This article originally appeared on the Prime Design Solutions website.

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One of the most common misconceptions when marketing a business is the belief that in order to be successful, you need a fancy website, a mobile app to go with it, a huge follower base on social media, and all kinds of print collateral on hand (brochures, flyers, posters). Having these materials will improve your chances of reaching potential customers, it’s true — but in marketing, quality is more important than quantity. There’s one component of quality marketing we often fail to acknowledge, or maybe understand at all: quality images.

For any marketing strategy to effectively fulfill its intended purpose, what we’re putting out there must be a good representation of our business, both in content and in visuals. Most photographs used in advertising come from:

  • Our own abilities. These are photos we take ourselves, usually on an iPhone or a point and shoot camera. These are often low quality — unless you own and know how to operate a decent camera.
  • Stock photos. These are quality images available for purchase online with a monthly or annual subscription. Stock photos are fine, but they aren’t unique to your business — in fact, they are shot with the express goal of being useful to a wide range of businesses. If the stock image is well-done, often you’ll find the same image on two different websites run by competing companies! It’s embarrassing, but hard to avoid — these images are available for use to anyone who purchases them, and it makes sense that similar companies (say, medical supply companies) would both choose the same stock image of a clerk in a retail environment showing a customer a wheelchair. These disadvantages aside, good stock photos are a decent option in some applications, but at their worst, they can be downright cliched.
  • Quality images by a professional photographer. This is the best option for showcasing your work and your business through any media. These photos are both high quality and unique to your business. Customers are able to get a real look at the quality of your products/services, the service offered by your employees, your business environment and more.

Let’s say you have a graphic designer create a brochure to promote your business at an important event that could result in an enormous amount of business for your company. This brochure is key to getting potential customers to visit your website, where they have access to more information about your products and services. Consider your content – it goes much further than just the copy. What visuals are you using in your brochure? People relate to real images of what a business offers. They want to see what you’ve already done and what you could do for them. If the photos aren’t doing your work justice, you’re selling yourself short — and the customer won’t visit your site.

Graphic design lays the stage to elegantly showcase what you do. If you give the artist a couple of low resolution images that you snapped on your iPhone while running to your next meeting, you might as well throw that brochure in the garbage now. Not even the best graphic designer can make a lousy photo look good. And a lousy photo is enough to ruin a well-designed piece of art and make your business look unprofessional.

When I’m looking to purchase something that’s made by ten different companies and I visit a website full of dark, grainy images that are out of focus and unattractive, why would I purchase from that company? Am I to assume that the product is better than what I’m seeing in front of me? My first response is return to my initial search where I have nine other sites offering the exact same product. I am much more willing to do business with any of them simply because the product looks better, and the company has taken the time and effort to show that to me. Crisp, vibrant images give me more confidence that what I’m seeing is what I’ll get. Having an up-to-date and multi-functional website is very important. What you put on that site is equally important. (That includes, by the way, professional, recent portraits of your staff, if you use them. Too often, businesses use headshots that are just snapshots, or photos that are obviously out-of-date.)

That’s why custom, quality photography is a great investment for your business. Spend a couple extra bucks and watch the return. You wouldn’t design your own website if you weren’t a graphic designer, so why would you take the responsibility of taking the photos if you aren’t a professional photographer? Having quality images reflects more than just the quality of your product, but the dedication to your business and making sure your work is showcased in the best light possible.

If you’re looking to update your website, improve your Facebook Page, or print new inserts for your mailing list, consider what you have archived photo-wise. Hire a professional photographer to capture the shots that will draw attention to your business and help customers understand the personality behind your brand. Make sure you archive these shots for use in all marketing applications. People like to know who they’re doing business with and what they can expect if they choose to do business with you. So use real photos, and make sure they are a proper representation of your company and your work.