The Way We Work
March 5, 2012 by Julia Camenisch

Attention spans are shorter than ever. Few potential customers will bother reading web copy unless you draw them in. One tactic that is driving remarkable amounts of web traffic may stem from an overused cliché — but the truth is that it works.

A photo is worth a thousand words — and you need to find a way to show your portfolio’s good side.

Finding the right images will allow you to get your message across quickly and efficiently to your customers and clients. They can add character and personality to your company, show off your work to a new audience and capture interest in even mundane subjects.

The power of the visual is evidenced in the rise of popular image and photo-sharing sites such as Instagram and Pinterest — their growth suggests this is not just another passing trend. You do not want to be left out!

Use images to tell stories

Ask yourself: “What type of image best communicates what my work is all about?” Photographers and graphic designers likely do not need to dig too deep to showcase their expertise. But what if your work is not so visually inclined?

Social Media Camp 2011 by deanmeyersnet, on Flickr

"Social Media Camp 2011" by deanmeyersnet

Infographics are one tool data-driven professionals can turn to. Even before the rise of the infographic, designer Nicholas Felton looked at the idea of the “personal annual report” — different pieces of information shaped to create an impression of his year: iced coffees consumed, slides created, days spent at work, houseplants killed.

Images can reveal behind-the-scenes insight, give sneak peeks at new products or showcase your latest inspiration. Mind maps and visual notes can guide people through your ideas in an engaging way.

Indulge your inner paparazzi

There are photos that capture an image. And then there are photos that capture a moment of art. Sometimes the difference between the two is as simple as applying basic photographic principles.

Before you get snap-happy, though, remember these pointers:

  • Get close to your subject so that viewers immediately know what the focal point is.
  • Reveal at least a little of the environment so the picture has a greater depth of interest.
  • Make sure you have adequate lighting so that the picture is more than just a collection of blurry shadows.
  • Look for different takes on your subject, whether in the angle or the setting. Nothing grabs attention like the unexpected!

For more on how to take good pictures, check out LifeHacker’s excellent series on The Basics of Photography. This extra bit of reading is worth your time and can make a big difference in the storytelling power of your photos.

Make it Two-Way

Spark conversations by using pictures to get feedback, highlighting customers’ photos and commenting on or pinning photos from other people.

Starbucks has done an excellent job of this through their Instagram outlet: They encourage customers to post their Starbucks-related pictures using a special hashtag, then the coffee giant posts those pics on their website using the Instagram API.

Choose the right site or app for your audience

Photo-sharing apps are one of 2012’s hottest trends. Here is a rundown of some of the big names and how to make use of them:

Pinterest:
With a mainly female user base, Pinterest has a strong focus on creative design ideas — whether that be fashion, home decoration, photography or food. Use the site as an online catalog, portfolio, visual newsletter or photo directory. The site’s users are actively searching for the latest and greatest, so add hashtags to photos to make them easier to find. Also, regularly add new “pins” so your work shows up consistently in users’ feeds.

Tumblr:
Tumblr is the blogging home of the young and media driven. The focus of the site is easy content sharing; a large percentage of Tumblr users post photos, and these visuals definitely seem to drive the site. Make the most of it by using hashtags and writing SEO-friendly copy. Also, keep text short and to the point.

Instagram:
This iPhone app — android coming soon — gives your smartphone photos a professional look, then allows you to share them with the world. Photos also show up inside the app as a feed that others can follow — the secret to Instagram’s incredible popularity. The site has become its own social network — one solely focused on photography. Many companies are jumping into this photo fray. For more on effective Instagram strategies, check out this post by Jason Keath.

Twitter Images:
Thanks to what many in the blogosphere have been referring to as the #newnewTwitter, which arrived this past December, photos included in your tweets now have an icon that allows instant viewing. No more trying to entice followers to click on undecipherable links! As with the other photo-sharing sites, use hashtags and descriptive captions to increase the visibility of each picture-containing tweet.

Ready to join the photo-sharing community? If you still struggle with where to start, think of yourself as your own paparazzi: Consider your business with a photographer’s eye. Watch for moments and images that will connect with your customers then find the best way to capture the moment.

Have you been using images to increase your business’s visibility? In the comments section below, tell us how you decide what images to share and where you post them.


Julia Camenisch

Contributing Author

Julia Camenisch is a freelance technology and business journalist. She also works as an editor and copywriter for a wide range of clients, including national magazines, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Julia brings to oDesk a passion for empowering small businesses through the innovative use of technology.