When it comes to imagery for your new (or existing) website, actual photographs and real videos are always the highest and best choice.
For years, accountants used website templates filled with typical stock photos, tax calculators, and all the same content as everyone else.
Now it’s become evident that your website needs to step up several levels to really impress your visitors: and photography is a big part of that.
The websites we build for accountants that include real photography (of the firm’s team, offices, locations, events, and clients) are always the ones that get the best feedback. The firms not only get more compliments on their site, but more enquiries from both prospects and potential team members. The team at Whittaker CPA’s in California discovered that potential recruits would check out their site first before applying, and then when they came to the offices would say, “Oh! So those people really do work here – and those actually are your offices! How cool!”
It adds credibility. People visit your site, and when they visit you, the two match. That’s what you want out of a website.
If you’re going to get a professional photographer to take photographs for your site, it’s not enough to set them loose on your team and hope all goes well. You need to give them some direction so that the photographs they take are a fit with your brand, your new site, your services, your people. And it is definitely not enough to simply point them to some other accountant’s site and say “Take photos like this.” All that will do is make your website look like someone else’s, and that’s not a brand fit at all.
So, here are my tips for giving direction to your photographer (or videographer) in line with your new site build, or a refresh of your existing site:
1. Be clear about your brand.
The more you can give your photographer in terms of your brand, the more relevant your photographs will be. Let them know what words define you, so their imagery reflects that.
- If you have a brand identity document, share that with your photographer.
- If you don’t have one of those, use this 7 step process to come up with a style and tone of voice sheet. (If you’re a PF client, we’ll do this for you as part of our monthly outsourced work with you.)
2. Share examples of photographs you like.
I would strongly recommend that you find photographs that are NOT from other accountancy firm websites. This is because it will be tempting for you to ask your photographer to “do what this other firm did”, and that won’t set you apart.
Think about the overall image you want to portray as a firm, and find companies who do that well. Whether it’s a brewery or a creative agency or a dentist’s office, think about the impression you want to give with your photos. “Warm and professional” is not enough.
3. Make sure to ask for both landscape and portrait sized photographs.
When selecting imagery to use for website builds, it helps immensely if we have a variety of sizes of similar shots. For example, if you have a picture of the whole team laughing and throwing paperwork around, but it’s in portrait style, we won’t be able to use it for a banner image on your home page. Conversely, if we need a small thumbnail image for a small section on another page, portrait will work perfectly.
Ideally, you will hire a photographer who shoots many images, and either gives you all the digital files, or at least gives you a variety of options to choose from in purchasing the license to use the ones that fit best.
4. Ask for some photographs with lots of “empty space”.
Think about the websites you like the look of. Often they have a photograph that fits into the header section of the page, with words or a key message to the left or right. It’s amazing how they fit that perfectly, isn’t it? That was most likely by design, and by direction to the photographer. If the photograph is filled with people or filled with ‘stuff’, it’s hard to fit in the words. Have plenty of photos that leave empty space so the image can be used in a variety of ways.
5. Have the new website design ready before the photographs are taken.
Your photographer needs to know how the photographs they take will fit into your website design. Are there certain colours to use, or not use? Will you mostly need broad banner-type photos, or will there be lots of individual shots? How much empty space will be needed, and where?
When we’re building a site, we often suggest that we get to the design of the home page mockup before the photographer starts shooting. Otherwise, you can have a conflict of designs, and waste a lot of time.
6. For individual team photos, think carefully about the image you want to portray.
The old approach of accountants in suits, standing against a white wall, with arms crossed, is a bit outdated. All that says is that you are the typical accountants (or they might even think you are lawyers) and there’s no personality at all.
You don’t have to have everyone laughing, or dancing, or wearing silly hats. It needs to fit with your brand and style. But you do need to show a little personality so that your site visitors connect with the team as real people. Humanity is the key.
I know – believe me, I know – how hard it can be to get a team of accountants to open up, to be willing to share their personality and style, to have fun.
Here are a few things you can do with your team:
- Explain clearly the purpose of these photos, how they will be used, and how it will help the whole firm and the people who visit the site. Ask them for ideas of how you can show personality so that people understand what your firm is really like.
- Bring the photographer in without a camera at first, to meet the team and hang out with them. Go out to the pub and spend a little time together so they are comfortable with this person.
- Look at other websites (not accounting websites) for ideas of photographs you could take.
- Bring in a few boxes of “props” and have the team go through them and pull out things that reflect them. If nothing fits, go out and buy more props – even at the pound shop or the dollar store. Keep it simple. Let them enjoy the process.
- Meet with the photographer and the whole team to discuss all of the above items, or work together with them.
Our experience is that most people already know what accountants do. What they really want to know is, are you trustworthy people? Are you kind people? The type of people they could see having a conversation with? Get that across in your photographs.
7. Make sure you have items in the background that are on-brand.
Having your brand in the background helps a lot for website photos and points out that these are real, not stock images. This could include mugs, signs on the wall, an iPad open to your website, coasters, etc.
8. Use a variety of combinations in group shots.
These photographs are going to be used for months if not years of marketing. For various reasons, there may be people who in future times are not with you anymore – or whose appearance has changed significantly. To ensure that your photographs are still useful down the road, ask your photographer to take a variety of combinations that are easy to edit. That way, if one person isn’t there, you can crop them out of the far left, and still use the group photograph. If they are front and centre of every single image, you may need to hold an entirely new photo shoot every time people change.
9. BONUS: You can still use stock images if you do it well.
If you’re not ready to hire a photographer yet for any reason, remember that you can use all the above guidelines to help you select and adapt stock imagery so that it reflects your brand well. Choose images that fit your brand and style, have a graphic designer edit them to include your logo or elements of your logo, choose a variety of sizes, etc.