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A Startup’s Guide to Photography

Sandra Iakovleva
Content Marketing Manager at Depositphotos
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With this how-to guide, you’ll have the right tools and knowledge to elevate your startup with the use of photography.

Check why your startup needs photography

It is no secret that the Internet is broken down into text and images with the later outweighing everything else. Extensive research has been done on the topic of visual content and its effectiveness.

Here are some statistics to keep in mind: 
46% of marketers say photography is critical to their current marketing and storytelling strategies. (Source)

Researchers have found that colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%. (Source)

Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images. (Source
Unless you have a designer onboard, this guide is definitely for you.

Jot down your brand’s keywords

Let's start brainstorming.
Get out a piece of paper and jot down all the keywords that relate to your brand, the message you’d like to communicate and the colors that are important in your brand story. This stage is important because the success of your visual communications strategy will depend on how strong your concept is.
For example: Your startup is developing an app that dips into the rental marketplace by making apartments available at the tip of one’s fingers. Your application makes apartment hunting significantly easier and much more convenient.
Keywords: convenience, rental, comforts of home, interior design, family home
Colors: brown, beige, burgundy, white

The keywords you choose do not have to describe the concept of your service specifically, instead think of your overall product portrayal and the image you’d like to illustrate. 

Define the scope of your visual needs

Think about all the places where you will be using photography: 
  • Website 
  • Blog 
  • Social media 
  • Mobile app 
  • PR activity 
  • Other print and advertising materials 
Understanding the scope of your visual needs will help you decide the kind of plan you will need to implement in later stages of the image selection process. Consider all the fine details and don’t leave anything out.

Outline your target audience

It is worth mentioning that every choice you make regarding your visuals should be tailored to your target audience. It is important to understand your customer base, who they are, what their interests are and what will ultimately appeal to them. This brainstorming phase needs to be focused on your target audience.

Finalize your concept

After your initial brainstorming phase, gather all your ideas in one place. Keep track of the following: 
1. Keywords you’ll be using to search for photographs 
2. Main brand colors 
3. Where you’ll be using photography 
4. Target audience 
This document will help you in the later stages of your search for photographs and will save you time. Make sure the people in your startup that will be working with your visual content will all have access to this information.

Choose your sources

You will find an abundance of sources online where you can purchase photography and even fulfil your visual needs for free. Keep in mind that there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
You can conduct a basic search with Google images and find visuals that you can use under ‘Usage rights’, ‘labeled for reuse’. However, this option is limiting and isn’t sufficient for a startup business.

Photo banks

Photo banks are large databases where you will find photographs and other visual aids that can be licensed for different purposes. Large stock photo banks such as Depositphotos are a convenient place where you can find photographs, videos and vectors for your projects.

Depositphotos has a large library with efficient search algorithms and curated collections of images. You can start your search for visuals and purchase a monthly subscription for about $50-$100. With Depositphotos, you also have the option of choosing a Flexible Plan where images are $1 each.
One of the biggest advantages of stock photo banks is that you don’t have to worry about licensing or the legal side of things. The images are royalty-free and can be used for a variety of purposes including media, print and commercial promotions. You can look into other major stock photo websites such as Shutterstock, iStock and Getty Images

Free stock photography

Free stock photography websites work similarly to photo banks but offer different types of licenses. You will find free images on websites like Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay. Stock photo banks that have libraries with free images are generally smaller which decreases your chances of finding the right visuals. On the one hand, you have free resources at your disposal to meet your visual needs but they come with limitations.
An important aspect to keep in mind is the copyright rules. A common license type with free stock photography websites is the Creative Commons. Familiarize yourself with where you can use the photographs you choose and what types of promotional materials are included under the laws. 

Hiring a professional photographer

Hiring a professional photographer is a good option for those with a bigger budget. One of the great advantages is that you can set specific tasks and receive unique, personalized photographs to be used specifically for your startup business. 

The disadvantage is that this is the more expensive option and won’t be a cost effective solution in the long run. This is due to the fact that the need for visuals is a constant factor and hiring a professional every time is not cost effective when you have much bigger goals to fulfill.

Learn from competition and research

A startup should do extensive research into how they can use photography to promote their brand. The first place to look would be at the work and style of your competitors. Analyse their tactics, see what works and what doesn’t and figure out how you can do it better. What types of visuals work for them and how can you transcend their success? In this stage, you will refine the style of photography you will be using.

Familiarize yourself with the visual trends of 2017

Your visual communications must work together to translate your aesthetics. A good starting place is to understand what is going to be the next big thing in visual communications and how you can work with the latest trends.
One of the main movements in photography is going to be authenticity. Authentic images are ones we can relate to; they carry positive messages and appeal to our emotions. Learn more about the visual trends of 2017 and how you can work with the new trends to stay on top of your game.

