Free Or Paid Stock Photography
Free or paid stock photography are existing images that are available for you to use and download online. Stock images are a very powerful resource that can enhance your website, digital marketing campaigns as well as play a complimentary role in your overall social media strategy. Typically paid images tend to be better quality than free ones however its important to think of usage first. If you have a marketing campaign with a high budget or you’re spending a lot on paid ads you might want to consider using paid stock images to have the greatest impact.
However Free stock photography can be a true unsung hero for your social media feeds most importantly Instagram, if you learn how to utilize it effectively.These free images can be relied upon for more frequent, less focused postings or if you have a tight budget.
When you first start your business branded images are a valuable commodity that you’ll want to spread out over time. Thats where these free stock images come in for the win. They are great for filling in the gaps in your instagram feed and helping to extend your branded content.
The key to using free stock images in the right way is by staying in touch with you audience and keeping your brand aesthetic cohesive. Look for images that match your feeds current color palette and over themes, you want to images to blend seamlessly into your feed. A company doing a great job of utlizing free stock images is Kitsune Beauty. Take a look at there feed below, they are utilizing 1 stock images for every 2 branded images.
Looking for stock images for your social feed? Check out our article on the 5 best Free Stock Photography Sites For Social Media.
When To Hire A Professional
Knowing when to hire a professional can really make or break your marketing strategy. For key pieces of marketing that your audience will see over and over again such as evergreen content, major website images, and e-commerce pages professional quality images are worth the investment.
We know that high quality photography sells more products, but hiring a professional can become expensive depending on the number of photos you need and the complexity of the shoot. When you’re using a lot of images, such as you do with social media, hiring an expert to shoot and edit hundreds and even thousands of images isn’t always financially feasible. When you’re utilizing organic postings and one-time use images then doing it yourself is the way to go.
When thinking about DIY vs Hiring a professional photographer, the discussion shouldn’t be about quality it should be about complexity instead. The reason is that there are a lot of things that a non-photographer can do to create high quality images but only if they don’t get too complex with their photoshoots. Single source natural light, like window light, is free and easy to use and you can create some really amazing photos with it without a degree. In a simple lighting environment like this, you can set your camera to auto and focus on being creative. However, if your shoot starts to involve multiple light sources for example, like flash or ambient mixing, things start to get very complex really quickly requiring a more technical knowledge of f/stops and shutter speeds. Production is the same way. Photographing a friend with your product at the park is one thing but if you involve a professional model on location, things like model releases and location fees and stylists start to come into play. I’m trying not to get too specific because I could literally write an entire book on photography technique and production. The point i’m trying to make is if you keep your shoot simple, you can do DIY but If you require something beyond that it’s time to consider a professional.
White background Product Photography
White background ecommerce product photography is literally the only photo customers see before they purchase it online, so these photos are definitely some of your most important evergreen content and you want the photos to look amazing. I’m going to focus on white background photos for a bit because these photos are deceptively difficult to create and almost every client we have has gone through the process of trying to shoot it themselves. Business owners will get it into their head that if they buy a lot of gadgets than the technology will do it for them. The most common thing I see is a business owner going online and purchasing the light tent and lights and maybe even a fancy camera. After dropping $100’s or sometimes $1000’s on gear they’ll get it setup and then realize that they don’t know how to use the equipment they just purchased. I met one business owner who couldn’t figure out how to turn on and Sync the flashes he dropped $500 on. Next business owners will watch a few youtube videos and take a few more photos before they completely give up.
The standard complaint is they just can’t get it to look good and they don’t know why. They feel frustrated because they spent all this money and it doesn’t look professional. The reality is that the process of balancing the exposure of multiple light sources requires a technical understanding of exposure and how to use this equipment. This is not plug and play technology. In my opinion, lightents are the photo industry’s biggest scam and are a terrible way to light a product when compared to the free methods discussed later.
Ironically, the next step business owners take is try and hire the cheapest photographer they can to photograph their products. However, the cheapest photographer they can find is usually not much more advanced than the business owner themselves. These cheap photographers also bought a light tent, watched a few youtube videos and got a nice camera for christmas. Maybe they took the next step and paid for a few courses online. They think they could do a little side hustle out of their living room on Fiverr and get a few extra dollars. The issue is that they’re still not using the advanced techniques that you really need to create professional high quality product photos, they’re basically doing exactly what the business owner was doing before. This is why when I talk to someone who can’t afford us, I recommend that they just do it themselves because any cheaper option and that’s the quality of image they’ll be getting.
Some advanced techniques that a true professional should be using is first not shooting a light tent. Light Tent lighting is completely even, making the product look dull and lifeless. If you’re shooting a reflective product like a glass bottle, it will reflect the wrinkled fabric of the light tent. A true professional will light the product with a combination of specular and diffuse lighting to create highlights that shape the product and reveal it’s shapes and textures. A good photographer will separate the foreground from the background when lighting for white and expose the background at +⅓ stops at around a grayscale color number of 250 or 95% by lightroom % ‘s to eliminate wrap around. We use a lot advanced compositing techniques, like shooting different elements of a product separately using different qualities of specular or diffuse light and then piecing them together at the end. A good photographer will also have some sort of way to manage the photoshoot so that your inventory is tracked and that a shot list is created and completed.
This is just for on white product photography, imagine the complexity of lighting and production that is involved with photographing models not in a studio. This is why you sometimes see these giant productions because if you want a complex look, it requires a lot of gear and knowledge to create it. The point is simple, if you keep your photoshoots simple you can do it yourself, but if you try to get more complex hire a professional.
User Generated Content And Influencers
User generated content and influencer marketing revolve around a revolutionary idea of outsourcing your marketing legwork to your audience. At its most basic it is a simple idea, a call out to followers to post something either with your product or focused on it and then using the best one content on your brand’s social media accounts. This uses your customer base to provide content for your business by creating hundreds and even thousands of images and posts which can be mined later for optimal use.
Influencer marketing utilizes social media all stars with large followers and popularity for collaboration and campaigns. You might gain more traction from a social media influencer doing a posting than you would from doing a posting on your own account as their posting includes an endorsement and opens up your business to their audience which you might not have been able to tap into before.
Another interesting and exciting thing that’s developing within marketing is the use of instagram to collaborate with non-professional or amature instagram photographers. We first learned about this when interviewing Mamoo Kids to learn about how they got their amazing lifestyle photography on their website. Instead of searching for professionals, Mamoo Kids works with “Mom photographers” that she follows instagram. These photographers typically stay to the left of the complexity line discussed earlier using mostly natural light, keeping things simple but they’ve really mastered natural light and their photos look great. They have nice cameras and eye for composition and know the mechanics of conducting a shoot. The only difference is they’re not making a living off this and it’s more of a passion project.
Connecting with instagram photographers allows you get the benefit of getting great photos but without the cost. You can usually barter or pay a little bit to make the deal, but it’s really more about creativity and enhancing each other’s brand.
Now that you know the different types of photography styles you are on your way to curating a feed that brings your brands aesthetic to life. We recommend using all of these styles in tandem with your branded content to create a robust and well rounded feed. The task of creating content for social media strategy can seem daunting. We hope this article was useful in showing you how to utilize 3 types of photography styles for your brand. Stay tuned for part 3 of this series to learn tips and best pratices for creating DIY social media photography with your cellphone.