How Ugly Photos Can Affect Your Business, and How to Combat Them

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If it’s true that we eat with our eyes first, then you can understand how important it is for restaurants to have good photography. The same goes for salons, yoga studios, clothing boutiques, and really any type of business where aesthetics and first impressions matter.

Of course, businesses wouldn’t pay a professional photographer for sub-par photos, but problems arise when customers and other amateur photographers snap pictures with their phones and post them online. A combination of factors like bad lighting, poor composition, and unflattering angles can result in some seriously unappealing photos. And when these images end up online, they have the power to deter prospective customers.

On the flip side, there’s proof that good photography can boost business.

In a project for Canon, Copenhagen-based creative agency Uncle Grey enlisted the company’s social media influencers to take 327,000 high-quality photos of small businesses in Scandinavia, which they then posted on Google’s Local Guides. The effort resulted in an increase in sales for nearly half the businesses, and Google also changed its algorithm to favor higher-grade images, according to AdAge.

So, as a small business owner, what can you do to ensure that images of your business attract and impress potential customers? You might not be able to keep every amateur photographer from posting their poorly lit, unappealing images on social media, but you can take steps to ensure that you control your brand’s image online.

Here are some tips for getting gorgeous, professional-looking images (with or without a professional):

Only shoot in natural light: The latest smartphones have impressive cameras, meaning that you can shoot high-quality images without investing in an expensive camera or lenses. Still, you want to restrict yourself to shooting in sunlight. Properly lighting a space for photography is an expensive, time-consuming process best left to the pros. Trust us: Even the best dish on your menu is no match for bad artificial lighting.

Create an environment worth photographing: Take a look at your business and your offerings — even in the best light, are they ’grammable? Does your shop need a coat of paint and a decor do-over? If you run a café or restaurant, could your coffee drinks and pastries use some zhuzhing? Does your retail store need some fresh merchandise? If you need to make some aesthetic upgrades, even the best images aren’t enough, so make the necessary changes before you focus on photos.

Feature great shots by customers: Your loyal customers aren’t trying to ruin your business with their smartphone photos. In fact, some of them are probably really talented. Check your hashtags and any other social mentions and repost some of your favorite customer photos on your social media accounts, and consider rewarding featured users with a discount or free gift. You might not only widen your audience but also incentivize other customers to shoot and post high-quality photos of your business.

Team up with photography students: Get inspired by the Canon small business project and invite photography students from local high schools, colleges, or community classes to shoot and post images of your business. Not only are you providing them with a creative project and professional experience, but you also get a chance to see your business from many different perspectives while expanding your reach — and attracting new customers.