Check general guidelines for choosing photography

If you don’t work in the creative industry, it's easy to get overwhelmed by large databases and libraries when looking for images. Here are some general guidelines to filter your choices of photographs: 
  • Natural lighting 
  • Balanced contrast 
  • Authenticity 
  • Appealing composition 
  • Sincere emotions 
  • Style consistency 

Start building your collection. Create a vision board

Vision boards, also known as mood boards are the perfect starting place to begin building your collection of photographs that will be used for your projects. In one of the earlier stages we discussed jotting down ideas and keywords that will work for your brand and here is where they come in handy.
When you’re just starting your search for visuals, you can use Pinterest to create a moodboard. If you use images from Google, keep in mind that you will not be able to use them for commercial purposes. If you are going to use Depositphotos, you can create a vision board in your profile under the ‘Favourites’ tab. This will save you time as you will have all the images you need in one place and be able to purchase them right from your vision board.
During this process, keep your vision in mind. The images you choose should translate a loud and clear message for your target audience. Try to translate your main concepts with the photographs you choose. Opt for visuals that work together to tell a story.
This is an example of vision board we created when curating a collection on the Pantone color of the year.
Advanced search techniques
If you are starting your search on Depositphotos, you have the option of using a variety of filters to refine your search. This includes searching by color, number of people and contributors. Another great tactic is to use adjectives or emotion driven words to find more powerful content. You want to avoid being literal and instead search for images that will be relatable and translate or evoke emotions from your audience.

Curate your collection

As you are adding images to your vision board, you will begin to see patterns and an emerging visual style. You can also separate your searches by folders if you have multiple styles and directions you’re working in.
Once your vision board takes shape, take your time to curate your collection. Not every image you’ve liked is going to be used for your project. You have to develop an editing eye and find consistency in your collection.
Filter by excellency
We’ve discussed general guidelines for choosing photographs and the latest trends but you should also know what images you should stray away from. This includes stock photography cliches. Here is a useful article on cliches and the mistakes you should avoid when using stock photography.
If your photographs include people, make sure they look natural and the photographs translate sincere emotions. We have useful resources on our blog regarding choices of visuals for business

Choose how to edit and customize your photographs

What many startups don’t know is that the photographs they choose from microstocks don’t have to be used as they are. You have the opportunity to get creative with images, crop them or edit them to suit your messages and fit in with your brand.
In the example below, we created 2 different versions from the original photograph. You can use this strategy to further customize your works. It is also another reason why high-quality images are a priority; you have more material to work with and set yourself up for creative success.
You can also use several photographs to create collages with tools like Fotor. Fotor is extremely easy to use and gives your collages a polished, professional look.
A great tool for personalizing and customizing photographs is Canva. With Canva, you can create impressive designs in the fraction of time as with other editing tools. Canva has prepared templates that you can choose from. Simply upload your photos and choose a format you’re going to work with. The rest is up to you and your imagination.
Customizing your photographs is a good option for blogs and promotional materials. If your images require supporting text to communicate with your clients, know that you can use Canva instead of hiring graphic designers. Canva has thousands of templates with for a range of media outlets such as blogs and social media. You can quickly and easily create graphics for social media and blogs. 

Create templates for future use

You have your photographs, and you have your online editing tools. With a well curated collection, and a simple pricing plan for your visual needs, you can devote more time to personalizing your visual content.
One of the reasons to use templates is that they can be customized to perfectly fit your messages. You might find that all your image needs is a few lines of text, shapes or an icon. With templates on Canva, you can put together real masterpieces and save them for later use.

Finalize your work process

You need to keep track of the visuals you use for all your print and online materials. Keep a Google Docs file to track where you get your images so that later you can analyze what works best for you and your needs. 
It’s also a good idea to document what tools you use and how much time you invest into personalizing your images. These are all important things to keep in mind as you watch for statistics to see what works and what doesn’t. Generally, you should notice a spike in traffic if you devote some serious time to your visuals.

Follow up

People tend to grasp information visually and they will make conclusions about your product and services based on the appearances. Your main objective is to be creative and thoughtful with your visuals. Put effort into your collections and try to make them somehow different from your competitors.
With a great resource such as Depositphotos and a solid plan for your visual communications, your business will flourish and hopefully bring you a new wave of clients. If you choose other resources for your visual needs, remember to give credits to your sources to add a touch of professionalism to your publications and projects.
For more information, visit the business section of the Depositphotos blog. It’s a great way to stay on top of the latest trends, get useful weekly tips for your projects and keep up with the visual communications industry.
Story by
Sandra Iakovleva
Content Marketing Manager at Depositphotos