Photos help tell the story of your small business. They paint a picture, invoke emotion, and can even be the difference between a consumer scrolling past your page or becoming a loyal client.
In a virtual world, taking care of your online storefront is more important than ever. Sharing photos, videos, and information digitally presents a unique opportunity to connect with your potential customers. Speaking to them through imagery in particular gives you the power to not only tell them but show them what they can expect from your business.
As you consider upgrading your online content, it’s important to apply the proper formula to maximize the connections you make with your audience. In this Yelp webinar recording, seasoned photographer Tatiana Valerie of Artvesta Studio Photography and Video unpacks how to visually connect with clients and the method for taking photos that sell.
Learn how to:
- Customize your photos & messaging for various online platforms
- Use photography to connect with your audience and drive sales
- Define the key elements that make up a great photo
- Use pictures to tell your story and keep customers informed
Tatiana Valerie is a professional photographer and owner of two media production companies based out of Manhattan. One is called Artvesta Studio, specializing in B2C projects and working with individuals and families to capture their memories since 2004. The other studio specializes in B2B projects, working with large and small corporations to produce corporate videos, promo videos, and professional photography services such as headshots, corporate event, photography, office interior and exterior, food photography, social media photography, product photography, and more. Over the years, Tatiana has won multiple industry awards and has been featured in many online and print publications, such as the New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Time Out New York, and others.
• Standing out as a business owner
• Creating authentic messaging
• What social media can do for you
• Taking photos that work
• Examples of social media feeds
• Picking a platform to use
• Creating a routine
• Tips for posting on social media
• Pictures tell a story
• Capturing the experience
• Preparing for a professional shoot
• Shifting your social media mentality
My name is Tatiana Valerie. I’m a professional photographer and the owner of two media production companies based out of Manhattan. One of my studios is called Artvesta studio, and it specializes in B2C projects. We work with individuals and families capturing their memories since 2004. My other studio specializes in B2B projects. We work with large and small corporations producing corporate videos, promo videos, providing professional photography services such as headshots, corporate event, photography, office interior and exterior, food photography, social media photography, product photography, just to name a few. Over the years, I’ve won multiple industry awards, including the prestigious Yelp Biz Allstars award. My work has been featured in many online and print publications, such as the New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Time Out New York, and others.
I got my formal education at an art conservatory, but I also got my business education with a master’s in marketing. Being an artist and a business owner, just like you, most days I have to draw on both sides of my brain pretty much, so through my own struggle and I would like to share my own knowledge because I went through it. I’ve been you and I am you, so I want to reduce your anguish and frustration and just find your own unique shortcuts and your own unique voice and post the best pictures and media possible on your social media and websites.
Standing out as a business owner
Everyone in this virtual room is good at something, right? But how do you stand out? How do you broadcast to your target audience why you’re different from your competition? To find out, ask yourself these questions. What are those drivers of delight that your business makes not only makes your clients not only satisfied, but wanting more and wanting to be raving about you and recommend you to their family and friends? Let’s look at this example.
If you went to a restaurant and a restaurant served you a mediocre burger and room temperature fries, all that meal did was just satisfy your hunger. Would you be raving about it? It didn’t actually serve the purpose it was designed to be serving, right? There were no drivers of delight, nothing to write home about, literally. But you would probably talk about a wonderful experience if you had one, right? You would talk about that New York City rooftop that had those yummy drinks, those wonderful views, those pretty and unique appetizers, great ambience, right? And so on. You would even go and write a positive review on Yelp, right? Think about what are those drivers of delight in your business. What would your customers brag about after experiencing your product or services?
Creating authentic messaging
Another question, how can you be authentic in your message? Being yourself is truly the best strategy, because if you think about it, everyone else is already taken, right? We all know that. So, try to be as authentic as possible. People are emotional creatures. We are also very visual creatures, whether we want it or not. And we are also busy most of the time. We have millions of things to do and gazillions of tasks that we just need to complete. We are bombarded with messages, visual messages, verbal messages from social media, TV, all day long.
