How to Create On-Brand Photos for Your eCommerce Store

February 20, 2019 - Holly Cardew

At Pixc, we always underscore the importance of having retail-ready photos on your eCommerce store.  We cannot overstate the impact of product images on your company’s bottom line, especially if your store exists solely online. And not to sound like a broken record, but good product photography leads to an increase in store engagement, sales conversions, and customer lifetime value.

But just as it is essential to have high-quality product images across your website and social media channels, it’s also vital that you have on-brand photos.

Your branding should be incorporated into everything that you do, from your logo to your marketing paraphernalia to your website design, and of course, your imagery. Branding defines your visual aesthetic and conveys your company’s personality. It’s also a way to differentiate yourself from the rest of your competitors and build brand awareness.

More often than not, people think of branding in relation to logo marks, color palettes, and taglines. But it’s more than just that. Part of creating a strong visual identity is maintaining consistent on-brand photography, so your brand becomes cohesive, put-together, and unique.

When you have consistent on-brand photos, you’re increasing the chances of brand recognition and creating an emotional connection with your consumers. Your audience would be able to name your brand right away once they come across marketing material that is unique to you and only you. And this is important because people generally gravitate towards the brands they trust and recognize.

On-brand photos help create consistency across your website, marketing, and social media

Let’s do a little experiment.

Think about your store for a minute and assess the current state of your branding. If a customer sees one of your photos, will they be able to tell in a heartbeat that it belongs to your brand?

If the answer is yes, then go ahead and close this tab. Keep up the good work! But if the answer is no, your branding still needs further improvement.

Take Girlfriend Collective, for example. The athleisure brand has successfully maintained minimalism and chicness throughout their website and social media. The images are simple, but not too bland. They’re colorful, but not too loud. The elements are kept to a minimum, but not too plain. They have defined a unique and brand-specific style and applied it across their eCommerce ecosystem.

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Girlfriend Collective has nailed the art of brand consistency in their website.
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Girlfriend Collective incorporated their brand style guide into their official Instagram page.

To achieve this type of visual consistency for your company, you need to create a style guide. Also referred to as a brand bible, a style guide serves as the blueprint or basis for every aspect of your company’s visual identity.

It dictates the fonts to use, colors to choose, filters to apply, mood to evoke, and more. It ensures that your brand is consistent across all channels and in every collateral you create. A style guide helps make sure that every piece of content is uniform, unique, and recognizable.

If your branding is inconsistent, customers might think you’re having some sort of identity crisis. Say, your

How to create a style guide for on-brand photos

Make no mistake. Building and tweaking a style guide is tough work. But the payoff is worth it in the end. When you have created a definitive style guide, you won’t have a problem communicating with designers, photographers, and other creatives how you want them to approach your brand. You won’t have to answer a million questions since everything has been laid out on the brand bible. You’ll get to spare yourself of headaches down the road.

To create a style guide for on-brand photos, here are the essential elements you should define:

  • Color Palette

Your color palette is one of the most essential facets of your brand identity. It’s important that you remain consistent across all your visuals.

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District Clothing’s Color Palette

If you want to use muted colors, then you should use that all throughout. If you want a more vibrant and fun vibe, everything else should reflect that. Avoid deviating from your color palette. Every piece of content you produce should be patterned after it.

  • Mood

Definite what you want your customers to feel when they see your brand imagery.

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Photography guidelines of Urban Outfitters
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Photography guidelines of Urban Outfitters
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Photography guidelines of Urban Outfitters

Do you want them to feel excited? Happy? Somber? Do you want them to feel that they could relate to your company? Figure out the visual “feel” you want your photography to evoke and lay those out in the style guide.

  • Composition

Composition refers to how you want your product to appear in a piece of content. Decide if you want to be front and center or shown in a subtle manner. Does it need to be a standalone product image at all times? Can it be placed beside a chunk of text? List down all the do’s and don’ts you want everyone to follow.

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Photography guidelines of Jamie Oliver
  • Location, Context, and People

When developing a style guide, you need to tailor it on your audience. If the majority of your target market are millennials, it makes sense if your photos feature their fellow millennials and have a vibrant, casual aura. If your audience is mostly comprised of business executives, then your photos should have a corporate setting and emanate a serious vibe. The rule of thumb is your brand photography must fit your audience’s interests and taste.

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Photography guidelines of Redfern
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Photography guidelines of Redfern

Imagery from Influencers

You can increase your chances of brand recognition if you seek the help of influencers. Since these people have huge followings, they can aid in solidifying your brand and raising brand awareness across your target audience.

