Photography as a Business Tool

Many businesses use photography as a business tool to communicate and engage with customers, employees, investors and other stakeholder groups.

It is often referred to as business photography or corporate photography or commercial photography, but either way, it is an incredibly effective medium for communication, education, influencing and motivating – whoever the audience is.

Like any form communication, business photography requires a clear objective, which means understanding the audience, and the desired outcome or action that will be the measure of success.

The image is the message

Group of people in bright jumpers from different ethnic backgrounds. An example of Photography as a Business Tool.
Oliviero Toscani’s vision for Benetton

As someone who was growing up in the 1980s I remember the power and impact of the first ‘Colours of Benetton’ adverts that, through a series of photographs, was ground-breaking in its celebration of diversity and inclusion. 

Of course, this was an advertising campaign, but the creative idea was stronger than the photographic technique.

In Oliviero Toscani, Benetton found, not only a great photographer but also a great communicator of their ideas and values.

Using photography for internal communication

It isn’t only adverts where this applies.

Photography is widely used as form of internal communication where posters or digital boards are more effective than email. Think about warehouses, retailers, hospitals, and construction sites, where most people are not sat at a desk but are critical workers who need to be kept informed. This is where photography as a business tool can add real value.

Speyside Cooperage worker building a cask. Photography as a Business Tool.
The Speyside Cooperage – not everyone works at a desk

Large corporates now spend millions of pounds every year on good causes and it is photography that brings these initiatives alive for employees and investors, not words in a report. For example, compare the contrast between the Sustainability Report for UBS bank, which is very text heavy, with the same report for the John Lewis Partnership, which is image-led.

Using photography for employee education

In 1970 the UK government launched an educational campaign to tackle the rise in casual sex. The Pregnant Man campaign, one photograph of a man appearing to be pregnant, was so effective it was talked about globally.

Several years ago, Waitrose wanted help to create a poster campaign that included raising awareness about water wastage and encouraging staff to report leaks. The concept was again very simple and effective in changing behaviour:- a Waitrose tap and sink with money coming out of the spout.

The coffee maker, illy’s ‘Scent of a Dream’ project saw them working with renowned documentary photographer, Sebastiao Salgaldo, to create ‘the largest photo essay dedicated to world of coffee.’ 

illy’s website describes the project as: ‘Scent of a Dream [is] a journey through coffee-producing countries which, since 2002, has been based on sharing a common value: sustainable development, which for illy represents a fundamental principle and the means through which we have chosen to maintain our quality leadership.’

Picking coffee from a plantation in Asia
Copyright Sebastiao Salgado

It’s clear that Salgado’s photography brings this ‘fundamental principle’ to life in ways that a report or presentation cannot.

Photographers are communicators

Therefore, when choosing a business photographer to work with, it is important to find someone who understands your objectives and can offer a creative solution, rather than a technical one.

Work with a photographer who can offer a creative solution, not just a technical one

20% of what a photographer does is to operate a camera with skill. The other 80% is thinking creatively about what, how and when to photograph, in order to achieve a specific objective. Your objective.

A good photographer will ask questions: What do you want convey? Why? How do you want the audience to respond? All of this helps to define what to photograph, when, and how.

An organisation that wants to convey a 24/7 operation is more likely to want to photograph at night. An organisation that wants to appeal to a certain demographic will most likely need to represent that demographic in its imagery. As photographers, the more we know, the more we can help.

Photography, the image, has the ability to convey a message almost instantaneously. That cannot be said of a report or even a video. That is why photography is still a powerful tool for businesses.