This is why it’s a good idea to think about your ideal client and think about what is the end result, what they want as a result of doing business with you, and visualizing it so that your message being visual and appealing reaches the purpose quickly and efficiently instead of just writing on and on and publishing on and on some irrelevant information, just think business and think about your client. Be your client. For example, if you’re a hair salon owner, what do people really want when they go to your salon to get a haircut? Some of you will say that they probably want their hair to be shorter, right, or they want it to be a different color. But what if we go a step further and say that people actually want to look and feel their best, knowing that their hair looks great, that their hair color looks great.
What are those people buying from you, really? They are buying a positive experience that brings the result where they feel good about themselves, right? Maybe after that haircut, they will feel refreshed, clean, respected, well-received, et cetera. The feel good definition will be different for everybody in every business, right? But your job as a business owner, to figure out what exactly that positive experience is and talk about it. Talk as much as possible about it and what that feel-good end result is.
What social media can do for you
There are three main touch points of a potential client with your business. It’s the way they discover your business, it’s the way they experience your business, and happy outcomes that they receive as a result of doing business with your company. This is what you should post about.
Discovering your business. How would you like to be discovered? Tell people about it. How would you like to be contacted? Tell people about it: email us today, call us today, DM today. Talk about it. People want to know. Make people’s lives easier. Client experience. What is your company’s client experience like? What does it feel to be your client? In your mind, just picture your happy customer. Who do you see? What do you see? Are they smiling? What’s around them? What is the happy moment of interaction with your business that they will remember forever? What is it? Visualize it. Then capture it in a picture and post it. Next, happy outcomes. Well, that’s obvious, right? We all want smiling, satisfied, delighted clients, and we do want their testimonials, so that’s what we want to post in our social media, smiling, satisfied, delighted clients and their positive testimonials.
Well, some people may say that this slide is very, very obvious, but I would still like to go over it so that we better understand why we as business owners actually want to put some thought, some planning, and some work in our social media posts, photography that we broadcast on behalf of our business, because photos are really a very, very important marketing tool. Because one picture speaks louder than a thousand words. If you put some thought into taking that picture, that could be a great storytelling tool. You can evoke an emotion. You can picture a vision just by simply posting that picture, right? Using a well-placed carefully composed image, you can do all those things. We’ll look at a few examples later on to illustrate what I just said, but pictures are very, very powerful marketing tools.
Great photos make your brand and your business look more personal and trustworthy. If you understand your client, if you understand what your client wants, what experience your client wants, and what outcome your client wants, and you broadcast and showcase it on your social media, a client will feel like you know them. They will feel like they’re reaching out to their old friend if they need a service or product. And last but not least, numbers. Numbers don’t lie. A study carried by Pure News found that online content with good images gets 94% more views than without. And according to another study survey undertaken by Search Ending Land, 60% of consumers are more likely to choose companies who use images in their local search results and search listings.
Taking photos that work
Let’s take a look at these examples. How people interact with photos, you may ask. Your company starts with you as a business owner and having a professional portrait of a business of the business owner is very, very important. It’s crucial. In this slide, I didn’t want to single anybody out besides myself.
Selecting the most appropriate photo
So, question, who would you trust more with taking your personal pictures and why? Just look at these four pictures. Right? Picture number one. Well, maybe it’s a cute picture, but if this woman even owns the camera, I don’t know. The second, well, at least she owns some photography equipment, right, so maybe I could trust her with my corporate pictures. I don’t know. Picture number three, well maybe, well, she owns a camera, right? Clearly. Maybe this chick can take some cool pictures for my dating profile or something. And picture number four, I feel like it definitely looks a little bit more professional. My comment to this picture was, well, she may be a fit for a corporate project, but I would definitely need to learn more about her qualifications and portfolio. So, choose wisely what you post on your LinkedIn profile and social media, because people want it or not, they judge fairly quickly without sometimes even realizing what they think of you and your business. But try to give them as much relevant information as possible in that one picture, because sometimes you only have that one shot.