Then again, it all depends on the pool of influencers you choose to work with. Granted, they typically charge a considerable amount of money to promote your brand, so you have to be careful in picking the right people to represent your company. You should take it as seriously as you would hiring an employee.

Only choose influencers that are the right fit for your brand. Ideally, they should be relevant within your niche. For example, if your eCommerce store is all about health and wellness, your chosen influencer should also have a personal brand centered around that.

When assessing an influencer, ask yourself the following: Is this person’s content aligned with mine? Is this someone that loves or could potentially love and advocate for my brand? Are they authentic with their messaging?

If the person ticks all those boxes, then they could potentially be a good fit. Working with someone who is not well-known in your industry would be rather pointless and a waste of resources.

To make sure that they add real ROI, you also have to verify that they have real followers instead of bots, have a well-engaged audience (people actually comment, share, and like their posts), and post often enough that they remain relevant to their followers.

It can be time-consuming to find influencers yourself, but if you have the resources and want an expert to do the sourcing for you, you can hire influencer marketing agencies to cull one for you. These agencies would be a matchmaker of sorts. All you would have to do is give them certain criteria and they would give you a shortlist of influencers to work with.  Platforms like Socialyte, Mediakix, Fohr, and Hire Influence are experts in these matters.

Once you’ve chosen an influencer, it’s time to pitch and collaborate. Influencers usually want free reign when they work on sponsored posts, so it’s best not to micromanage them. Instead, you can provide them with the style guide you’ve created so they can refer to it when crafting a post that would fit your brand.

One brand that does influencer marketing right is Away Travel.

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An influencer for Away Travel

Since they sell luggage and travel accessories, the company only works with influencers that are digital nomads or travel-oriented. The people they’ve chosen post pictures that are well in tune with the Away Travel brand: picturesque, vibrant, and fun.

As a result, Away was also able to use the content on their own Instagram page.

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How Away uses influencer images on Instagram

Imagery from Your Customers (User Generated Content)

Your brand will also greatly benefit from user-generated content (UGC).

If you think about it, your most loyal customers are technically your brand ambassadors or walking advertisements. Unlike influencers that have been paid to promote your brand, vocal customers rave about your products without being asked merely because they love them. These consumers produce content in the form of great reviews, blog posts, vlogs, tweets, and photos because they believe in your brand and want their peers to have the same experience.

UGC plays a big part in driving your sales. You’re only doing your brand a disservice if you refuse to make it a part of your marketing strategy.

For one, UGC screams authenticity. Unlike professionally-shot marketing photos that you commission, customer images are personalized and don’t usually have a smidgen of artifice. People are not setting up photo shoots to take the images. They typically produce shots in different settings and contexts, like wacky selfies and out-of-town trips.

Using them could do wonders for your brand. According to a survey conducted by leading visual commerce platform, Olapic, eCommerce platforms saw a massive 257% increase in sales conversions when their shoppers interacted with UGC. Additionally, ads that have a UGC element resulted in 15% more orders.

Including UGC in your marketing strategy can also help lower your overhead costs. Businesses often tend to blow money on photographers, designers, stylists, and other creative professionals to produce visuals.

User-generated content allows you to stretch your budget since you’ll only be sourcing directly from social media. It’s your choice to offer your fans a little freebie should you want to use their content, but generally, UGC should cost-free.

Skincare brand Supergoop integrates UGC in their social media strategy well.

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Supergoop uses UGC in their social media strategy.

They use the hashtag #butfirstsunscreen to parse through the hundreds and thousands of UGC on social media and pick the ones that fit their style guide best. Using a unique hashtag is a brilliant way to cut through the deluge of content you receive every day. Once you secured the rights from the owner, you can start using the image on your website, socials, and other marketing paraphernalia.

Another way of collecting UGC is through using platforms like Olapic, Crowd Riff, and Pixlee. These marketing tools can help you collect and curate images and suggest ways on how to best utilize them.

Ultimately, user-generated content not only helps you in coming across as authentic, it also builds rapport with your audience. They’ll be more inclined to trust your company as using UGC puts your customers in the front and center. It shows that you care about them, and you’re not just some capitalist that only cares about peddling products to them.

Conclusion

To produce on-brand photos, you have to be clear about how you want to present your company to your customers. You have to decide on a specific image and then develop a style guide centered around it. That way, you’ll be able to solidify your brand and make a lasting impression on your target audience.


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