Business photos – pro, stock or DIY photography?

Oct 25, 2016 | Business

A picture is worth a thousand words. Who are you? What do you do? What products do you offer? Even if someone visiting your website skimmed through the pages, your photos should make them understand your business.

People are busy, and now more than ever, they don’t stop and take the time to read through text if something doesn’t grab them and pull them in.

A lot of small businesses can’t afford to hire professional photographers and therefore scrimp on photography, or worst of all, have no photos at all! *gasp*

But fear not, there are actually 3 solutions. You can DIY your photography, you can invest in professional photography or you can buy stock photos.

Bad photos devalue design

Take a look at the two photos below. If you saw photo A on a website, what would you think? What about if you saw photo B on a website?

Bad photos, whether it’s because they look fake, blurry, pixelated or boring, devalue design. You could have the best website in terms of design, information and navigation but if your photos are bad then it lowers your website value.

What about no photos at all?

Unless you’ve got a specific reason to have no images at all, I think you should definitely include photos on your website. Like I said before, people don’t read a lot of text and usually need something visual to grab their attention at first.

If product based businesses included no photos then they wouldn’t have a business. People need to see something before they buy it. If you can give them photos that show everything about the product, almost as if they’re holding it in their own hands, then they’re so much more likely to buy it.

Service based businesses also benefit from photos in the same way. If customers can see what you look like, what you can do for them and what you have done for others, then they’ll be able to connect with you and are more likely to want to work with you. They’re not going to enter a contract blindly!

Should you invest in photography?

Time, yes. Money, maybe.

If you’ve got a big enough budget to hire a professional photographer, go ahead! But a word of warning, research thoroughly! Not all photographers are good photographers, and even if they are, not all will be the right fit for your business as there are so many different styles out there.

Think about your branding and what sort of style portrays your business best. Laid back or corporate? Bright and colourful or neutral? Portrait photography or product photography?

Look for photographers who fit your needs and make sure you have a discussion about what you want and if they’re able to do it.

Also, think about costs. If they’re super cheap compared to other photographers, is there a reason? Are there hidden costs, e.g. an extra couple of hundred pounds to get a CD of the photos?

A lot of small businesses don’t have the money to hire a professional photographer. There are plenty of semi-professionals out there e.g. college students and start-up photographers, but even then be careful. Look at their previous work and assess whether they’ll be a good fit for your business.

And if all else fails, you can totally do it yourself!

DIY photography

 You don’t have to be a pro photographer to take great photos. I see so many articles and courses online now about how to take great photos with just your smartphone!

Here are a few tips to help you:

– Try to tell a story about your business or your products. Draw out a storyboard of your process if that helps. E.g. for a handmade crafts business, photos of you making your products at different stages would show the love and detail that goes into each product and would help customers connect with your business.

– Aim for high quality all the way. You might have staged a photo perfectly, but if it’s not high-quality e.g. too small or a bit blurry, then take it again. Use a good camera and try to fill the frame. Zooming in or getting closer to fill the frame saves you from having to crop the photo later on and means you get a larger photo.

– Make sure you’ve got a great backdrop. You can see from my examples earlier, the wooden floor makes a much brighter and clean backdrop compared to the dark carpet. If you don’t have a lovely surface to use, visit somewhere like B&Q where you can get decent sized wallpaper samples to use instead. And for portrait photography? Clean up that desk and take some photos, or go on an adventure and take photos out and about!

– Use natural lighting where possible. If, like me, you live in a place that’s cold and rainy 80% of the year, it’s sometimes difficult to photograph things outside. You might be lucky and have a home that’s got great natural light, but if not, a lightbox is a great thing to invest in (or make yourself!). You can also buy photography lighting relatively cheaply.

– Get permission. Just something to be aware of, make sure that you get permission if you use other people in your photos. They need to sign a legal document called a model release form that shows they agree to you using the photos with them in.

– Practice! The more photos I take, the better I get. You should have seen some of my first photos way back when I started my business!

– Learn about your camera. Your camera will work well using the automatic setting, but it’s worth reading the manual, researching online or taking a course to learn all about your camera and the different settings you can use to take perfect shots.

– Use a tripod and a timer. If you’re taking photos of yourself, use a tripod to hold the camera and set the camera on a timer. Or ask a friend to take them! A tripod and timer can be useful if you don’t have a steady hand or want the photos to be 100% crisp.

– Use the rule of thirds. I remember learning about this way back in my A Level Photography course. The idea is that you split the frame into a grid that’s 3 by 3. The main focus of your photo should be placed where the lines intersect rather than directly central. This article explains it well.

– Quality over quantity. Focus on taking quality photos rather than taking a lot of photos. If you think about the photos that you are taking and how you want them to look (even before you start taking them, by sketching ideas) then you’ll save time later as you won’t have to go through and delete as many photos that you don’t want.

– Stick to your brand colours. A good way to keep your photos consistent with your branding is to use mostly the same colours. Great excuse to buy a new outfit for your photoshoot!

– Keep it simple! Make sure there is a main focus to the photo e.g. your product or you! Feel free to add extra elements if they complement your focus but try to keep it simple and not overwhelming to your viewers.

– If you’re taking photos of products, capture small details using a macro setting or macro lens. Most cameras should have them and some phone cameras have this setting or you can even buy lenses that clip on to your phone!

Using stock photography

Stock photos can so often look fake and staged. Usually, because they are! They’re not made with a unique business in mind so they won’t be unique to you. If you are low on money and low on time, stock photos can be great, but they have to be chosen well!

Analyse the photos according to your brand. Don’t pick photos because they’re pretty. Put your business shoes on and think “does this portray my business?”. Are the colours right? Is the overall feel of the photo right? Is the photo even relevant to what you do or sell?

Here are some great places to look for stock photos:

  • 123rf
  • Adobe Stock
  • Shutterstock
  • Pexels
  • iStockPhoto
  • Creative Market
  • Etsy is also great for more unique or crafty stock photography – just search ‘stock photos’

Create your own stock photography

If you take a look at my Instagram, you’ll notice a lot of branded photos. They vary each time and often include my business cards, glasses, keyboard, pens, notebooks and craft items.

I created about 70 of these photos and use these on my website and in my social media updates. And the beauty is, now I have a bank of images that fit my business, I don’t need to spend time creating more or sourcing new stock photos because I can reuse these photos. It’s like my own stock photography library that is catered exactly to my business. And apart from my time and a few quid to buy props, it was free!

I used my DSLR camera, the natural light that comes through the windows of my 5th floor apartment and the wooden floor.


If you need some feedback on your photos or this post has helped you to take the perfect brand photos, post them on my Facebook page. I’d love to see them!

AmberHi, I’m Amber! I am a website designer specialising in creating beautiful and results-focused websites using WordPress. I live and breathe business and creativity and can’t wait to share some of that with you. Read more here

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