The importance of good lighting
Let’s talk about the main key elements that make a great photo. I hope my advanced fellow photographers stick with us because it would be very helpful for a beginner photographer. But I feel like every once in a while, even advanced photographers need to remind themselves how to take better pictures. This leads us to this first point. Good light. Good light in photography is everything. Photography is all about light, pretty much. For this presentation, I tried focusing and taking example pictures with my cell phone camera, smartphone camera, because I understand that not everyone, especially small business owners, there is no real need to invest into a professional camera or professional photography equipment. You could take great pictures and be very successful on your social media by using just your smartphone cameras and a few basic tips. If you keep those in mind, you’ll be much, much more successful in taking better pictures that tell your business’s story.
Let’s look at this example. Good light, right? This is a basic, basic shot. I took this big truck at a bar, and it’s just a drink, right, but what a difference. The first picture was taken with available ambient light, whatever light was at the bar. It was pretty dark, so I just snapped that picture. The second picture, in order to take that second picture, I used this little nifty device that is called Selfie Light. It’s just a few dollars, but I would strongly recommend using it because it does increase your picture quality drastically. It’s also super great for selfies, so it does make a huge difference. Recommend this product. All right, let’s look at our next key element that makes a great photo.
Framing a distraction-free shot
By the way, before I do that, I would like to thank my dear industry friend, Bjorn, Bjorn VW, owner Bjorn & Company. He’s an award-winning event planner in New York City and he graciously agreed to model for me, as he’s always great and fabulous in real life and in pictures, so huge thanks goes to him. Let’s go back to the slide. I suggest that you always pay attention to the background of your pictures, because anything in that picture is supposed to tell a story. Anything, anything and everything in your picture is there for a reason.
Let’s look at the first picture. Who are those two people? I don’t know. How do they contribute to telling a story of Bjorn? they really don’t. In the second picture, none of those distracting elements are there, right? Just try to be mindful and pay attention to the background and what exactly are you trying to do? Are you trying to take a picture of something, of an object or a subject, or are you just snapping a random photo that has no purpose? I would like to be just mindful about background and light in the pictures. Only those two things will take your photography to the next level.
Every element helps tell a story
Tip number three. As I said earlier, every element in the picture helps to tell a story.
In this first picture, I asked my friend how would she take a picture of a drink. And that’s what she did. No offense, she’s not a professional photographer. It’s a fine picture, but take a look. What are those legs in the background? What is the stain on the table? What are those utensils? Where is it? What kind of drink is it? Right? So many questions. But take a look at the second picture taken with the same cell phone camera. This picture on the other hand tells a story, right? This is clearly a drink of beautiful amber color. There is a twist. There’s a lime or probably orange twist, right? There is a cherry. And this beautiful city view, right? So it must be a nice rooftop establishment that serves quality drinks. Okay. Same snap, one snap, one picture, but two different, completely different stories.
The third picture was taken with a professional DSLR camera. It is slightly better, right? It tells a slightly different story, that there are two people, two different drinks. But if you look at picture number two and picture number three, they’re not that drastically different. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that you can take good stories, good stories of your business, by just taking pictures with your smartphone camera.
Making use of backgrounds and props
The next element to a great photo is to use pretty backgrounds and props such as flowers or fruit. Let’s take a look at these examples.
I will focus on the second example. Look at those pretty yummy macarons, right? What can we tell? They’re a pretty pink color. What flavor are they? Most probably they’re raspberry, right? Probably. Why? Because there are raspberries, and there’s some mint, maybe there’s some mint. It’s kind of yummy. I kind of want that. Right? I want to try that. So instead of posting a picture of just one macaron on the table or a plate, try being a little bit more creative and tell a little bit of a story of the subject or the object you photograph.
Create an experience for your audience
Now we are moving on to a very important slide that I would really want you to remember. I’m a huge advocate of talking about experiences and posting multiple pictures in the same post just to reveal a story and just to tell that story, give more information, more relevant information, just for the client, to be able to remember that story and remember your brand as that interesting visual story. Again, I said the word story 50 times, but I feel like it’s one of the most important words in your business. Take a look at this example. What do we see? We see a cup of coffee, right? But this is not an experience. We don’t even know what coffee, what kind of drink is it? Is it latte, cappuccino? I don’t know. Maybe people who know more about coffee know, but I don’t know. And you, as a business owner, as a coffee shop owner, would like to attract more people who probably are not super coffee connoisseurs, that don’t know a lot in all technical details about coffee so that they could tell right away what kind of drink it is.
