Own it with unique imagery.

We’ve all heard it said many times before – a picture paints a thousand words.

And it rings more true today, than ever before. When it comes to branding, your choice of imagery and photography is critical to communicating your brand’s personality. To telling its story.

But it can be a challenge to get it right. Commissioned photography allows you capture truly unique shots, over more generic stock photography. On the other hand, image banks give you instant access to high quality images, when timelines are tight.

So how do you decide what the right approach for you is?

Stock images versus commissioned brand photography.

The decision between stock photography and commissioned photography is a crucial one for your brand. The imagery you use is such an essential part of your visual tone of voice and your overall brand identity.

The following are three key questions to ask yourself;

1. Do you have the time to wait?
Good things come to those who wait. But if time is tight and your deadline is yesterday, commissioned photography unfortunately, just simply may not be an option. If that is the case, stock libraries like Shutterstock, I-stock, Getty Images and Adobe Stock can save the day. They offer easily searchable online databases, with diverse high-quality images that are downloadable for immediate use. Then and there.

2. Can you afford to do it?
One of the key advantages of stock photography can be price. Commissioning brand photography can be a little more expensive for organisations. When this is the case, you need to look at a way to balance brand and budget needs. We sometimes commission photography for a handful of lead shots for clients in these cases, so that we have some key, unique and ownable images that really communicate the brand essence. And then we support those with secondary stock images.

3. Can you afford not to do it?
What is your brand’s unique selling point? There are situations where stock photos just won’t cut it in communicating it. And actually to use anything other than unique and authentic shots could be brand damaging.

Below are three examples of client projects, where because of the brand promise and unique proposition we were trying to communicate with the imagery, they couldn’t afford not to commission professional photography.

man and woman

Creating a brand that stands apart.

We worked with Cliff to refresh their brand identity and to design a new group website CLIFF.ie, which just recently launched in August 2019.

In a world of me-toos, chains and clones, Cliff stands apart. Its capsule collection of privately-owned venues and rendezvous conspire to create something truly unique.

Cliff thinks differently and does things a little differently too – seamlessly combining imagination and innovation, an adventurous spirit with an eye for detail, whilst adding a little magic along the way.

For the new Cliff brand website, it was critical that the visual and verbal tone of voice communicated this. It had to ‘show’ not ‘tell’ Cliff’s unique personality – how it celebrated the eclectic, the enigmatic and even the slightly eccentric.

That simply couldn’t be done through stock photography. When the essence, the core of your brand, is the unique imprint it leaves – that can’t be communicated with generic shots.

Instead we commissioned an entire bank of bespoke photography from Shane O’Neill at Aspect Photography – over four different shoots and across multiple locations. Every shot had to be non-traditional and unexpected – breaking from the recognised industry standard. We wanted to interrupt and engage.

When people looked at an image we wanted them to feel the relief of letting go, the liberation of escaping their lives for a few days, to hear the sound of toast glasses clinking, imagine savouring the taste of something exquisite and unexpected… and best of all, imagining bringing a bit of all that magic home with them.

The result was the incredibly bold and striking visuals that first greet you when you visit Cliff.ie. And a brand website that we truly do feel, stands apart.

View more of our work with CLIFF here…


Showcasing what you have to offer.

We also recently helped EirGen Pharma, a supplier of life saving medicines, refresh their digital identity with a new brand website. For EirGen Pharma the key focus of the website was to continue to recruit and retain the best talent available.

To do this they really needed to open the doors – to showcase their world-class facilities and paint the picture of what daily life working at EirGen Pharma was all about.

Again, for this type of a project – stock footage just wasn’t an option. To showcase their facilities and document all aspects of life in EirGen meant commissioning a bespoke suite of real photography.

Once we had crafted a new tone of voice, one that better communicated EirGen’s personality, we were able to select and brief a photographer we work with closely – Karen Dempsey.

From the R&D facilities that are world-class, to their meeting rooms and commercial centre the images featured on their new brand website, offered any prospective staff considering applying for a role, a real behind the scenes insight into life at the company, it’s culture and the people they’d be working alongside.

Cross electrical

Harnessing the power of people.

Cross Electrical were an amazing company, who’d gone through rapid growth largely driven by high-end referrals and word of mouth. But they now needed their brand to catch up and a professional identity and brand website created.

When we looked at simplifying what made them unique, what their brand essence was, one thing emerged – “our power is our people”.

And when it came to bringing that to life in a new brand website and across various marketing collateral, one thing became clear – we simply couldn’t afford not to commission photography.

For a company whose unique selling point was its people, we couldn’t show generic stock shots – we had to feature actual Cross Electrical staff, in action.

We selected Denis Vahey, another one of the photographers we work with, who captured a series of authentic, high-quality, almost reportage style shots of Cross Electricals’ people – showing the quality and attention to detail they put into everything they do.

The result was a professional and engaging new brand identity and brand website that equipped this exceptional company to continue to scale at pace into the future.

View more of our work with Cross Electrical here…

So, how do you get your brand imagery right?

At TOTEM we follow a three-step process that starts with helping organisations identify what their essence is, their why…

Understand what makes your brand unique, what does it uniquely offer customers. If you don’t know, through brand workshops we can help you discover what makes your product or business unique. And create a brand essence wheel that defines its personality and how it should make those who encounter it feel.

We’ll then start bringing your brand to life, creating mood boards of the types of images that communicate your personality and connect and create the right gut feeling with your audience. From that, we’d produce a detailed photography brief and shot list for any commissioned photographs that are required. And finally, with a TOTEM or external photographer, we’ll arrange the actual shoot and capture of a suite of brand imagery that tells your story.

We’ll empower you with the practical visual tone of voice guidelines and style guide to ensure that you continue to tell your unique brand story with the right images, that evoke the right emotions across all channels and media.

While time and budgets may not always make commissioning brand photography a realistic option – and some supporting stock photography can be incredibly useful and effective – at a minimum we encourage our clients to commission a few iconic shots that capture and communicate their unique personality. Something that only your brand can own.

It’s such an essential part of your brand’s visual tone of voice, and your overall brand’s identity.