Are you using photos in the wrong way?

Choosing what photos to use in your content is a lot harder these days.

Sure, there are more places to buy photos (or not buy; some are free). But it means you’ll also need more time to browse their libraries, to pull you out what you need.

Of course, adding an image to your copy should take careful doing. Gone are the days when you could use any old image and no one would care.

Thanks to the pressure of creating high-quality content, photos now play a different role in your business than before.

But before we get to what that role is, I’d like to share with you my own mistake with using photos online.

One that surprised the heck out of me.

The usual hunt for photos

This was back in 2013, back in my early days of starting a business online. At the time I was working on web copy for a website aimed at party planners, helping the client communicate their ideas more clearly.

And who doesn’t love a good party, right?

I got excited about the types of photos I was going to be using. They were going to show fun, colour, people enjoying themselves.

I began trawling paid stock photo libraries like iStock and Dreamstime for the right images. One by one, the photos went live alongside the copy and my ideas for this project began to take shape.

Only, there was a problem brewing.

For one thing, I was already feeling hemmed in by the photos these libraries had on offer.

Too many of the models felt posed. You might know the type of model I mean: perfect white teeth, perfect tans, all happy.

But more than that – once the photos were on the site, there was something a little off-putting about them. Not necessarily the images themselves, but something was jarring with the site in a major way and I couldn’t think what.

So I just asked the subscribers.

Their reply?

“We can’t see ourselves in your photos.”

When your photos work against you

couple-tinsel-frameIt was an epic answer.

Really, it was spot on.

Because, try as I might with my photo choices, what we showed was trying too hard to be the intended audience like the couple in this photo.

(Do these look like party goers having a good time to you?)

And straight away I understood what photos weren’t.

They’re not there to decorate a website (or copy.)

They’re not there to “look nice.”

They’re not even… photographs.

Your photos should always fulfill a purpose in your content, for example help illustrate a point.

But there’s something else photos are: they’re a form of content.

How photos should speak

And like any type of content online (text-based, video, audio), photos should also be doing the job of engaging your prospects.

To get them to connect with your business message and brand.

The cliché you might know about photos – “a photo speaks a thousand words” – holds true even more so online. Because with the right photos, you can communicate to your audience that you understand their lives, who they are, how they live.

And the best way of doing that, is by using photos that reflect back who your particular audience is.

For example, say you’re a career coach who serves creatives and the arts sector, the type of client whose world doesn’t fit the regime of 9 to 5 work.

For your clients to feel connected with you, you need to get into their world. So you would choose photos related to their workspace, gadgets and the tools they use. You’d also use photos featuring people who look like them.

You want your prospects to feel right at home.

So including office spaces that looked ripped from corporate business magazines? With everyone in suits and posing in meetings?


(Unless your clients do live that way, that is.)

Are you living in their world?

So take a look at your ebook, blog and website photos and ask yourself the following questions?

  • Do your photos represent your audience at all?
  • If you went around to your ideal client’s house, would what they owned be how you’d represented them in your business?
  • Do your photos feel natural and relaxed (as opposed to stiff and posed)? Do your photos make your audience nod and smile in acknowledgement, when they see them?

If you’re not getting a yes to all of these, it may be time to turn things around.

Just one final quick tip:

If you want to include people in your photos, have them doing something – taking an action. Try and avoid them posing in some way. Action photos are always inspiring.