Why is photography useful?

Across online platforms, still imagery has been proven to boost performance and engagement – but why is this?

Here are some of the key reasons why consumers engage with photography:

People are wired to value imagery

90% of information transmitted to the brain is completely visual, so it’s part of human nature to notice, remember and respond emotionally to visuals. In fact, a staggering 40% of all nerve fibres connected to the brain are linked to the retina.

We also retain visual messages much better than other forms of communication. People remember only 10% of information three days after hearing it, whereas adding a picture can improve recall by an average of 65%.

This hard wiring means that often we remember and favour messages that use images. For example, consumers are significantly more likely to think favourably of ads that emphasise photography, over ads that emphasise text.

The message is communicated quicker

Non-verbal communication is quicker, and the majority of our communication is done this way. In fact, it only takes about 1/4 second for the human brain to process and attach meaning to a symbol. By comparison, it takes us an average of 6 seconds to read 20-25 words.

Photography can tell a story or convey a message with a single image. Because of this it often conveys more with less space. But it doesn’t just need to work alone, photographs can complement text by summarising or emphasising key messages.

This skill means images are also invaluable to readers who quickly scan content or who might have competing demands. Making photography often ideal for advertising and social media.

It taps into emotions

Emotional images often engage with us more fully and are more persuasive. This can include candid shots such as sincere emotions, the subject of an image, such as babies, children and animals or something else entirely. A good photographer can capture a specific emotion or mood that’s required.

As emotions are often what triggers purchasing, how consumers react to photographs is important to consider when choosing imagery. You may want to think about what type of emotion might best complement your message or even do some image testing to ensure you are conveying the right emotional tone.

Not sure where to start? Deposit Photos state the 5 types of photographs that evoke emotions are candid moments, sincere emotions, creative compositions, babies & kids and baby animals.

Where should you be using photography?

Now that we’ve looked into why still images can be so useful, let’s investigate where you can use them for success.

On your website

Imagine if your website was only text, it would be pretty boring, right?! Photography can be key on a website to help break up the written content and give context to your messaging.

On blogs in particular, video content might pull focus and not allow visitors to fully immerse themselves in the writing. Whereas still imagery can help to enhance the message and give structure to the page, allowing the text extra room to breathe and flow.

Photographs can also be key for presenting products online. Simple product photography against a white background reveals the true colours of products and doesn’t distract (like a patterned or coloured background might). It’s a good opportunity for potential customers to see exactly what a product looks like and focus directly on its features.

However, you don’t simply need to restrict yourself to one type of product photography. Lifestyle photography showing products in use or selling a particular type of lifestyle can often communicate more to a customer than simply showcasing the products.

Successful lifestyle photography can bring your product and services to life. Showing real-life situations to help or inspire your customers to imagine experiencing something similar. Whilst at the same time delivering key brand messages such as the values and essence of your brand.

Depending on what type of products you sell, a mix of both simple photography that showcases your products and lifestyle photography which shows how your products and services can elevate your customers lives, might work for your business.

But website photography doesn’t just need to focus on products and services. It can also be a great way to show the personality and people behind your brand. Candid behind the scenes shots of your team on your careers page can help to encourage new recruits whilst carefully chosen photographs on your about us page can help to sell your company’s story.

Images can also help with your website’s SEO. If you properly label images with search-friendly metadata and captions, you create more content for search engines to index. Plus, when you do appear in search results, images can help boost your CTR. Accordingly to one study, 60 per cent of consumers said they were more likely to consider or contact a business if their search result listing included an image.

Social Media

As mentioned previously, we’re wired to value imagery, which means that images on social media are more like to catch our eye and gain our attention. But it’s important to make sure that we are sharing photographs relevant to our target audience in order to get the most engagement.

Data from MDG Advertising shows images on Facebook get 352 percent more engagement than links. So, it’s clear that using photography on social media can help to communicate your message and elevate engagement more than just text.

