Sunday, June 29, 2003

New photo technology easy to use


Digital revolution

By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service

First of a two-part series

Remember printed documents before computers? Everything was typed - usually in the same typeface, Courier. Then desktop publishing came along and changed the look of every brochure, flier and letter. Now, there's a similar revolution happening - in the use of photos for small business.

The past few years, as the cost of digital cameras has dropped dramatically and (relatively) easy-to-use software has been introduced, a digital photo revolution has created new standards in business communications. But handling digital photos can seem incredibly confusing.

So let me take some of the confusion out of using digital photos in your business. In this column, I'll answer some basic questions. In next week's column, I'll review some software programs.

1. I'm getting along fine in my business without photos; do I really need them?

Digital photos are here to stay. I think many of us (I include myself) assumed we could just wait out the "fad" of using all this digital stuff. I mean, who really needs a cell phone that takes photos?

Don't kid yourself; if you don't use photos in business, you'll lose customers. Think about it: Just as a document created all in one size of Courier type would seem old-fashioned, a brochure, flier or Web site without photos or graphics looks flat.

Recently, for instance, a colleague was house-hunting. Which real estate ads caught his eye? The ones with photos. When he searched online home listings, he generally skipped any without a photo.

2. But I'm not in a "visual" business like real estate, so why should I use photos?

Here's a little lesson on how the human brain works. When exposed to information, the more senses a person uses, the more likely they are to remember it. So, by adding a photo, you're making your company easier to remember.

And, of course, "a picture is worth a thousand words." Photos explain things in ways you could never describe. Imagine telling a potential customer about the different types of wooden doors you sell. Tough.

Here's how some businesses use photos:

• Construction trades: before-and-after photos of projects.

• Manufacturing/wholesale: photos of products or parts, colors and options.

• Retail: photos of sale items or specials.

3. OK, but when would I use photos?

First, photos are very powerful marketing tools. Make certain you add them to marketing or sales materials. But photos also make day-to-day business communications stronger:

• Print materials: advertisements, brochures, fliers, newsletters, reports, proposals, even business cards and letters.

• Web sites: on your own Web site or on Web sites where your company or products are listed.

4. Digital photography products use terms that seem so technical; is there any way to make this simpler?

Next week: Digital photo software and products reviewed in more depth.

Rhonda Abrams is the author of "The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies" and speaks at conventions, workshops and conferences. For her free business tips newsletter, register at www.RhondaOnline.com.



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