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.

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.

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.

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.

Step #1: Know your audience

You confirm the demographics and psychographics of the customer segments who are (a.) willing to pay and (b.) able to pay.

Then you figure out what makes them tick.

Their desires, goals, fears and frustrations. Their expectations from your business, their reading habits, how they spend their free time etc.

Break down your customers into groups:

  • Type of customer (Knowledgable, Expert, Standard, Social, Comfortable etc.)
  • Employment Status (Full Time , Part Time, Student, Non Employed, Family Caregiver, Retired etc.)
  • Education Status
  • Marital Status

So, with less than an hour’s worth of research we know our ideal customer is:

  • A member of at least one out of the type groups
  • Highly educated bachelors or above
  • Works full-time or retired
  • Married or partnered

Step #2: Reject the wrong people

Customers judge, remember?

Your photos don’t have to be Smithsonian worthy but they should convey quality. Product, ambiance oriented photos aren’t about showing off your photography skills, it’s about sending a message.

Customers are subconsciously looking for specific cues on:

  • Ingroup/outgroup
  • Social class
  • Ethos and values
  • Trustworthiness
  • Social status

The right message is easy to convey if you attract the right audience.

Do the upfront work to attract the right audience and these details mostly take care of themselves. That’s the problem though. Most local businesses don’t do the upfront work.

Step #3: Take amazing photos

Remember, you’re not looking to win a photojournalism award. You’re looking to send a message.

Take photos of your business; post, share and promote them on your local listings and profiles.

Step #4: Get customers to willingly promote you


It’s simple.

You make your customers the hero of the story. You share your prestige with them. It’s different for every business but there are all kinds of ways this can be done.

You could…

  • Get customers to join
  • Run a contest, then promote the winner
  • Brag about specific customers in case study or testimonial video
  • Ask customers for advice, follow it, then show them that you did
  • Remember (and act on) specific things about your customers (e.g. birthdays, anniversary of their first visit, bad day or tragic events, etc.)
  • Surprising/random acts of kindness and generosity (done as a habit).

See the secret? It’s honor.

When you honor customers you’re showing that you cherish them. That the relationship is more important than just “money.”

Find a way to honor customers in a way that’s meaningful to them and they’ll find a way to share it with everyone. It’s wonderful because you’ve given them a way to brag without bragging.

Customers are judgmental, they should be

We’re all judgmental, it’s a necessary, scientifically proven part of life.

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.

Give customers what they’re looking for, meet their wants and needs, and you’ll find their judgment swings in your favor.