Photography is not just an art form; it’s science and is used by the biggest corporations to capture your attention and your wallet.
This post is designed to inform and convince the sceptics that good professional photography is essential to promote a product or sales of a service. A combination of an artist’s eye, technology and psychology can ensure great results.
There is only one chance to make a good first impression, and visual content is the main tool to achieving this goal (Bell and Davison, 2013). One of the most generalized findings in the literature regarding the effectiveness of textual and visual images in the promotion of a specific product is that images are easier than words for consumers to remember or recognize. This phenomenon is known as the effect of the superiority of the image (Singh and Formica, 2007).
- 90% of the information processed by the brain is visual.
- The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text.
Scientists and hence their scientific literature analyses many aspects of photography and illustrates how technology has become a major influence for the review and selection of images. This is often purely to engage the human mind swiftly often with commercial intent but does focus on the human psyche and capacity to engage quickly in decision making.
Airbnb for example, in the short-term rental world, has Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) tools to root out the good from the bad and the great from the average photographs and has focused on these aspects in great detail. Not only that but looking at the staging of the images, angles, people positioning, shadows, and lighting all combined with their guest analysis tools ensures selective presentation to viewers.
This is a fundamental part of the whole transaction process on global commercial websites and although more personal and independent websites with much smaller traffic volumes and a few photographs of products or services may appear independent of this challenge, they aren’t. These advanced computer-based tools learn what people like, what they look at, and what they click on and naturally, those photographs that get the best results are considered favourites. An artist may well disagree, but most consumers are not artists, and most photographers need to have some form of the commercial need to survive, let alone thrive.
This summary paper has studied the benefits of good photography and shows how much percentage value is added to an Airbnb for example. Over a period of a year, a full-time traditional holiday destination rental can gross £25,000 and see a benefit of over £2,000 in booking value from great photography based on this paper. Over a 5 year period, the photographs will have paid for themselves at least 10 times over.
Photographs are data
Data science is the modern buzzword using AI and ML to drive the best consumer results as can be seen by this article. Although humans make the purchasing or enquiry decisions, it is often computers who rank the opportunity. Diving even deeper into the process Airbnb also knows that the right host photo adds more value too even though for an observer it’s not a conscious choice. Just imagine if Google were to rank a photographer’s site purely on the quality of the photographs it crawls!
Presentation is not just skin deep; it takes account of human evolution. Our eyes are connections to our brain, which unconsciously assimilates all aspects of an image and aligns and matches it to our beliefs, likes, dislikes, and our emotive and experiential nerve centres. This is our neurological data, and all done in a blink of an eye.
Whether you are photographing lifelong memories and family engagement at a wedding or shots of a new property sale for a developer or architect the consumer will literally see, acknowledge and engage, or not, within a seconds.
So many factors to consider
There are so many well-known rules for photography, such as the “rule of thirds”, but these are just tickling the surface of what is required when faced with challenging subject matter and conditions. Understanding the context, the final use of the photographs, considerations of the natural lighting, staging, colour compositions, activity, inclusions of people, pets, products and lots more. This is just the tip of the photography iceberg. Pointing and clicking are simply not good enough.
Even small and simple colour hues and slight changes to exposure can directly affect the immediate engagement results of individuals viewing photographs. With such little time to attract attention, this becomes a very important factor too. This is especially true where the choice is substantial, such as selecting a rental or hotel room or even forming great first impressions when looking at houses to buy. This paper examines rental properties and concludes:
Picture color cues signaled from property pictures positively affect rental purchase to the extent that properties displayed with warm-colored pictures are more likely to be rented than those with cold-colored pictures, textual cues related to color signaled from online guest reviews also positively affect rental purchase, and the consistency of picture color cues and textual cues related to color has a positive impact on rental purchase. However, we find a negative relationship between picture brightness and rental purchase
This is an extract from a paper about tourist destinations and how a Projected Image on Photographs (PIP) plays a significant part in the composition, and how imagery can be planned in a framework approach. Again this comes down to the combination of art and science, where understanding the psychological drivers associated with the image. There are many studies on the brain’s amygdala and the impact of photojournalism from powerful and striking images, an example here. In a more layman’s approach, it is clear that our own brains process, appreciate, and see an effect on our desires from certain images and some are famous worldwide having a commonality of effect.
The people, the activity type and the context are just three important categories in the capacity to grab attention and create an emotion or anticipation or a desire to explore further. This all ignores the technical challenges of the actual act of photography itself.
Photography is complex and needs looking at in contextual terms, but has hundreds of technical touch points too that need addressing by a photographer. Science parallels and supports art in its creativity, but with the advent of AI & ML, we are also witnessing a powerful force that provides a demographic vote from potentially millions of consumers. Online photo libraries evidence this.
Simply pointing and shooting is not good enough; the images may never find their way to the consumer or may not be appreciated or have any visual effect on a potential customer. The photographic world is becoming increasingly technologically sophisticated, but also with a need to understand how the human mind works and how those fabulous photos can be created.