You can share still imagery via most social media platforms but we’re going to look at some of the most popular.

Instagram

Instagram started out life as a photo-sharing app but now it has evolved into one of the most engaged social media platforms. In previous years it has branched out into video content such as IGTV and Reels, but photography still plays a big role with a staggering 73.5% of content on Instagram still images. As with the use of filters, Instagram allows even novices to create more professional looking images with just their phones.

Owned by Facebook, one of the big changes to Instagram in recent years is the ability to sell directly through the platform. Giving business the ability to use the Facebook ad manager for advertising as well as adding products, tags and stickers, there are a number of business-specific tools aimed at helping people buy via the platform. With 130 million Instagram users tap on shopping posts every month, it looks like the tools are working well.

Instagram is the perfect place to share lifestyle imagery that can help your customers imagine themselves using products and services. Authentic lifestyle imagery that shows your product being used or in its intended environment, are crucial to give potential customers a hint at what they can expect after a purchase.

You don’t need to create all of your images for Instagram yourself. It is a great platform to share user generated photography content. According to the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92% of consumers trust organic, user-generated content more than they trust traditional advertising. Whether you create user generated content as part of an influencer campaign or re-share images from some of your real customers, this approach can help you gain audience insights, increase engagement and even help with your SEO.

Facebook

Facebook posts with images see 2.3x more engagement than those without visuals and account for 87% of total interactions. So, using photography on Facebook is a no-brainer!

It’s important that whatever images you share on Facebook represent your brand and are consistent. Facebook gives an opportunity to show your companies personal side, such as sharing photographs from behind the scenes, in the office and at events.

Use images to complement links or text. As mentioned previously, images on social media are more like to catch our eye and gain our attention – so you should be pairing all text and links with photographs or video content to get as much content exposure as possible.

It’s worth testing different styles of photograph to see which respond most with your audience and then using this as a guide to create bespoke imagery going forwards.

Like Instagram, Facebook is built on a powerful advertising manager, so you can also leverage photography to help create engaging adverts to sell your products and services. In a Facebook study, a series of photo-only ads outperformed other ad formats in driving unique traffic.

Twitter

According to Twitter, Tweets with photos receive an average 35% boost in Retweets. So, it’s clear that using images on this platform can help to spread your message further. Although Twitter started out with just text, it’s now evolved to include image and video content. In fact using images can help to improve your tweet engagement across the board, as Tweets with images receive 18% more click throughs, 89% more likes, and 150% more retweets.

As Twitter restricts on the number of characters. Using images with text can be a great way to expand your message. Equally featuring statistics in an image can be an eye-catching way to draw attention to the rest of your tweet.

Twitter crops images by focusing on ‘salient’ regions of an image. This is based on research around what a person’s likely to look at it when freely viewing the image. In general, people tend to pay more attention to faces, text, animals, but also other objects and regions of high contrast. So, it’s worth bearing this in mind when using photography on Twitter.

It’s also worth creating photography for mobile first on Twitter. According to the Wall Street Journal, 85% of the time Twitter users spent on Twitter happened on a mobile device. So, making sure your images look good on mobile rather than desktop could be a smart move.

Snapchat

If your goal is to engage a younger demographic, Snapchat could be a potential source of engagement. Especially if you are looking to make direct sales as Snapchatters are 60% more likely to make an impulse purchase on this platform.

Snapchat’s artificial reality (AR) lenses superimpose digital effects, animations or graphics on top of a real-life image and so offer users a new way to explore creating taking and editing photographs on their phones.

Snapchat also offers a number of different advertising opportunities, allowing businesses to target specific audiences with advertising content and even shop directly within the app itself. For photography story, product and dynamic ads are going to be most suitable and you may find that using photography that looks authentic to the app gains the most engagement.

