Hello Problem, meet Photos

  • Jun 12, 2022
  • photography, marketing
Problems have solutions. That’s what makes them problems.
A problem without a solution isn’t a problem, it’s simply a situation.
– Seth Godin, The Practice


We face lots of problems in our businesses.

That’s part of what makes them interesting, but also maddening. We like to think we’d be happy in our businesses if all the problems went away and it was just smooth sailing on a calm sea.

That’s an illusion.

Solving problems defines us. It makes life fascinating. Without problems, we would get bored and listless.

A sailboat is not meant to sail with the wind, but against it. It can actually go much faster when tacking into the wind.

For every business, marketing is a core problem.

Every business needs to get attention from an audience, then get them to act.

Unfortunately, all too often businesses feel that the way to get attention, the way to stimulate action or make change is with more. More ads, more social, more words, more images, more more more.

But in a situation of information overload, less is a better way to go.

Problem is: less is harder.

The French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal famously wrote, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

Less is also not our natural inclination.

There have been many scientific studies that show that we humans are more prone to solve problems through addition than through subtraction. When subjects were asked to make a five-ingredient recipe better, only about 3 percent took something out, the rest added something. When subjects were asked to edit a paragraph to make it better, only 17 percent made the paragraph shorter.

But less is better.

Decision theory has shown that if you want someone to make a choice, give them fewer things to choose from. Too many choices can lead to stress and make decisions harder.

Give your website (or restaurant) menu fewer options (7 is considered the magic number; one study showed a 90% decline in purchase activity when there were 24 choices versus 6).

Make your text tighter and pithier. Get to the point. Never use two words when one will do.

And, surprise, surprise, use images.

Our brains are wired for images. We process them far faster than text, and they can carry far more information and cultural context than the reputed 1000 words. Their lighting and composition can set the theme or mood for a website or designed piece. Their content can reveal a short story in just a glance.

There are three criteria for good marketing images:

  1. They should be current and authentic. Keep them up to date and scrap the cheap stock photos. People will know and devalue you by association.
  2. They should make an emotional connection. That's what can turn a photo into a story. Examine your images to see if they carry emotional weight, if people connect with them.
  3. They should have clear messaging. Their composition and focus, their style and substance should align with the message you are making.

Is it self-serving that a photographer sees photography as the most efficient solution to businesses’ marketing problem?


But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.


p.s. If you got this far, thanks for taking some of your valuable time to read this, meanwhile, enjoy this fantastic Hidden Brain podcast that helped shape this essay.