Picture number one, probably don’t tell that much story to an average person such as myself. On the other hand, picture number two tells a story about what looks to be a pretty interesting, pretty great experience. It’s fun, right? A couple sits at a table, enjoys their coffee and what looks to be yummy pastries. Great. This tells me that this coffee shop offers that experience. And I’m more interested in having that experience than just looking at a cup of coffee that they have. And the third picture, we see a woman, actually with her eyes closed, enjoying that cup of coffee. I said, enjoying, it because it really looks like she’s enjoying it. She has her eyes closed, so it means that she enjoys the aroma and the taste and flavor of that coffee. Taking this slide a step further, we actually see the story about an experience. It’s not just an experience. Now we see a story about an experience. Right?
Using your tools to their full potential
And again, hiring a pro photographer is best, but you can definitely take pictures with your phone. Picture number two is not that drastically different from picture number two, so one and two are similar. Picture number three, I could edit that picture, and we will address this a little bit further, but I can definitely edit and perfect that picture and make it look pretty nice, so you would not need a quality DSLR camera to actually bring that photo to the next level and make it pop, make it much nicer. All right? Don’t stress out. You can take great pictures with your cell phone.
And as an example, I would like to show you and prove to you that you can be successful on social media and online platforms just by having your cell phone taking pictures and posting them. Because take a look at this example. This a dear friend of mine, her Instagram is fantastic. She only uses a cell phone to take her pictures. But look, she’s super successful in what she does. I love seeing her pictures in my feed because they’re so yummy, right? She posts mostly photos of yummy food, always carefully framed. The food looks fresh and appetizing. Each photo tells a story. Photo content evokes positive emotions. And her photos are bright and colorful, and that’s all you guys need, really. Tell stories with your pictures. Make sure that pictures look good and you’ll do just fine and be consistent. Okay? Check her out. Jillicious. Her name is Jill. Make sure to follow her.
Examples of social media feeds
My next example is slightly different. This is if you want to take your social media feed to the next level. This is Death & Co, one of my favorite mixologist experiences in New York, and I absolutely love their Instagram and social media feed because it’s just fabulous. Just look at that. They only post top-quality professional photography. Photos are descriptive of their process and their offering. And as you can tell, they showcase that unparalleled attention to detail, which we definitely can assume just by looking at their pictures, that’s their approach in making those drinks for you, right? Attention to detail, being precise, being creative. Quality in everything. Yeah, I want quality drinks. I want to experience the quality of every drink, and I want it to be consistent. I want my every experience to be perfect and consistent just like their Instagram feed. Their photo content evokes positive emotions. Yeah, I want that. And it’s aspirational content, absolutely. The driver of delight here is obvious, right? Yummy drinks. Sorry, non non-drinkers. I feel like you’re missing out on something here. But check them out. Death & Co. They’re great.
My next example is a completely different, completely different aesthetics, completely different Instagram feel. This is the Museum of Ice Cream. It’s a fun, fun, fun, Instagram profile. They focus on user experience. They post bright and happy pictures, bright and happy colors, promote diversity and inclusiveness. Very important. Makes regular people like you and me look cool. Just look at those pictures. Those are regular people, and yeah, they look super cool right? Their photo content evokes positive emotions. I want that. Yes, I want that. And the driver of the light is obvious, ice cream. Who doesn’t like ice cream?
Picking a platform to use
This is a very interesting topic because there are indeed so many platforms, but so little time. How do we deal with that? Relax. My suggestion is to pick two or three platforms that you like most and just focus on creating quality content for those platforms. Okay? By favorite, that’s also good, good question, what does favorite mean? Does it mean that you like posting on those most or does it mean that those platforms bring you most inquiries and most business? As a smart business owner, I would probably try to post on those platforms that bring me most inquiries and most business. That’s just being a smart business owner. Right? Try and figure out what two or three platforms bring you most inquiries and focus on those.
Automate. There are services that will automatically post to multiple social media platforms at once, or at least connect your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter so that with one post you could post on all three platforms. And develop a routine that works for you.
