Consistency = Confidence: How Stock Photography Can Work Against Your Brand

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I believe that successful brands are built on three things: credibility, relevance and differentiation. Cheesy stock photos can hurt you in all three areas…
Source: BNBranding


Today we are tackling a big topic: the relationship between your brand, stock photography, and COVID.  As many businesses navigate through the COVID crisis, their marketing strategies are now including elements like updated health & safety protocols, COVID measures, and reopening guides.


As you start to capture your safety conscious brand, you might not have on-brand images to pair with your messaging. Is this important? Are stock images okay? How do I start? We have all the answers for you here!


Do I have to use images in my branded marketing? 

The easiest way to teach people who you are is to include visuals in your messaging. We know you might think we’re biased on this topic, so we’ve filled this section full of stats to support our love for visual marketing!

    • Photos guide us towards purchasing: According to MDG Advertising, 67% of online shoppers rated high-quality images as being “very important” to their purchase decision – more so than “reviews and ratings”! Additionally, 68% of marketers rank images as more valuable content than text and video.
    • Good imagery helps us learn and remember: Nearly two-thirds of people say they’re visual learners, in fact our brains process visual information approximately 60,000 times faster than text content! Plus, on average people only recall 10% of information 3 days after hearing it; just by adding a picture recall can improve up to 65%. 
    • Visuals help your SEO: Did you know search engines prioritize visually-heavy content? In fact, pages that appear in Google’s featured mobile snippets on average have at least 12 images. Plus, posting an article with strong visual elements averages 37 percent more engagement!
                                Source: MGD Advertising


Is Using Stock Imagery Really That Bad?

Stock imagery is a huge industry – one that supports many fellow photographers, so we aren’t hating! However the reality is that stock photography can in fact work against your messaging and even harm your brand in certain conditions. We’ve got some stats to back that up: 

    • Remember how we said images stick with us? Our brains make powerful connections to imagery – and since stock photography is available to everyone, this can work with or against us. Subconsciously, if we’ve made a negative association to an image we will recall and project that sentiment again the next time we see it. Even if the first association with an image is positive, your guests brain will wire a connection between your brand + the image + the first brand they saw it on, muddying the uniqueness of your brand.
    • Authenticity isn’t generic: your people are already invested in you, and new potential clients are attracted to authenticity. This is proven by a study Marketing Experiments where they tested a photo of the company founder on a website banner against the existing control group using their top performing stock image model. Both photos represented similar qualities of customer service and professionalism, however the results showed that visitors and customers were 35% more likely to sign up on the page using the named photo of someone from the company!
                                  Source: Marketing Experiments
    • Consistency = Confidence: trust is built with consistency. From your logo to the tone of your copy, great brands are consistent in their messaging. Google Trends shows us that “Coronavirus Stock Photos” emerged as a popular search term starting in March. The question you have to ask yourself is if a stock image of a model wearing a mask or gloved hands cleaning a table is able to fit in consistently with all your other brand elements?  



How to Use On-Brand Imagery

So we know that our minds can process and make judgments of visual information within milliseconds, that our subconscious wires powerful connections to these images, and that consistency = trust for brands… Now how do you apply this to your company? Below we’ve highlighted some of the best ways to start:

    • Use on-brand photography to showcase your safety-conscious brand.
    • Maintain consistency by updating your channels with current images of your team (a practice that also boosts morale by involving your people directly into your brand!)
    • Develop your own stock of on-brand images to pull from for various messaging campaigns without having to search for generic stock alternatives (particularly helpful since we know that COVID will continue requiring frequent updates across your channels)
    • Make sure the post production of your images upholds your brand integrity. How an editor dials the white balance, vibrancy, and saturation of an image can make a huge impact on the final product. Ensure your editor is aware of your brand values so that impact is positive not negative for your brand!


They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but if some of those words misrepresent your brand, then what are you actually saying? As your on-brand photography experts, we would love to continue this conversation with you. 


Our team can help review, assess and strategize how to capture a wide variety of on-brand photo assets for all your business communications. We look forward to learning more about you and your brand!