Unlike some of the other platforms, image content on Snapchat can be more light-hearted, so it’s worth having fun with the images you want to use to convey your message.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a platform for inspiration, allowing users to create boards of pins to plan, collate and inspire. From holidays to weddings, dinners to crafts, Pinterest is a visual search engine to help people collate content they want to revisit.

Pinterest isn’t the right platform for all businesses, it will depend on what products and services you are selling. But fashion and home décor are both areas where sales are high. In fact, a staggering 85% of Pinners put visuals first when shopping for apparel and furniture. Pinterest is also more popular with women, so think about your ideal target audience when considering this platform.

Although Pinterest has moved into video content recently, a large percentage of its content is still images. But if you are going to utilise photography on this platform then it’s worth ensuring that you create images that pop.

Curalate, examined over 500,000 images on Pinterest, looking at 30 different visual characteristics like textures, colours, and subject matter. They suggested using multiple dominant colours such as red, orange and brown as these three colours outperform blue nearly 2:1 in repins. Based on their research moderate light and colour is also important and it’s best to avoid faces.

When creating pins, it’s also worth ensuring your images are vertically oriented that the aspect ratio is 2:3 or 1:3.5, with a minimum width of 600 pixels. Long images on Pinterest can also work well, to tell a story or to convey a step-by-step process such as a recipe.

To ensure your photographs can lead to click throughs and sales, it’s worth ensuring you are using rich pins, to provide users with more context about a pin, such as the ingredients in a recipe for example or real-time pricing and stock on a piece of clothing.

For some industries ‘shop the look’ pins can be ideal, as they allow you to tag any product within an image. This is perfect for clothing, home décor, crafting and more. It’s a great way to be able to feature more than one product in a photograph and link directly to key information helping people to buy.

Promoted pins can be a way to increase your audience on Pinterest. Allowing you to build a following and generate sales quicker. A great approach is to take our most successful pins and promote these to build brand awareness and sales.

Email

We’ve already covered how humans are hard wired to value imagery and that an image can communicate to us faster than text. But research also shows visuals increase a person’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80 percent. So, based on this a combination of images and text may provide the best results for your emails.

Using images in emails can also help those who quickly scan content to understand the topic of the email and whether it is of interest to them. Plus, the right photographs can also help people to retain the content of an email better than just text alone.

Although the use of images in emails may depend on its purpose, when asked sixty-five percent of users prefer emails to contain mostly images, compared to 35 percent who prefer text.

But photographs shouldn’t be used in emails for the sake of it. Make sure the image you choose contributes something to the email, whether it is showcasing a product or service or giving a view into the company culture, a photograph needs to have a purpose.

Using images in emails can contribute to slower loading times, so it’s important to limit the number of images you are using. Make sure you keep images between 100 to 200kb to ensure they load promptly. But in case images don’t load for any reason ensure you are using alt text and title text. Think about using it to add greater value to the email rather than simply explaining what image is missing.

Advertising

Photography is often key for advertising because of its ability to tell a story with a single image. Photographs are unique in that they can be equally powerful in both the print and digital space.

We’ve already touched on social media advertising and although digital advertising is important, it’s worth including print advertising as part of your strategy. A huge 82% of consumers report that they trust print ads. Plus it’s been proven that print ads boost the effectiveness of other forms of advertising. So an effective advertising approach may mean utilising both the digital and print spaces.

The intent of photography in advertising is to persuade or convince the viewer to want that product or service. Good advertising does this through capturing a mood, emotion or feeling that matches that elicited by the product or service.

Because of this, photography for advertising often provides greater creative freedom to interpret how products, services, lifestyles, and ideas can be presented. It can be striking, controversial, minimal, surreal – depending on the brief of the advertising campaign. A successful advertising campaign ideally gets viewers talking and photography is a key part of this process.

Conclusion

Hopefully this blog has helped you to see why photography is still a powerful tool to use and how it can benefit your business, especially when combined with other types of content.

Want to get started creating product, lifestyle or advertising photography but need more help? Why not contact us and see if we can help you add photography to your content strategy.