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Why great imagery is essential to online marketing and how to create it.

It is no secret that the web has brought about a wealth of marketing opportunities, it allows us to be more targeted, more flexible, and, above all, more efficient in our approach. With so many options from social media to running your own website, marketing channels are seemingly endless, but the fight now is for attention. There is a reality in the information age that words will no longer cut it, imagery and video are the weapons in this new war for attention but knowing how to use them a different beast entirely.

Why do you need great imagery?

1000 words.

It’s a tired adage, but it is true a one nonetheless. Customers want to see the products they are buying or the service they are going to receive. We are visual animals and stimulating that sense is the fastest way to help your customer realise what it is you are trying to sell them.

Mental shortcut.

I will ask you this, how much time have you spent reading this week? Compare this to how long you have spent watching Netflix, YouTube or endlessly scrolling Instagram. Sadly, people are averse to reading as it requires mental effort compared to mindlessly staring at imagery, not only that, it’s quicker too! One study suggests that we process visual information 60,000 times faster than text.

It is a representation of the brand

The content brands put out is very much a reflection of the quality of the brand itself, there is a reason that Apple invests in flawless imagery, video and graphics.

Product photograph of Trust Anti-odourant.
Crisp, quality product photography.

Recently I worked with the anti-odorant brand: Trust. Their product is the best in class but lagged alongside its competitors for sales on Amazon. They were selling their product with decades-old imagery that looked to be taken on an old Nokia. By updating their imagery, they have since become an ‘Amazon Choice’ seller. Why? Because they now deliver a cutting-edge product with a visual package to match, customers simply have more Trust (sorry) in the brand.

Great imagery is a key part of the mix that makes up any great brand, why invest heavily in product design and have it packaged and presented cheaply to the consumer, it devalues the brand.

Considerably higher levels of engagement

A study carried out by PR News found that online content with good images get 94% more views than those without. Knowing this, why are you even bothering to invest the time and energy in social media if you are not using quality content. Engagement is king!

Great imagery means more people will see the content, the better it is the more likely people will like and share. All of this means the opportunity to convert online presence into sales is much greater.

Cocktail photograph of an espresso martini.
Cocktail Photography that boosted online presence.

I started out my career working on a cocktail bar, I took over their social media shooting pictures of our cocktails every week (read my guide of how to create effective social media content here). It was not long before we had a little name for ourselves, people would even come in toting that they had seen my latest creation online and had to try it.

Great Imagery

What makes a good image good is seemingly illusory, the viewer is captivated, they feel something; at the bare minimum good imagery is simply pleasing to look at, but we can’t quite put our finger on what it is we just know it when we see it.

Food photography.
Breakfast food photorgaphy.

The truth is there is no magic at all really. Take this image from a recent shoot, easy on the eye (I hope) for some unplaceable reason. Well I know why, the colour palette compliments the food very well; all orange through to creamy beiges and brown, the geometry of the bowl and lazy-susan beneath contrast nicely with the straight lines of the wooden countertop. These are all rather technical sounding, but sadly there is not magic just skill and understanding.

But a great image wields these techniques to direct the customer's mind in a way that is desired by the business.

What Makes Great Imagery for Marketing.

The same goes for any imagery that a business hopes to put out, yes it must be technically good, but there are some more elements that extend to most all images any business distributes.

Tell a story

Lifestyle infographic of couple using anti-odourant product.
Lifestyle Photography.

Images, more specifically lifestyle images should tell a story. Take the image above from an Amazon shoot I worked on. Here we have a lovely diverse couple in an elegant, attainable home, they are sitting watching TV together with no shoes or socks. It is a straightforward narrative, right? Use our product and enjoy one another’s company without the smell of his/her stinky feet, not all marketing has to be sexy!

The aim is about helping the customer to imagine a liveable reality, a story that they can buy into. Stories can be as abstract or matter of fact as you like, but to make imagery effective almost all marketing images need one.

The brand lives through

Product photography of artificial flowers.
Product Photography.

Take this simple eCommerce storefront image of an artificial flower arrangement. You might wonder how the brand could live through an image with just the product in it? So, ask a couple of questions about the brand and its values, get some ideas of keywords to describe it.

Demmery’s Artificial flowers: sophisticated, and realistic to name a few key ones.

This needs to live through the imagery.

Sophisticated: Using dynamic lighting I deliberately caught elements of the product that help to create nice tonal shape to the imagery, make it more complex and appealing to the eye.

Realistic: I made sure to use a grey background instead of white here, why? White backgrounds, though fantastic for focussing attention on the product, tend to make things look very digital and consequently fake.

Imagine I had used garish colours and extremely hard lighting, it may have looked fantastic for a children’s toy, but it is just not the brand we aimed to deliver.


Great images are great because they know their audience. This is essentially the core tenant of marketing itself, understanding who it is you are selling to, what they want and where they want it.

Great marketing imagery needs to apply these same principles. Each image ought to be optimised for:

- Where it will be distributed?

- The purpose of the image (promote, demonstrate, etc.)?

- Who is the audience?

Say I am producing an image for Nike, It is to be promoted on their Instagram and aimed at an 18-30 male audience, with the purpose of drawing awareness to the launch of the new premier league football; these factors are going to determine the direction of the photography.

Your next marketing campaign must include visual content, all brands know that. But by abiding by this formula you can ensure that the content you use generates value rather than fill a whole. Great imagery is an investment. Thankfully here at Blank Canvas Ink, we know that.

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