Your mom was right; first impressions matter. And that’s true for people and businesses alike. More often than not, a customer’s first interaction with your brand includes visuals like photos. The power of a great photo can do wonders for your business, including establishing credibility, generating excitement, enhancing your brand’s story, and increasing your competitive advantage. It’s undeniable that compelling photography has the potential to be one of your best selling tools and investments. However, far too often, small businesses view professional photography as expendable—a grave oversight. Great photography sells more, and we can prove it.
Proof in the Numbers
It’s hard to convert anybody into a paying customer if they can’t see what they’re getting. Quality photography gives the buyer confidence that they’re making the right purchase. See what happened for our clients that recently invested in a professional photoshoot. Spoiler: they earned more bookings.
Lake Geneva Zipline Adventures: Compared to the previous year, conversion rate was up 22.4% (July-Aug). Link click-through rate went up 107% this full-year vs last year.
Red River Gorge Zipline: Year-over-year, click-through rate is up 235% with new photos and updated branding.
Spot It: Good vs. Poor Tourism Photography
Not all photos are created equal. So what makes a photo great? I thought you’d never ask.
1. Quality: Photo Definition
I’ve sifted through tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of tourism photos. And many share one, unfortunate characteristic in common: poor quality. A blurry, underexposed photo reflects negatively on a product or an experience, suggesting a less-than-premium business. Strive for clear and properly exposed images—the foundation to any successful photo.
How A Professional Photographer Can Help: Smartphone cameras are getting better, but nothing compares to a professional photographer behind a lens. A technical photographer will have the ability to intentionally adjust exposure and shutter speed, which is critical for capturing clear action shots of activities like rafting or racing. For high quality images, we recommend shooting in a file format called RAW, which isn’t available with smartphone cameras. The results are high-resolution and highly-editable photos that hold the potential for greatness.
2. Concept: Idea Clarity
Keep it obvious. Don’t assume a potential customer has a clue about your tour or activity. Photos are an excellent way to tell a story and explain an experience—or complicate one if it’s done wrong. Be sure your main images clearly show the activity in context. For example, an image of a person ziplining without the visual cue of a cable and handlebars, can initially leave someone wondering what they’re looking at. And without context within the image or from surrounding images, a person ziplining could look like a construction worker dangling in a harness.
How A Professional Photographer Can Help: A professional photographer usually brings an assistant or an art director along on a photo shoot. An art director is responsible for identifying backdrops, compositing scenes, and telling a clear story. It’s a lot for one person to manage. But an experienced photographer and art director duo will ensure you’re getting the right shots.
3. Relevance: Personal and Relatable
Relevant photos engage viewers. A potential customer should be able to “see themselves” in an image. Use a wide array of ages and demographics if it makes sense for your product. If you run a tour and activity company throughout the year, your visual assets should reflect that. Summer photos of a tour in the dead of winter creates a disconnect for customers. Be sure your website, ads, and other customer touch points are seasonally appropriate.
How A Professional Photographer Can Help: A photographer or art director can help draft a realistic shot list for an upcoming photo shoot. Without a plan, expect inferior and far fewer photos. A professional will be able to assist in identifying holes within your photo library. Will you need a mother/daughter image for a Mother’s Day promotion? Will you need a group photo of kids for a summer camp page on your website? An art director can recommend different age/demographic/season combos that will help your customers relate better.
4. Talent: Intentional People
Not everyone is great in front of a camera, and that’s okay. But if you want more bookings, you need talent that is comfortable playing to the camera while experiencing your tour or activity. If there’s one quality of a great photo that will yield a higher return on your investment, it’s this: show people having fun. Capture real expressions and emotions of those experiencing your product. Joy is infectious, and people want a part of it. To take your outdoor photos up a notch, ask your talent to wear brightly colored solids. Energetic clothing adds contrast and enhances the fun of a photo.
How A Professional Photographer Can Help: Talent recruitment is its own industry for a reason. Don’t expect to be able to easily coordinate quality people for a photo shoot. The process involves selecting candidates, coordinating times, communicating details like what to wear, and even managing emails or phone calls. A professional photographer or art director has the experience and connections to help with this. And the management of people doesn’t end on the day of the shoot. You’ll need a creative-minded and detailed individual to assist talent. They’ll need reminders to open up to the camera, remove sunglasses, strike a pose, show emotion, use the other arm, and more.
5. Equipment: Proper Tools
The right camera equipment will lead to richer photos than any smartphone or basic point and shoot camera can offer. A hallmark of professional images is a shallow depth of field—clear subject, blurry background. Oh sure, phones nowadays can mimic this style, but they’re no help when your subject is moving or at a distance, which is often the case. It’s likely you’ll need a proper zoom lens to capture quality, up-close emotion. Consider adding variety to a photo shoot by capturing an experience through a drone or a GoPro. A different perspective may be exactly what your customer needs to get them excited about your product. And don’t forget about those digital tools like Lightroom. Most photos will need some level of editing to make them pop.
How A Professional Photographer Can Help: A professional photographer will already have the equipment and technical expertise needed to capture high quality imagery and unique perspectives. During the heat of a photo shoot, expertise matters. Good photographers know their equipment and are able to quickly react to new photo needs.
Investing in Professional Photography
We’ve all heard it: you have to spend money to make money. But putting this truth into practice isn’t easy. You might be tempted to take your own photos to save a few thousand dollars, but if you’re not a professional photographer, it can be hard to remember best practices in the moment; not to mention, proper equipment is needed too. Although photo shoots are an investment, the benefits are long term and well worth it. Good, quality photography will keep customers engaged with your brand. Give your business a competitive advantage by budgeting now for a photo shoot next season and watch the extra bookings come in. You won’t regret it. To quote mom, one day you’ll thank me.
I hope you studied. Identify the better photo.
I’ll admit, photos can be a little subjective. But if you answered with ABA, you know a great photo when you see one. And guess what?—your customers will too.