Photo by Robert Spore, our agency's photographer
Photo by Robert Spore, our agency’s photographer

The other day I was reading a blog post that proclaimed it was gathering tips from five “social media power users.” One of the tips in that post was, “Don’t use photos that are too professional looking.” The rationale, I suppose, was that if you share photos that are a little blurry or a little out of focus you look more “human” or more authentic. If you follow that line of thinking, it makes sense to assume the stance that anyone can be a photographer. Let’s face it, almost anyone can hold up a phone and push a button. If you aren’t interested in results, you are going to be in great shape.

The issue of professional photography has become increasingly contentious over the last year or so. Last year, for example, the Chicago Sun-Times made big news itself when it announced it was firing all of its photographers. Journalists could take photos just as well as anybody else. Why pay two people when you could pay one?

If you are using your photos for your own personal social media presence, unprofessional photographs are ok in some contexts. I certainly am a horrible photographer, yet I subject my online connections to my images on a fairly regular basis. Would I ever use my photography for a client project, however? Absolutely never. Under no circumstances whatsoever.

The fact is that in the online world and really in any kind of marketing context, images associated with your company are going to represent the first impression anyone will get of your company, of your brand, and of your professionalism. The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words definitely still holds true. If a person sees an ad with pixelated images, they probably are going to feel, even if they don’t know 100% why, that your company is not all that credible. If your Facebook fan page is filled with images that are blurry and out of focus, people will lose interest. After all, if you don’t care enough to present yourself in the best way possible, why should someone outside your company care about you at all?

Apart from the aesthetics that good photography can provide, there are also technicalities that would be difficult for an amateur photographer to understand. For example, different marketing tactics require different kinds of images. Should your images be saved out as RGB or CMYK? Should your images be low-resolution or hi-resolution? At what DPI should the image be provided? How should lighting be set up so that the true color of the product is presented?

Photography is like any fine art. Anyone can try to emulate a professional, but the fact is that certain talent, certain knowledge, and certain skills are required in order to be successful. The ultimate question for your company, in the end, is how much a professional image matters to you. If you feel that how your company is presented via your images is not important, then yes, anyone can be a photographer. If you want to come across as a credible, professional, polished company, you will want to reconsider.