from people we like generally. If those images you use aren’t ‘right’, if they don’t catch the eye in a good way, if they don’t tell the right story then they aren’t working for you and that’s going to kill sales. That’s where a Photography Brand Guidelines come into play.

What are Photography Brand Guidelines?

Sometimes referred to as a Photography Style Guide, What’s are Photography Brand Guidelines anyway?
Well you’ll have heard of branding and you’ve likely formulated a brand of your own and hopefully will already have a set of fonts, your logo, possibly variations of the logo, a set of brand colours and may have developed a voice for your brand. You with me so far? You may have further developed some brand guidelines stating how the logo should be used, how to layout documents and more. Very often though photography whilst firmly belonging in that same space is missing and that’s an issue.  An issue which can severely impact on sales.
You’ll have noticed that the larger corporate brands spend a fortune on advertising and photography. This is all geared around their brand guidelines, to produce a cohesive set of imagery that always serves to reinforce their brand image to the outside world. You won’t find a mishmash of images in different styles with different filters or more, because they understand the necessity of having everything they do on brand and picture perfect!  Pardon the pun!
Burgers Shot for The Goat Company

Burgers Shot for The Goat Company

Making raw meat look good can be hard, if you have items that you struggle to make look good for the camera then that’s a sure indication that you need a professional food photographer to help you out.

In a former life I did a lot of work with Legal & General, their brand guidelines were a weighty tome that lived on my desk and were well used. The section on photography back then was quite substantial and laid out in great detail what was and wasn’t acceptable. For instance photography of homes needed to be aspirational but not out of reach for most people and they had to reflect ‘everyday matters’ their strap line at the time. They needed to be natural, not staged and not be overly perfect, as life isn’t perfect.
Equally if you look at Apple’s advertising imagery, you’d not see a messy desk covered with post it notes and coffee stains would you? They are always clean, clear, beautifully crisp and pristine because that is how they want their brand to be seen.  Get the idea?
Geordie Gin shot on location from one of the famous Newcastle Bridges

Geordie Gin, set in context on one Newcastle’s High Level Bridge – all imagery for Geordie Gin uses their Photography Brand Guidelines.

What about your brand images?

How is your brand coming across? Do you have a clear style for your photography or an anything goes approach? Is it something you’ve even thought about? If not perhaps it is time to start?
The whole idea of photography brand guidelines or a photography style guide is so that you can present an identifiable look to the outside world and so that the imagery you use is readily associated with your brand and its values.
There are many elements to consider incorporating into your Photography Brand Guidelines including but not limited to the following:
  • Colour – Do your brand colours need to be reflected in the photography – this isn’t always appropriate but can be a great way to enhance a strong brand presence
  • Genre – do you want your imagery to reflect lifestyle or be more aimed at editorial or advertising?
  • Environment – If you have a restaurant or venue then the photography will need to reflect the ambience of the venue and suggest a great experience to the customer. If you are selling food or drinks then again, the setting is all, indoor, outdoor, every day or special occasion?
  • Lighting – some brands will want bright high key imagery, others will want natural light, what works for your brand?
  • Style – Do you need polished highly styled images or more casual ones, bright and bouncy, restrained or even retro? Remember though this is not about what you like, its about your brand and it has to fit. You may love B & W retro look images but if that doesn’t suit your brand then it isn’t going to work well for you.
  • Composition & Framing – If you are selling a product then you may want to stipulate how the product is depicted in photographs, Is it always the hero, does it always need to be in focus, does it need to be centre stage and how much spacing do you want between the different items that make up a scene? Do you need white space, landscape, portrait or square dimensions?
  • Treatment – Do you want crisp images or some blurring of movement? Consider depth of field, can some images have a shallow depth of field or does everything need to be pin sharp? What level of retouching do you want and what about filters?
  • People Shots – For staff what sort of headshots do you want, the plain white background isn’t always best, and seeing people in context is often better.
  • Type of Product Shots – finished meals are one thing but if you sell food in the raw so to speak then one image of each product isn’t going to cut it either. You need people to buy in to what you create, so they need ideas on how to use it, what to make with it or even just how to present it. This can all make the world of difference to your sales.
Your Photography Brand Guidelines don’t have to include all of these and indeed you may want more, but having a style guide especially as your business grows is an important part of establishing your identity.
Super Food Salad. Beautifully presented, with good lighting and composition - key ingredients to a a great food image.

Super Food Salad, Shot for Searcys of London – the brief was bright and airy with a natural look – again a very strict set of Photography Brand Guidelines.

What benefits will a set of Photography Brand Guidelines bring you?

There’s nothing more off-putting than a plate of food under yellow lighting, or mess in the background.  Those often used words of ‘it’ll do for now’ often turn into forever as you get used to them and theres always other things to attend too, and then the rot has set in.  A huge range of different styles and filters from different members of staff will do more to detract from your brand than it ever will to attract.  Before you know it, your images are actually turning customers away.
If you mainly sell on line, then there’s an argument that no one knows how big or small you are and that you can compete with the big boys on a more even playing field – not without the images to do your business justice you can’t!!  Nothing gives the game away that you are a small company more than poor imagery!  It sets you apart in the worst way right from the word go.
I’ve already mentioned how large corporate companies use their branding and photography guidelines to ensure that everything that goes out into the public domain about them is on point, on brand and conforms 100% to the aforesaid guidelines. Why? Because it’s what they are recognised for, people know and love or hate their brands based on how they come across. But they come across consistently and always to a set standard, their out-put is disciplined and strategic and their brand reputation depends upon it – which is why they have big budgets for photography. Meeting and exceeding customer expectations is a great way to put your business out ahead of the competition and strong, beautiful photography that depicts your brand with honesty and integrity is a sure fire way to build up sales and have people talk about what you do.
A clear vision of where you want to go and how your imagery is going to help whether its purpose is to see, to educate or even to entertain your audience it needs to be first rate as it is what people see first. If you do very upmarket afternoon teas using beautiful crockery and dainty napkins, then use neon lighting or stark black and white imagery to portray it, this will jar on the senses. Worse still is when you have a group of people producing the social media images for a business and each one takes on a different set of filters or styles then you end up with a meaningless mish-mash that really doesn’t look great.
So the upshot of all of this is that having photography brand guidelines can make a huge difference to your sales and that surely is why you are in business?
If you’d like help compiling a Photography Brand Guidelines for your business, working out what imagery you actually need and how best to achieve that then give me a call. I can teach you how to pull guidelines together, I can create beautiful imagery for you and I can even teach you and your staff to take better photos to enhance rather than endanger your reputation.  If you’d like to know more about working with me get in touch and you might also like to, check this page out.