More threads by Garrett Sussman

Mar 15, 2016
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How to Take Amazing Photos for Your Local Business


Customers are judgmental.

In fact, we?re all judgmental, it?s scientifically proven. Contrary to popular belief, being judgmental is necessary. When customers look at your business they make a judgment call, automatically.

Yes, No or maybe.

It?s an unpopular thing to admit that we sort people, businesses and things based on their appearance.

But it?s true.

Job applicants who look the part often do better in interviews. Well-dressed people who drive nice cars are viewed as wealthy. Attractive, well-presented businesses are viewed as more successful.

This caused scientists to ask a question.

Are customers judgmental?


Alex Todorov and Janine Willis, Princeton University psychologists, discovered in their research that people respond to faces instantly.

Customers form first impressions in as little as 50 to 100 milliseconds.

Customers are making judgments about you and your business before they?ve had a chance to think about it. This first impression is visual and based almost entirely on emotion.

That?s a big problem.

We?re taught to believe a lie

The lie goes like this:

?It doesn?t matter what you look like on the outside, it?s what?s on the inside that counts.?

Remember that?

When it comes to marketing this is an absolutely dangerous lie. Customers should make judgments about the organizations they do business with.

The wrong choice can be devastating.

They can lose money, time and resources. They can be hurt, humiliated or punished for making the wrong choice.

Amazing photos guide a customer?s choice

Amazing photos, regardless of your industry, are important. They give customers the information they need to properly evaluate your business.

It shows customers what to expect.

Most of the time, this evaluation process operates at a subconscious level. Customers use the information they?ve accumulated to make instant, gut reactions. Their assessment is fuzzy, quick and imprecise.

What exactly are customers evaluating in your photos?

1. Ingroup/outgroup. Simply put, customers ask themselves the question, ?Are you like me?? If the answer is yes, the conversation continues.

2. Social class. Sadly, classism is viewed by many as the last acceptable prejudice in the world today. Customers use this to vet/validate the social standing of those they associate with.

3. Ethos and values. Every group has its own culture, its own set of values and norms. Customers expect your Ethos and values to align with theirs and the ethos and values of the group to earn their business.

4. Trustworthiness. ?Will you hurt me?? Customers want to know they?re safe with you. They?re looking to decrease risk, pain and suffering.

5. Social status. Businesses with high social status and high social capital command a considerable amount of respect and prestige. As people, we?re drawn to those around us who are exceptional in some way.

Local businesses tend to neglect photos, or they?ll simply post unflattering photos that position their business negatively.

Not good.

But customers are absolutely looking for more photos. How do we know that?

They tell us.

Poor imagery kills the sale

A recent study from the National Retail Federation found that 94 percent of customers felt image quality was ?very to ?somewhat important? in their buying decision.

Isolate women?s responses and that number climbs to 96 percent.

Look at Yelp?s top restaurants of 2017 and something interesting stands out. Each of these restaurants have hundreds and thousands of positive reviews and images.

Customers want to see?

  • High quality photos
  • Demand (e.g. lots of customers if you?re a service business)
  • Alternate views (e.g. different views of product/business)
  • Topic specific images (e.g. cakes, tables, interiors, etc.)
  • Color changes, where appropriate
  • True to life imagery (e.g. view on model, customer photo of food, etc.)
  • View(s) in a room

The keywords here are quality and variety.

Customers want to see your business from more than one perspective. More photos give them the ability to evaluate consistency.

You?ll never be able to take the perfect photo?

If you focus your time and attention on all these specific variables. It?s overwhelming and simply too much for the average business.

You still need amazing photos though.

So, what do you do?

You focus on your ideal customers, the customers you?d fight tooth and nail to keep. Then use photography to present your business in a way that wows them.

How do you do that?

You focus on their wants and needs. If you?re a fine dining restaurant looking for big spending regulars you show?

  • A pristine environment
  • Influencers who frequent your restaurant
  • A high class image (e.g. dinnerware, table cloth, attire, etc.)
  • Exclusivity markers (e.g. wait list, limited seating/hours)

If you know your customers, you know this is what they expect.

What if you?re the owner of a Blues and Jazz cafe, like Blues City Deli and you?re looking to attract more customers?

Andrew goes on to explain 4 steps for figuring out the best types of photos and getting them for your business.

Read the full article here.

Has anyone seen a spike in customer acquisition for their clients after adding photos to their GMB or Yelp listing?

I'm a level 5 local guide and though I haven't posted lots of photos, I've had a couple do really well, for views. The one I posted 2 months ago is sitting on 90K views. It's a simple photo of a meal I was having at a takeaway cafe. Another photo is a 360 of a harbourside beach and has 180K views. I have other photos they have not seen the same level of views. It's hard to pre-guess what will get noticed. I will add however, photos should be real and not too setup. Just like real reviews, people want to see real images and won't be fooled by glamour.
Thanks for the reply Paul.

I agree! I'm not a level 5 local guide, and don't take a ton of photos, but was surprised how many views the photos I have taken have received.

You're right about glamour photos as well. While it's good to have something on a GMB listing, it's much more effective if it's coming from actual customers. That being said, there are ways to highlight the business without the photos coming off as 'staged'. I think Andrew did a great job showing how that Blues City Deli was able to showcase their live music and lines out the door.

This reminds me that I need to take more business photos and up my local guides game (especially now that they launched additional levels and rewards for the program).
Yes thanks for weighing in with your thoughts Paul.

I was out yesterday so did not get a chance to read this yet but am looking forward to it!

Thanks Garrett!
Thanks for your kind words @Garrett Sussman and @Linda Buquet. I try and help businesses I visit by explaining their GMB listing and having good photos and encouraging customers to write about their experience. Usually, I get a blank stare. One particular new Persian restaurant owner I was talking to, listened to me intently. I went back 6 months later and he was doing very well. Over 100 reviews and some nice photos. The food there is excellent so it was a no-brainer, he just needed to get the word out. A big smile come over his face when I entered for a meal. I love it when that happens. It's a win-win.
Wow, 90k views? That's awesome.

I need to do a better job of taking photos when I visit places. It's definitely a big deal for any business to do, and this article really does a nice job explaining some of the finer points to consider.

I just need to remember to take out my phone while i'm out and snap a few good photos :p
True Eric! It's so easy to take pics now if you just keep it top of mind. That's why posts like this are great. They remind us what we sometimes know, but tend to overlook.

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