by guest contributor, Jenny Boyle Penney
Have you ever been to a restaurant where the ambiance is “off”? You feel it in your body, sometimes even without knowing why. You might decide you won’t dine there again. You might even decide not to dine there at all.
When we enter a visual space, there’s a physiological effect as our subconscious takes over. Your website is a visual space, too—one where many of your potential clients will encounter you for the first time. If the images they see don’t feel quite right, if the ambiance is “off,” they’re probably going to decide you aren’t the person or business they want to hire. Just like with that restaurant, they might not even understand the feeling. They just know.
What these potential clients are looking for is a connection: a sense that you’re someone they can trust, that you’re capable and professional. They want to feel confident that they’re making the right decision in choosing you. And that confidence often begins with what they see.
So how do you make sure they get the “right” feeling when they see your website?
The importance of professional photos
I’m a professional photographer, so you probably have a good idea of what I’m about to say: You need professional photography every bit as much as you need good design and good content. These elements all complement one another—reinforcing your message and inspiring confidence.
Many businesses opt for stock photos, and I understand why. They’re easy, they’re quick, and they’re less of an investment than actually hiring a photographer. As a small-business owner myself, I know that budgets are often tight.
However, saving money on photos could end up costing you money in the long run if those images don’t help you truly connect with potential clients. Sure, stock photos might look nice, but what opportunities are you missing? Are you telling your story? Are you giving your audience a strong impression of who you are, the work you do, and where you do it? Probably not. And to make things worse, when these potential clients go elsewhere because they don’t feel the connection, they’re not going to tell you why. They’re just going to go.
It’s easier than you think
There’s good news, though: It’s not hard to get professional-quality images for your business. And it doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive, either. For instance, most photographers offer several different services and packages to meet different needs. (Skilled photographers can help you identify and anticipate your needs, too.) Here are a few standard options:
The classic headshot. You’ll look your best with the right backdrop, lighting, and someone skilled behind the camera. Even if the other images on your website are stock, one great shot of you can make a big difference.
A bit of variety. Similar to a basic headshot session, a full session usually provides you with the opportunity to change outfits a few times, and might even provide some photos outside the studio or in your workspace. Then you get several images to use as you see fit.
Brand sessions. Usually done at your office, a work site, or even on location with one of your clients, these images go beyond showing just you—they show you doing what you do. This is the kind of package that can provide images for your entire website, and then some. And your personality can really shine through, too.
Subscription plans. For businesses that need a regular flow of photos (such as an interior designer or a personal stylist), these plans include on-site visits every few months. This ensures fresh content for websites, blogs, social media, and more.
The next step—video
Adding video to your website is kind of like having quality photos on steroids. It’s incredibly powerful. On one of my previous websites, I decided to add a short video of myself. It was nothing fancy, just me explaining a little about how I work with clients. The response was amazing. So many people told me it was the reason they reached out, that it set me apart from the other photographers they were considering.
Just one basic 45-second clip made these potential clients feel like they knew me and they could trust me. That really opened my eyes.
With professional photography and videography, you can build those kinds of connections with your audience, too. As I like to tell my clients, you don’t have to know how to pose. You don’t even have to like being in front of the camera. You just have to be you.
Jenny Boyle Penney, owner of Jennifer Boyle Photography in Seattle, is a Chalkbox guest contributor and photographs our staff and families.
She is a midwestern farm kid by upbringing and is equally in love with city lights and culture and country solitude. She started Jennifer Boyle Photography over ten years ago while living in NYC, and while its focus has shifted over the years (notice the pun?), she's always been most intrigued by the human connection in photographs and continues to strive for that connection with each and every client.