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How to Showcase Your Safety Conscious Brand

Health and Safety has been an increasingly marketable asset for businesses over the past decade, now so more than ever as COVID remains prevalent in our daily headlines. Communicating your unique Health & Safety approach is a reopening strategy corporations and small businesses alike are implementing across the country. In this blog we will share insights and tips for how you can start showcasing your safety conscious brand to your community.


Why Should I Showcase My Safety Conscious Brand? 

A great brand not only solves a need for its potential customers, but also builds loyalty by showing up with a consistent and authentic identity. Now with COVID-19, your clients will have new concerns you’ll want to strategically address. Our research shows these top 3 reasons you won’t want to miss out on the safety conversation: 

    1. Establishing Trust with your Clients and Customers. You’ve worked hard to develop a brand that your clients can trust. Whether or not Health & Safety was a part of your brand before, it’s a new quality that will remain in high demand for the foreseeable future. Bridge the gap between your customers’ concerns and the business they know and trust with a clear on-brand communications strategy.
    2. Retaining the Confidence of Your Team. Don’t forget that your team members are your frontline brand ambassadors, and they may have concerns too. Human Resources departments across various industries are currently reporting challenges with employee retention. Showcasing your safety conscious brand shows your people you have their best interests at heart, reduces talent turnover, and installs an atmosphere of confidence your team can pass on to your clients.
    3. Differentiate your business from the competition. Use this opportunity to show up as a leader to your community. With regulations and guidelines shifting daily, being able to frequently update your Health & Safety communications strategy will set you apart from the pack. 


Where Do I Start?  

Every business is unique. Local regulations will vary whether your headquarters hail from Calgary, Edmonton, or Vancouver, so a smart first step is educating yourself on your national and local guidelines. 

You can also start by taking a look at this list curated by our on-brand photography and marketing specialists, for ways your business can communicate its commitment to a safe reopening:

    • Create a COVID-19 landing page on your website so customers can easily find the answers to their COVID related questions.
    • Post your Health & Safety protocols online, updating them frequently as the situation evolves. 
    • If you made changes to your business, such as installing on-brand safety signage or barriers, showcase these steps to your community! Check out a great example of this here!
    • Capture your team in action. Whether it’s headshots in their safety masks, or behind the scenes shots of your protocols in effect, these are impactful marketing assets that can double as a team bonding experience. 
    • Stay Social. Whether it’s writing blogs, generating e-newsletters, or posting on your social channels don’t shy away from the conversation. Show up as a leader by consistently showcasing your commitment to your employees’ and guests’ safety.  


Most Importantly, Make it Feel like You!

One of the biggest risks for a brand is losing the trust of your followers. People are more responsive to messaging paired with authentic on-brand photos, so before you upload another safety mask stock image to your website, let’s talk about your unique story. 


We would love to hear about the safety measures you are putting in place as you reopen your business. We can help you showcase your safety conscious brand. Connect with us through any of our channels to keep this conversation going!

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Virtual Backgrounds

Over the past few weeks we have all become more familiar with the world of video conferencing. Platforms like Zoom are allowing us to stay connected while we stay apart, and we are so grateful to live in an age where we can so easily invite each other into our homes as we navigate through these social distancing measures together. 


However like many of you, we still miss the feeling of connecting onsite, of seeing all the details come together for the memorable live event experiences our community creates. Luckily Zoom has a solution for transporting us out of our homes with their background options, and we’ve decided to make some specifically for our #eventprof family! 


Follow this link to download our set of #eventprofs Zoom Backgrounds! We’d love to know which are your favourites and see screenshots of you using them in action at your next industry video chat. Tag us on social @leblondstudio.

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Holiday event food station photo by Leblond Studio Inc.

Brief your event photographer in less than 30 seconds

It’s ramp up time for event planners these days, with corporate holiday parties about to hit the city. Some info was exchanged during the booking process and you may have given lots, some, or bare bones info to your photographer at this point. Now that event day is around the corner, here’s how to get him or her set up for success very quickly.

1. Start and end time

By this I mean, what time does the event start and end, AND what time does your photographer start and end. Avoid confusion by mentioning both. Agree as well as on the time of arrival of your photographer. Typically our team arrives 15 minutes before start, unless we have lighting gear to set up in which case we’ll be there up to 1 hour early. This is set up time and so if you’d like to meet with the photo team, mention it so that time can be allocated.

