The use of questionable photography and imagery in digital ads to promote programs and events can drastically affect ad engagement and click-through-rates. And as much as a simple photo shouldn’t affect those metrics, it really, really does.
Ads are often the “first impression” you give your consumers who are looking for a specific something, but understandably, program and event organizers aren’t always photographers or have an eye for good marketing design.
A clear, concise and enticing image in your ad that captures the look and feel of your program, is the gateway to peaking your consumers’ interests and enticing them to learn more. Think of the photos in a restaurant ad—if the food looks delicious, you’re more likely to bring your family and give it a try.
Take a look at the breakdown below for a few simple photography tips to keep in mind to make the most of your ad space. No, you won’t be an expert, but you’ll begin to start thinking more critically about the assets you create and how they help you reach your end goal.
Create a Style Guide
The imagery you use in your ads needs to reflect what your event or program is all about. It doesn’t need to tell your end consumer everything, but it does need to give them a glimpse into what you offer. For example, let’s say you run a summer camp that’s big on recreational adventures for older kids. You might want to have your pictures look more remote or rugged, and less like your campers sit around a BBQ pit and roast s'mores. Sit down and list out a few words that describe your program or event, who your target audience is, and the look and feel you want to convey—be consistent, apply these same parameters to your website design, your e-blasts, mailers, etc.
Be a Copycat
Okay, okay—don’t take this one literally, but research other successful programs and events in your space and compare how they shoot their ads. Are they product focused, are they featuring kids and families? Are they colorful with lots of text, or more minimalistic? You can sometimes find inspiration in your competitors’ ads, and tweak their look and feel to reflect your own event. On the flip side, you can learn just as much by seeing how terrible some ads can be, identifying why they’re terrible and doing your best to not make the same mistakes.
Consider the Platform
Unfortunately, photography-based ads don’t follow a “one-size-fits-all” format. When shooting your ads, keep each platform’s requirements in mind. Instagram, Facebook, banner ads, e-blast ads, etc. all use different images sizes that require different amounts of cropping. Of course these can all feature the same subject, but while shooting, remember you’ll need to take multiple shots (different angles, tighter and from a distance) to give yourself the space to edit the images and add any text appropriately.
Keep it Simple
Unless you’re a larger event with an equally large budget to play around with, you don’t need to go out and spend a fortune on good photography. Often, reaching out to your local college or putting out feelers on Facebook for good local photographer recommendations can yield similar results at a fraction of a price (don’t be afraid to shop around and compare quotes). In a similar vein, owning your own gear is great, but unless you’re a trained professional, buying expensive camera gear and lighting can be a costly (and often unnecessary) investment and a serious headache.
Have a Plan
Don’t show up to a shoot expecting the photographer to lead you in the right direction—it’s his or her job to clearly capture your intended vision. Spend a significant amount of time thinking about what types of shots you’ll need for each medium, which are product versus subject focused and what you want your audience to take away from the ad. Jot down a list of must-haves, a list of want-to-haves and a list of nice-to-haves to prioritize your photographer’s time. Consulting with your photographer before the day of the shoot is also a great way to convey your vision and digest any feedback he or she might have for you.
Check (and Double Check) for Mistakes
Just as you likely aren’t a trained photographer, you’re likely not a copywriter or editor either. Be sure to proof everything a few times for errors—and enlist your business partners or family members to do the same—before you send the final drafts or click publish. Look at the dates, prices, links and text for any spelling errors, and make sure the photo is the correct resolution, cropped correctly, is the right type of file and doesn’t have any imagery that is off-brand or inappropriate. Also, be careful if children are the subjects in your ads—you likely need to have a waiver signed by their parent or guardian.