words Rafael Larin
Professional photography, or commercial photography, has been around for decades and will continue to be around into the foreseeable future. Some people might wonder why, with practically everyone walking around with a smartphone in their pocket that can take photos?
One critical difference in the business world is that with amateur photography you take a photo and with commercial photography you make a photo. This distinction is critical in successful marketing that differentiates brands.
Professional Photography Encompasses the Use of Highly Capable Gear and Software Alongside a Professional That Understands How to Use Them
Photography as a Competitive Differentiator
Possibly the single biggest reason professional photography is important is because it’s used as a competitive differentiator in the business world. Unsuccessful marketing of a business is often separated from successful marketing of businesses by the imagery they use.
You’ve likely seen smartphone vendors trying to lay claim in their marketing and advertising to being commercial grade. While they might want in the party, these devices just can’t meet criteria to produce high-grade images required of commercial-grade campaigns. If one vendor were to opt for a smartphone to create imagery to brand their product, it opens the door for their competitors to put them in a bad corner. They will use superior image quality from capable DSLR, mirrorless or medium format cameras to elevate their brand over theirs. Image truly is everything.
Visual Content in Branding
Most companies with physical products nowadays sell online. This requires basic product photography so customers can see product traits. This is where image quality first matters. Most brands that seek to further differentiate their visual content turn to lifestyle photography.
Lifestyle photography is where marketers look to exalt their branding. These images lay the foundation for the opportunity to story-tell and strongly position a brand. Lifestyle images are used so customers can imagine a personal experience with the product.
Using locations, props and models, a brand shows potential customers how that product can be part of their lives. For example, if a vendor sells a collection of business and casual pants, lifestyle photos are created in respective settings to help customers visualize how they might also wear the pants.
Often, the lifestyle images are a duplication of what the customer goes through in real life or wants to go through. None of this is possible without high quality images and the use of a professional photo retouching service. Even successful value brands understand that quality imagery is important.
High end cameras such as full-frame sensor DSLRs and mirrorless models, and medium format cameras, set a benchmark that a smartphone cannot match. Smartphone makers need to turn to computational photography to attempt to mimic what a true camera can do optically and by virtue of a superior image sensor.
Cameras are purpose-built tools made for a specific job. A smartphone is the opposite. It’s a mobile device that is handy at many things – calls, messaging, using apps, watching videos, taking a picture, etc. But with this good convenience at being able to do lots of things, it fails to be very great at any one thing.
So, commercial-grade photography is an opportunity for a business to ensure competitive differentiation, or to keep up with the visual content used by competitors. As long as businesses are in competition with each other, creating competitive differentiation is essential. Professional-grade cameras are at the foundation of making this happen.
Professional photographers that understand how to use them, alongside lighting and software, then become understandably important too. As display resolutions such as 4K – and 8K and beyond – become more prevalent, the resolution capabilities of professional full frame sensors on camera will become more pronounced and anything inferior will become even more noticeably inferior.
Good Photography Use, From Amazon.com to LinkedIn
Two good examples of why professional photography is critical in business come from two ends of the spectrum, Amazon.com and LinkedIn. An Amazon seller can pretty much guarantee failure if their product photos are of poor quality, regardless of how good the product might be.
There are many stats proving the importance of good photography in ecommerce. For example, 75 percent of would-be buyers rate product photos as very influential when deciding whether to buy a product online. Or, 22 percent of online returns are because an “item looks different than the photos.” Another extensive study verified that the more successful sellers became online the better quality images they had used for their listings.
But the importance of professional photography goes beyond Amazon. Aspiring actors, probably more than anyone, understand the importance of a high-quality professional headshot. After all, it’s essentially their resume. Most business professionals with profiles on sites like LinkedIn should also beware. Other research shows, post a poor quality photo to your profile and be prepared to be judged by it alone. You risk losing out on business opportunities.
The Photographers Behind Commercial Shoots
Camera, software and other related vendors continue to aspire to make their gear easier to use. But as they also continue to add new capabilities, it ends up instead making it more difficult to use for most people. There’s also the heavy expense of acquiring professional-grade camera gear that creates another barrier to entry. These two obstacles continue to allow for the need of a professional photographer.
If there is money to be made from the use of photos, commercial photography using professional-grade equipment will remain important. When money is at stake, photography cannot be left to non-professionals and non-professional gear. Successful businesses and successful people fully understand this
Professional photography is important because it’s constantly used as a successful competitive differentiator. The proof is everywhere. On any given day of, one can see varying examples of industry-leading brands using high-quality imagery in their real-world or online marketing campaigns.
Rafael Larin is a commercial photographer. He operates the Flagship Product Photography studio in the Los Angeles area. He also has 15+ years of marketing and public relations consulting and agency experience working with startup, SMB and publicly traded technology companies. He holds a BA, Journalism, from California State University, Northridge, and is a veteran of the US Air Force and California Air National Guard.