2. Venue name and address

Some hotels for example may have more than one location (downtown, by the airport, etc) and so avoid costly mistakes by confirming the address.

3. Dress code

Once you are confident that your photo team knows where and when to show up, tell them how to show up. At times, it’s pretty obvious such as a Stampede party or a fundraising gala. While the all black is usually a safe default, it can really make us stick out in some situations. It’s very awkward to show up in black gala wear only to realize that everyone is in yoga pants, in jeans and glitters (not uncommon in Calgary), or leather and chains (ok that would be a fun holiday party!). The goal is for us to blend in with the guests, and at the same time, look like we’re part of your team.

4. Your top photo priority

We know that you’d love everything photographed and we’ll aim for that, but giving us your top priority will help us make the right decision when many things are happening at once. Do you care most about guests, décor, food or entertainment? It also helps to know if you’re hiring us for your own marketing or award submissions, or if the client is paying the bill.

5. What is the event about and who’s the client?

Is it a celebration for employees, clients, a marketing launch, or something else. Knowing the purpose of the event will help us understand what elements are most important and better tell the story.

Smarty-pants move: If you have a very detailed production schedule, points 1, 2 and 5 are likely listed there already. Share that document which you’ve already tweaked for hours and you’ll just need to confirm dress code and your photo priority! Done!

Photos in this post are from a corporate holiday event produced by e=mc² events.

Leblond Studio Team onsite at a special event

Working with your photographer

On April 15th, 2014, I spoke at the International Special Events Society – Calgary Chapter on “Working with your Photographer: Award Submissions edition”. Such great questions were asked by the attendees that we decided to share of it with you. Here is a good question:

What can I, as the event planner do onsite to help the photographer be ready for photos?

Here are my top 3 tips that you can apply onsite to set yourself and your photographer for success.

1. Run a tight ship during set up

Make sure that your entire team of suppliers is on time and that they are not using the photography time (let’s say, one hours before doors) as a buffer to get the room ready. I have enough experience to know that sometimes, delays happen that could not have been foreseen (I remember a venue who lost power for 3 hours during set up), but these are rare instances. If you simply put in your production schedule that décor photos are happening one hour before doors, some vendors may think that this info does not pertain to them. Understandably, everyone is busy and focused on its own tasks. If you really want clean shots of the room ready in all of its glory before guests arrive, it is important to communicate to the rest of the event team that this cue means show time. Here is one subtle shift that will make a world of difference. Instead of:

PHOTO TEAM: Onsite”, try:
ALL: Room Ready for photos”.

The first comment speaks to the photo team only, while the second communicates an expectation to everyone. (If you don’t believe me, ask me how often suppliers welcome me onsite by saying “I didn’t know you guys were here today!” although we are on the production schedule…)
During the day, if you notice that the set up is falling behind, remember that it’s a domino effect. Go to your suppliers and ask them how they may be able to make up the time. Keep a tight schedule so that when time comes for décor photos, the room will be ready and you’ll get the images that you need.

2. Do a quick walk-through

Plan to do a quick walk- through with your photo team 15 minutes before they are planned to start shooting. This can be done by you or by a team member who knows the event inside and out. Point out elements that will be key to capture for your award submission. Identify where the entertainment’s high points will happen. For example, if an entertainer will be making a theatrical entrance into the ballroom, you want to show your photographer. Even if you sent us your show flow and site map ahead of time, they usually won’t tell us which way entertainers are entering and how they are moving through the space, which is really important info to ensure that we will be at the right place at the right time, capturing the moment with maximum impact. Often, I do a walk-through with the entertainment director, as they know the general program as well as the most up to date details of the performances.

3. Introduce the lighting designer to your photographer

Most often, the moment that we start to photograph the décor is when the entire tech team, including the LD, goes on their scheduled dinner break. Make sure that you have the LD speak with the photographer before they go on break. It may be a good idea to set up that break at another time if you’re able to. But at least, make sure that the photographer has what they need to do the photos. Most often, I will ask for the lighting scenario that will welcome the guests as they walk in. If the stage is blacked out as guests enter the room, I may ask for something additional, like a stage wash, which will give the photo more depth and interest. Ideally your LD would stay in the room for the décor photos, but at least have them talk with each other before the LD goes to break before doors.

