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Liz Finlayson Photographer at Vervate

7 Rules: Storytelling photographs for web and social

three business people talking

Written by Susi Doherty

Updated: December 2019

Storytelling photographs are the kind that are bespoke to and of your company – your story is unique and cannot be discovered on a stock site.

You use Canva all the time (it’s great isn’t it) and you have the usual sources for images to use in your marketing (visual content).  However, you also need to stand out from everyone else and show the world who you are, what you do, your company culture, the pupils engaged in a lesson.. Whoever your business or charity is, there are some basic principals that need to be applied. 

Here they are – in no particular order:


It may seem obvious but we have this conversation on regular basis with clients.  If you want to tell the story of you – an authentic, transparent ‘come on in’ version means that the images will be of you, your team, the place that you work, the places your products or services are sold and delivered.  It’s fair to say though that you want them to be the best version of you…!  So think about:

    1. Does your office lend or classroom or factory lend itself to this? Are they a bit scruffy or dark?  Can you do anything about it?
    2. Always remember the backgrounds and the details.  If you are having photographs taken of you working at your desk – maybe make sure the crisp packets are in a bin and the bin isn’t overflowing in the background.  Do you have client details on the computer or behind you on pinboard (old school thought that may be!).

A messy looking desk Credit: @Robertbye (a stock image seemed relevant here!)

3.  If you have lots of offices or a large establishment like a college – which would best suit your purposes best?



Start with brand.  Working out what kind of storytelling photographs you need is a chance to really unpick your brand and working culture.  It’s a great opportunity to think about the reality of all those lovely words and Brand Books – what does it really mean to you, your staff and customers?

TIP:  Use a mood board (a private one on Pinterest is a good place to start) and throw some images on it that you feel demonstrate your brand and story – be honest with yourself.



Quality is of course essential.  I say obviously – many are still lured by cheap rates or their mate with a camera.  It is a real knack to take these kind of photos – you don’t have hours to play with light before clicking the shutter.  You also need to be confident and unobtrusive.  That brings me on to the other point here – pick a photographer that is not only good and experienced but that know how to take these kind of photographs.  An architectural photographer likely has different skills of equal quality but just different.  Do the research folks.



Having it in your head (well preferably a shared policy!) that you take and use images on a regular basis is essential.  These are great for off the cuff moments, or just bits of your story that would be great to use on social media but that you don’t need/can’t afford/it isn’t applicable to have a professional there for.  This is also the case for live stories of course.  There is, however, no reason to not try and ensure these images are good quality, or at least not a bit rubbish. 



This particularly applies to the professional storytelling photographs that you have spent extra time and money on.  Like all content they can be used in many different ways and to illustrate different things.  Test which photographs work well for you and build on those later, as well as using them repeatedly where and how they work best.  Multi-purposing images also greatly helps with the old ROI of course.



Don’t fall in to the oft fallen into trap of thinking that because you want a set of candid, natural images, you don’t have to plan anything first.  The more you plan the better.

If you would like to illustrate how two pupils love relaxing in the Uni grounds, make sure you have two students available who have given permission and who are the kind of people that do relax and have a laugh together.

If you want to show how your Partner goes out of their way to discuss issues a client may have, then maybe arrange for them to go and visit a client at their place of work.


It is way better to not try and cram everything into one day.  Little and often is great.  The people around will be different, the light will be different – keep things fresh and your story vibrant and alive.  Once you have planned one or two shoots, they will get easier and easier.  Your photographer will have got under your skin, people will ignore them more and you can step back more to let that all just flow.

So there you have it.  Be proud, be loud and remember how much better your visual marketing will be if you put this kind of thought into it.

Be unique.

Your brand and story should shout from every place it can.

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