Creating a routine
I’m going to be sharing my routine because it works for me. Maybe it will work for you as well, or maybe you can figure out some variations and tweak it to perfect it for your own business. For example, I do use a built in when I post from my phone, most posts I actually do from my phone. I do not need a computer for that. And I use a built-in picture editing software that comes with my phone. I use Samsung. In there, I crop, rotate pictures, and sometimes increase vibrance and saturation in that built-in editor.
Next, I do like a built-in Instagram editor. I think it is superior to most built-in social media picture editors, so I recommend you try that out. When I create a new post, I slightly increase brightness. It makes a whole world of a difference, just tweaking the brightness. Sometimes I also treat contrast and structure, but brightness is the biggest game changer.
Next, as Ellie said earlier, posting a picture is great, but having a great caption to that picture is super, super important because you want to tell a story comprehensively. It needs to be a picture with a description of what’s in that picture, and that description is actually searchable. You increase searchability of your business and your posts, so that helps a lot. Use hashtags. Post captions are super, super, super important. And before you do that, before you click post, please make sure to use a free spell check tool. There are a lot of them out there, but my favorite is JSpell. It’s free. You can check it online, copy and paste, press check, and it will spell check it for you. It’s really great and it’s worth it. A few seconds of your time is really worth doing that.
A little bonus tip, be mindful of the difference in audience among all the different platforms. For example, posting on LinkedIn, you probably want to be more formal in your tone than when you post on Facebook or Instagram, and you probably want to be a little bit more professional, if I may say that. You all probably have that one connection on LinkedIn who posts cat videos in their feed. Even though it may give you a cuteness fix for the day, it probably does not reflect that professionally on them. So don’t be that person. Be a little bit more mindful about where you post and what you post.
Tips for posting on social media
Connect your Instagram and Facebook accounts for automation. It’s very easy to do, even inside Instagram. When you start your post right after you edit your brightness and sharpness, you click next, and then on the next window, you will be able to tell people, very important, relevant people. Please, please don’t tag random people or big publications just to attract attention, because it’s not going to work. They will just untag themselves and it’s just not going to reflect good on your business. Just tag all the relevant people who participated, maybe in the shoot, anything that is relevant to that particular shoot will work. Everything else is beyond the scope and is irrelevant. Add location. People are able to search businesses by location, so that is important. And link your social media accounts. This helps a lot. This saves time.
Pictures tell a story
My fourth tip is to post multiple pictures in one post to tell a story. As I said earlier, telling stories is very important. This is how your business can definitely stand out from the competition, and the easiest and fastest way to tell a story is to post multiple images in one post. Just make it a reveal. Remember that coffee cup example, right? Post the coffee cup, and then next post a girl or a woman who drinks that coffee. Right? Maybe on your next slide, you can post a pastry, her eating a pastry, a piece of pastry. Tell a story with your images, and you can post up to 10 pictures in one post. You don’t have to go to that extent every time, but post two, three, four pictures. It’s not going to kill you. It’s going to help you. In this example, for example, there is a seafood plate, right? We could also suppose that pretty nice shrimp cocktail and those drinks so it will tell a story of a night out, a beautiful night out at a rooftop with great views. It will be a very effective and efficient delivery tool.
Next, let’s take a look at photos for a great digital storefront. Okay? We all have digital storefronts, or at least I hope so. We all have a Yelp profile, a Google My Business profile, et cetera. It’s very important to understand what kind of picture will get that click, initial click on our business listing, and what kind of pictures will result into a potential client booking us, or at least giving us a call or making that initial contact. For every type of business, that picture will be different, but I will give you just a few examples, just to name a few, and guide you through most common, right, types of services and businesses. Take a look at this example, professional services, right? With professional services, people want to know who they will be dealing with and how trustworthy that picture is and how trustworthy that person is.
When we hire a lawyer, a doctor, a chiropractor, anything related to professional services, we do want to be familiar with the person who will be helping us. So, posting a nice professional headshot is very important for that type of businesses, and pictures that will hopefully result in the potential client contacting your business and hopefully then booking is telling a story about your business, about that experience with your business, what customers can anticipate when they come into your office, right? What your space looks like, what the experience is going to be like. A photo, and by the way, thank you all to Dr. Lamb from Lamb Chiropractic who let me use these pictures. He’s really great, so make sure to follow him, as well.