You’ve invested in a photographer and you deserve amazing images. Try these tips at your next event and let me know how it goes!

Now I know that you have questions of your own, on how to get the most of your photographer, so send them my way and I’ll answer them in a future post. Ask away…I’m here to help!

5 Selfie Faux-Pas

[soliloquy id=”1383″]
The CSE National Expo was so great this year! Aside from our photo team covering the event (see album here), attendees constantly had their smart phones out trying to take it all in. And when there is a camera in everyone’s pocket, there is a strong temptation to “selfie”! Love them or hate them, they seem to be the latest trend.

Being the social media coordinator, I thought that I’d share some tips on this newest photo genre…

  1. WHAT’S THAT BEHIND YOU? Be mindful of your background. I have to start off by saying kudos to those of you who took advantage of the logo, me and Stef definitely did haha! But this simple tip is so easily ignored. When you’re attending a gorgeous event, you are surrounded by creative lighting, wow pieces and incredible entry treatments, so why not use them? Get a selfie on that custom leopard print couch or pose with the man made of mirrors. It will make for some interesting hashtags as well as a more exciting photo. If you choose not to incorporate background elements, then get closer and fill the frame with your face(s)!
  2. DITCH THE DUCK FACE  (Don’t know what a Duck Face is? Click Here)- I will admit, I have recently looked back on images and found myself guilty of this faux pas. But to my future self, and to everyone else out there: smile, laugh, wink or stare. But under no circumstance, do a duck face. It’s not flattering and it has unanimously been labeled lame. There have been many events we’ve covered where we point a camera at a beautiful group of girls and instantly they have their lips puckered out and eyes wide. There is a subtle way to show off that gorgeous shade of lipstick without looking like an aquatic animal (and while we’re on the topic of posing as a group…no need to lean in or bend down to fit in the picture. Your photographer will take a step back if needed and you can just stand tall and strong).
  3. ARE YOU SNAP HAPPY? Make sure to pace yourself. This goes for all photos, whether on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. That’s awesome you had a fun evening, but no one needs (or probably wants) a play by play. If you feel so inclined to share this much then maybe wait until you have a few different shots and throw together a quick collage (make friends with InstaCollage) of your favorite moments. But probably best to leave it at that.
  4. NO DRINKING AND POSTING. You’ve all heard “Don’t drink and drive”, well the same goes for selfies. I get it…you’re celebrating or you can’t believe that you’re finally a guest at an event…that’s great! Take a quick team photo to document the moment. Try to do this BEFORE ordering your second round of tequila shots. You may not only be looking a little less than your usual lovely self, but chances are you’ll end up with a dark, blurry, unflattering image. When in doubt, take the photo but maybe wait until the next morning to decide if it’s post worthy.
  5. SMURFS NEED NOT APPLY. The point of a selfie is usually not to show where you are, or what you’re doing, but to show you. It’s a self-portrait. Don’t stand in front of a window (back to it) because you’ll become a dark, faceless silhouette. Instead, face the window and try again. If you’re at an event, look for natural or tungsten light, which your phone camera can render much easier. Avoid standing close to LED lighting: the last thing you want is to look like a smurf (unless you plan on putting #smurf #selfie).

6 tips on how to fall in LOVE with your event photographer

A business relationship can be just like any other relationship in life. Some are exciting, others just work, and the great ones are cherished. Here are six tips on how to fall in love with your event photographer.


  • Fall in love for the right reasons Don’t let celebrity names and fancy websites distract you from looking at the quality of the work. You want the best, so take your time to find it.
  • Take the plunge! You never know where it will go unless you ask for a quote.
  • Speak from the heart. Communicate clearly what it is you’re looking for.
  • Make a habit of laughing together whenever you can. Most situations are not as bleak as they appear to be when you approach them with humour.
  • Give things time. You may need to try a few photographers before you find the one that’s right for you.
  • Celebrate! If you found ‘the one’, cherish and celebrate!

Visual Storytelling: 9 tips on how to choose photos for award submissions

After my first experience judging the ILEA Esprit awards in late Spring of 2011, I was inspired to write the following article. What an amazing experience and honor this was for me! I have since been invited to judge again and every year, I learn so much from the experience. As many of you are in the process of writing your award submissions, I wanted to share with you some tips as it relates to choosing photos for your award submission.

