Why Visual Storytelling?
It’s safe to assume that most of us have heard the expression a picture paints a thousand words? Agreed it may well be a bit cliche, but the only reason a cliche, IS a cliche is it’s probably true.
I mean think about it. Imagery is very much built into our humanity as visual beings.
From cave paintings to ancient hieroglyphics humans have been communicating stories through imagery even before the written word was invented. Photography is just an extension of that – a visual medium to transmit and share ideas and stories with others.
How does storytelling photography work?
Storytelling photography is a technique that uses storytelling elements to create a visual story. It can be used in various applications, from websites and social media to marketing campaigns and traditional print advertisements.
By incorporating visual storytelling elements into your business marketing, you can engage your audience and potentially inspire action or deeper thought about your brand or message.
The viewer sees your images through their own eyes, so it becomes an interactive experience for them.
And remember that the more your audience sees your visual story the more familiar they’ll become with you. The more familiar they are with you, the more likely their preference for you will grow too – Mere Exposure Effect.
Why creating a visual story matters.
Visual storytelling is a powerful way to build trust with your audience. According to marketing experts, people are more likely to buy from someone they trust and visual storytelling is one of the most effective ways to quickly build that trust. It’s also a great way to make your brand stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Research has show that web traffic grows 12 times faster when you use visual content online!
Visual storytelling engages your audiences on both an emotional and visual level, which means it can be used for all kinds of purposes—from selling your products or services, promoting events and programs, or simply connecting you with your ideal customers.
Where do you start?
Anyone can take a photograph. Pretty much every adult (anyone over the age of 10, if not younger!) in the modern world has access to a camera phone these days, but is it going to be consistent with your brand and does it tell your story?
To do this we need a framework and a plan. I use a story brand framework.
The StoryBrand Framework by Donald Miller is a process that helps you clarify your marketing strategy messaging by leveraging the principles of story. I’m not going to cover the framework in detail as this is a whole subject in itself but I do highly recommend his book.
A story is a sequence of events that takes the audience on a journey. The hero (your ideal customer) is the main character who faces obstacles and experiences change. This can be broken down into stages:
- You have the main hero or character (this is your client)
- They have some sort of problem or need (and of course, could do with some help to solve it)
- They meet a trusted advisor or guide (This is you and your business)
- You guide them to find a solution to their problem (how you can solve their problem)
- That encourages them to take action (Get in contact with you)
- Leading to the sale
- Success! Their problem has been solved and they love you for it!
No matter what industry you’re in, by keeping the framework in mind you can brainstorm each section and start building your photography plan.
General Storytelling considerations when building your framework
- Uniqueness and Contrast: In storytelling, using unique events, or settings can make the narrative stand out and be more memorable. A story that includes unexpected or contrasting elements captures your audience’s attention.
- Emotional Engagement: Stories that evoke strong emotions are more likely to be remembered. The emotional impact creates a distinct experience that stands out.
- Visual and Sensory Details: Incorporating vivid descriptions and imagery creates a more immersive experience. These details aid in memory retention – See my article on The Von Restorff effect.
- Suspense and Surprise: Stories that build tension or include unexpected twists are more likely to capture and maintain the audience’s attention.
How to incorporate storytelling photography in your website and marketing plan.
When it comes to storytelling photography, the best way is through your website. Think about the first time you landed on a website and what you saw. If it was just a ton of text, that might not have been very engaging or interesting for you to read. But if they had some beautiful images that told an interesting story?
Well, then that would be something else entirely!
You want to use storytelling photography as a way for people who are visiting your site for the first time (or even those who have already visited) to learn more about what makes up your brand, service offerings and how they can benefit from working with you or using your product/services.
This will help create a visual story that will engage them enough to feel compelled enough with what they see to continue further into the content you have on display thereon getting in contact and taking action (aka “converting”).
The power of problem-solving.
When you’re creating a story, it is important to show how your product or service solves the customer’s problem. You also have to show how it helps the customer achieve their goals and feel better. Remember: Your narrative is only as good as its characters and their actions with those goals.
Think about car advertisements for a moment.
A car is a box on wheels. It transports you from one place to another and back again.
The visuals tell us a different story. It could be the open road, a sense of freedom. They provoke our emotions, and we imagine ourselves driving on that coastal road with no other traffic for miles.
The driver. The hero that you imagine as yourself. The trusted advisor is the “car brand” (guide) you trust to take you on this journey and help you solve your “problem” – A car you can imagine yourself driving and feeling great about that causes you to book a test drive at the local dealership!
Provoke curiosity within the viewer.
You’ve decided It’s time to create your visual content and now you want to start shooting or work with a photographer. This is where you need to keep your audience in mind so that they will be captivated by the story.
- Who are they?
- What are their needs?
- What do they like?
- What are their goals?
When someone sees something that resonates with them, it stimulates their curiosity – they want more!
But don’t give away everything all at once either! If you give away too much then people won’t engage because there’s no longer any mystery left for them.
Examples & Ideas
Just a few thoughts to spark ideas for your business.
- Photography of your ideal customer struggling – e.g. for a plumbing business, you may want images of water coming through a ceiling – Problem!
- A client on the phone looking stressed or upset
- Your products being used in an actual situation and showing why it’s better
- We have your headshots – the customers know what you look like (remember, familiarity builds trust)
- Photos of your staff so your customers can see the people that make your business work. (More familiarity & transparency)
- Images of any equipment or tools you use and maybe videos of you using it
- What to expect. Series of photographs showing the experience of working with you. for example a visit to an Osteopath
- Behind-the-scenes photos of you and your team working
- Before and after photographs of a job well done or;
- A happy client photograph next to a quote from their testimonial
By now I’m hoping you’re starting to form a series of images in your mind about your own business.
Struggling with story ideas for your business?
A method I use for inspiration is to use something like Pinterest or Google image search and use keywords, related to your industry, but also your story ideas. I then collect ideas together into “Pinterest Boards” and use that as a basis to then build into the photography plan framework. Feel free to have a look at my Pinterest account.
Storytelling photography has the power to connect people on a deeper level. By creating a visual narrative for your brand, you’re engaging your audience at a much more personal level. Think about:
- Images that will relate to your hero (Your ideal customer)
- Your headshot makes you recognisable and identifies you as a trusted advisor
- Images related to their problem and the story of them being solved
- Images showing the transformation (the problem solved)
We’ve now completed the visual narrative and made the customer the focus of it. Creating curiosity within the viewer and ultimately leading them to where you want them. A happy paying client.
Would like to stand out from your competition using storytelling photography?
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