Capturing the experience
Next, thank you to Buddha-Bar New York, a fantastic new hotspot that I can not wait to visit. We just did a photography session for them. I would like to talk, I would like to give them as an example and talk about a restaurant listing if you have a restaurant. So a photo that captures the experience, the mood, and the vibe will get that initial click, but you want to post more pictures to tell a story of what kind of food you serve. What kind of food and drinks, what kind of experience a client or a customer can anticipate if they come and dine with you.
Hair salon, a beautiful photo of a happy client with a great looking trendy haircut. A picture of just the back of your hair may not be the best attraction to a potential client, but a picture of a happy client with a great looking trendy haircut that will attract attention. Gym, for a gym owner, is your gym and no-frill workout place, so you may want to put a picture of your most utilized equipment in an empty room. So it’s no frills, you come, you use this equipment, and that’s pretty much what you want. That’s what you can expect in our gym. Or if you’re going for a trendy cool hangout spot, post a photo of beautiful smiling people who are in their best physical shape. Pet care center or pet-related services. I think that the picture of the cutest animal gets the click, picture of the cutest animal, but more photos that illustrate kind caring staff in a clean safe environment will definitely compel them to contact you.
Preparing for a professional shoot
Moving on. Talking about professional photography. Professional photography is important. If you want your business to stand out and take your business listing to the next level, professional help is always a good idea. I want to talk about how you can prepare for a professional photo shoot and find your perfect photographer. You need to like their work. You need to know that photographer gets what you’re trying to accomplish with that photo session, so definitely discuss photography style, budget, deliverables, and delivery timeline with your photographer. Excuse me.
Have your goals, your target audience, and your objective for the shoot in mind. Communicate this info clearly to your photographer. You and your photographer need to be on the same page to get the best result possible. Plan and prepare your outfit. What kind of work are you going for? Is it casual? Is that formal? Is it buttoned up? Is it corporate casual? Be very, very mindful about what you’re wearing and how you want to represent yourself on your social media and your website. Plan and prepare your outfit and definitely consult your photographer, because some patterns don’t look good on camera. So, he wants some bright pattern, but it’s not going to look good on camera, that may not be your best and first choice, right, for the outfit, for the photo shoot.
Prepare any props that will add to you and your brand’s visual story. Again, keep in mind that word, story, story, storytelling. Every time somebody looks at that picture, they need to be able to tell a story about you. What do you want to include in that picture? Bjorn, again, my dear event planner friends, he uses a swatch book from BBJ Linen every time he has a new client and they want to pick linens for tabletops, he needs to have that swatch box, so he brought it with him in order to showcase that he’s worked just to give a little glimpse into what he does. Right? He’s very happy. Look at that picture. He’s very happy doing that, so he’s a very happy guy and very happy professional who is ready to serve you and is well equipped to serve you. Right?
Speaking about props, your computer. It could be anything that you use in your work. And pick a location and a date. Just make sure that location also tells the story of what you want. Right? Do you want a city photoshoot? Do you want a photo shoot in your office? If you are a Reiki master, I had a Reiki master who I worked with, and she wanted to take pictures of her doing her Reiki session in the beautiful nature. It would be very different if she wanted to do a Reiki session at a New York City apartment setting. Be very mindful and careful about what you broadcast to the world.
Shifting your social media mentality
I would like you to think about what you post on your social media from the point of service, not the point of your own ego. Just let me repeat that. Post from the point of service, not from the point of your own ego. And just to illustrate this example, I would like you to close your eyes right now, close your eyes, and imagine an empty screen in front of you. And on that screen, imagine a red square. It could be any size anywhere on that screen. Just imagine. Think about where that red square is. Is it in the corner? Is it in front of you? Is it in the bottom right? Where is it? Is it on the side? Just think about it. Remember that picture. Okay?
Now open your eyes. What if I told you that that red square represents your ego? So how big it is, how big the square is, and where it is on that screen is how big your ego is and how much you broadcast to the world from the standpoint of your own ego, not the point of service to your prospect customer. Be mindful of that. Rethink your social media strategy. I’m wishing you success with your social media posts, your business in the future.