In the midst of all the production schedules, scripts and site plans, as a special event photographer, I am always especially curious to see the visual collateral that is Award Winningbeing submitted. To me, this is where it all comes together and how I can really start to picture myself (no pun intended) experiencing the event. Sorting through photos, rating them and choosing the top ones to highlight or publish is part of what I do for a living, but after going through these award entries, I have been wondering…
As an event planner, how do you choose which photos will best illustrate your event, and which to include in your submission from the possibly hundreds of photos produced by your photographer? In other words: how do you “story tell” your event with images?
Obviously, there will be nuances to apply depending on the category that you are submitting for: the Best Event Design-Décor category will call for more décor photos, for example, and the Best Event Technical Production category may have behind the scene shots. Without going into this fine of details, here are 9 tips for choosing photos for award submissions:

1. Read the guidelines carefully: this seems like a no-brainer, but make sure that you are submitting no more than the allowed number of collateral pieces and also, that you are submitting as many pieces as you can. For example, for the ILEA Esprit award, you can submit an additional multi-media piece, which could be video, but could also be a simple photo slideshow done in PowerPoint.

2. Smallest to biggest: You will not be able to show a photo of each and every element of the event. However, make sure that you have some detail shots as well as wide angle images. This gives a sense of depth to your visual story.

3. Closest to furthest: Again to give more visual interest and depth, look for shots that are close-ups and others that are taken from afar. An example could be a close up of a speaker, or a tight shot of the signature cocktail being poured. A far away shot could be a photo from the rafters or, for an outdoor event, from the roof of an adjacent building.

4. Before: Consider adding photos before the guests arrive, such as a wide-angle room shot just before the doors open, or even setup photos or behind the scenes, for example a table full of giveaway bags, or appetizers being assembled in the kitchen. In any case, “Show-Ready” photos, taken minutes before doors are a must because of their huge wow factor: use these high impact photos as “opening shots” for your submission.

5. During: Photos of the event at its peak in energy, attendance or activity. With the right timing, equipment and visual angle, your photographer will be able to capture the excitement of the party (and leave out the rest), whether or not the dance floor or the conference room were ever full at any given time.

6. After: I am not referring to strike photos, but rather to include a “closing shot”. Remember that you are telling a story and so there should also be a conclusion. Wedding photographers are used to do this: they take photos knowing ahead of time which will be used for the last pages of the wedding album such as the couple walking away on the beach at sunset, or the couple waiving from the limo. For an event, it could be a far away shot of the outdoor event with the fireworks going on, or the crowd applauding a speaker. It does not need to be what actually happened at the end of the event, but a shot that summarizes or somehow closes the story.

7. Branding: I am not necessarily referring to a logo created for an event, or even signage, although it could be part of it. More generally, it is about theme elements that show the unique personality of your event. For a corporate event, this would be how the corporate message was illustrated; for a social event it may be colors and textures that were part of the design, and for a wedding, it could be the monograms of the couple, or other elements from the original inspiration board. In any case, make sure that you leave your branding out of it, as this would disqualify your entry. (that happens more often than you probably think..and it’s so heat breaking!!)

8. Be mindful of the sequence: Start with a good, impactful opening photo and end with a closing image. Then add a good mix of the other elements as explained above. The photos could be placed in chronological order but most often are not. Rather, they should be organized based on factors such as orientation (landscape together, portrait together), location (outside then inside), people (empty rooms and details first, then crowd/people photos), activity (décor, then speakers, then food, then entertainment), etc. However you achieve this, aim to create a flow and it will be easier for your audience to grasp your event.

9. Collaborate with your photographer: Lay out clear expectations by mentioning that you are planning to submit for an award, offer a shot list and you can even share this article if you’d like! Why not use your photographer’s professional skills to your advantage even after the event by inviting him or her to collaborate when you are choosing which photos will best tell your visual story.

These tips are meant for choosing visual collateral for your award submissions, however you can use the same guidelines when selecting which photos to post to your blog, website or Facebook Page. A well-constructed visual story is powerful, and will gain you an interested audience and (this is my wish for you) many awards!

Was this post helpful to you? How do YOU choose which photos to submit? Please post your comments or questions below; I’d love to hear from you!