By nature, people are visual creatures and we’re naturally attracted to images, especially those containing people. Marketers have found out long ago that using striking imagery accompanied with smart copy can affect people and their behaviour towards products and brands.

Once upon a time in advertising, almost every image used anywhere was shot by a professional photographer. Regardless of whether the photo was for a full page ad in a glossy magazine or was just a thumbnail product shot for a brochure, a professional was brought in.

With the advent of digital cameras and online marketing, the talented photographer was used less and less. Fair quality product shots were taken in-house and much of the first rate photography was replaced by “just good enough” material – a hodgepodge of stock photos and “stuff taken by George down the hall.” Surely those of us in marketing and communications should be using the photographer more and more not less and less.

Our brain decodes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. Visuals are perceived faster and evoke stronger emotions. The social networks that grew the most last year are purely image based; Pinterest and Tumblr to name two. If you ask people to describe their favourite ad images, almost all of them feature remarkable photography, painstakingly created by top photographers specifically for a certain campaign.

After a decade of steady decline in both the quality and quantity of truly crafted, professional photography, I can see a trend. It’s a small trend, but an important one. It is the return of the professional photographer. After years of fudging the visuals, many companies are rediscovering the power of a truly great image.

The human eyes and brain are still more sensitive to small visual details than any machine and infinitely more skilled at fast mapping messages from those details. The tiniest features can sway powerful emotions, something that is worth investing in.

Companies are also rediscovering the creative potential of bringing in a living, breathing, thinking photographer into the marketing mix. There really is no substitute for photos taken specifically for a single purpose. A living, breathing photographer can give any creative project a personal touch that will project onto the brand and into the marketplace.

I don’t think we will ever see the photographer reach the position of advertising’s golden age, but I do think that for companies that put a premium on their brands, custom photography will become an increasingly powerful competitive tool. Bring in the photographer to the creative process early on. (Visual Content Optimization is more compelling then Search Engine Optimization).

One of my consistently good favourites. Lavazza’s calendars from the most recent Earth defenders day to Ferdinando Scianna´s warm Mediterranean classic Italy.

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