Why read this? : We share the 5 key areas where Photoshop is used for marketing activities. Learn how it’s used in market research, brand identity, advertising, digital marketing and e-Commerce. Read this to learn the different ways to use Photoshop for marketing.
Did you know that around 90% of the 11 million bits of information our senses send to our brain every second, come from what we see?
We use our sight in all sorts of ways. Our sight helps us with basic survival needs. Is there anything dangerous around me? Where’s the food? Does he or she fancy me?
But more importantly, our sight helps us carry out advanced self-improvement activities. Like reading high quality marketing and e-Commerce blogs 😉
In fact, our brains love images. They’re hard-wired to process them. Another amazing brain fact, is that we process images around 60,000 times faster than we process words.
So if you want to influence customers, you need to be able to influence what they see.
How customers see you affects whether they choose you
When we coach marketing, we spend a lot of time helping people to work out what makes customers think, feel and do things.
And if almost 90% of your customer’s sensory inputs are through the eyes, and customers brains process images so much faster than words, then obviously, visual communications are important from a marketing point of view.
It’s important to make visual communications as strong as they can be.
How customers see you influences whether or not they choose you.
And if we park moving images for this article (though we have a whole separate guide to video content ), static images, or photography as normal people (i.e. not marketers) call it is clearly a big part of any visual communications.
In our photography for marketing guide, we cover the basics of how start. How to define your business objective, for example. The media channels where you use photography. We also share where to source photography, if you don’t do your own. (see also our separate but related evaluating photos article).
But, there’s obviously more to learn, These are many online graphic design resources which cover using photography. For inspiration, use sites like Behance and Dribbble. To educate yourself on how to use Photoshop, use sites like Adobe Education Exchange. And you can search out quick and cheap solutions on sites like Envato and Canva.
But, to have more control over your photography you can learn how to do some of this yourself. That’s why this week article is all about the benefits of Photoshop for marketing.
Adobe Photoshop is an advanced photo editing program. This guide covers the specific benefits of Photoshop for marketing. (A previous article covered the ethics of photo manipulation)
We chose Photoshop, because it’s the best known. Plus, it’s the tool we use for our own photo editing and manipulation.
If you don’t have Photoshop, there are other tools which have similar functionality like Affinity Photo and GIMP. Check out our thoughts on these in our graphic design tools guide.
Adobe Photoshop is like a Swiss Army knife
So for us, Adobe Photoshop for marketing is like the Swiss Army knife when you go camping. It has multiple uses. And once you start to use it, it’s hard to imagine how you ever got by without it.
With Adobe Photoshop, you can adjust and crop photos to fit any size of space.
You can combine photos, add or remove elements from photos, and adjust key photographic variables like saturation, brightness and exposure.
You can add text, graphics and visual effect to photos. This helps you create visuals which grab the attention. And which are more relevant for customers.
In fact, just pause for a second.
Think about how much photography you use in your business, already.
It’ll be in your advertising, and your sales promotion materials. It’s all over your website and your social media posts. And, it’s the thing which most stands out when you appear on other websites, like the product pages of online retailers.
So, it’s important to know how to craft optimised images for all these different activities. Photoshop helps you do that. You use it to help customers see your brand in a better way.
Photoshop for marketing - Market research
Let’s start with those customers, and understanding what they want. That means market research.
So for new advertising campaigns, packaging updates and other marketing innovations, you want to understand how customers will see those changes. What will they think of your plans?
But, to pull that feedback out of them you need to show what the changes will look like. It’s hard to imagine the change based on just words. To get a realistic impression, you need some sort of visuals for customers to look at.
However, in market research, you often want to test new ideas for advertising and products early in the process. Your visuals may not be ready or fully formed.
If you’re still in the concept or prototype stage of your plan, then tools like Photoshop help you bring those concepts and prototypes to life visually.
You can make realistic looking concepts and mock-ups of what your advertising, packaging or marketing innovation will look like when it’s done.
Example market research concept
Let’s say we were creating an advert for this article. And, we wanted to advertise on outdoor billboards.
We could draw out the advert on paper and get creative feedback on it that way.
But, as we cover in our advertising evaluation and media planning guides, the context of where, when and how customers see (or hear) an ad, makes a difference to the impact.
You wouldn’t get feedback on this context, just from a concept drawing.
Another option would be to create and design an actual outdoor print ad, print it out and hire an actual billboard. But, this would take time and money. And actually, you don’t need to waste either of these, because Photoshop can replicate the same effect faster and for less money.
With Photoshop, you can grab an image of a billboard, and then combine photos to mock-up your advert on the billboard. For a skilled Photoshop user, this is an easy and quick job.
And with photoshop, it’s also easy to adjust the colours, the font styles and the composition to explore and compare multiple options. And you can take these options into market research.
(In this case, for example, we might have decided adding brackets to the title of this article for (and e-Commerce) made it clearer).
Market research on multiple concepts
In fact, it’s really common in market research on advertising to show customers multiple advertising concepts in real-life situations.
You ask them to review the advertising and talk about what they like and don’t like. You try to work out the impact it’ll have on them.
So in this example, you can see we grabbed a picture of a tin of Heinz beans, and mocked up 3 different variations of a basic advertising concept.
(This took us about 30 minutes. In real life, we’d take a little longer and polish the concepts more)
But it gives you an idea of how you could easily research different options. Which copy headline works best? Is it better above or below the image? What about different font options and styles? How do different colours work together? And, which ones have the most impact?
These are the sorts of market research question you can answer with this sort of stimulus. But, you need something like Adobe Photoshop to produce the stimulus in the first place.
It’s important to try and show advertising concepts as they’d appear in “real life”. You’ll get a more accurate response from customers, because they don’t have to imagine what that advert would look like.
They can see it right in front of them in your mock-up.
Ask customers why to understand their reaction to visuals
Of course, knowing how important visuals are, you have to make sure you ask the right types of questions to pull out this understanding.
In most cases, this use of Photoshop in marketing happens with qualitative research. It’s usually where you try out different concepts, and try to work out “why” customers prefer one version over another.
While, there are also quantitative ways to test advertising, what’s shown in that research tends to be much closer to a finished version of the advert. You’ll generally only get a liking and preference score from this sort of research, which doesn’t help you diagnose the “why”.
Photoshop for marketing - Brand identity
Adobe Photoshop can also play an important role, when you create tangible assets for your brand identity. Photography is one of those assets.
In your brand assets, you may include specific photography of the product, the advertising or the people behind the product, for example.
Photoshop can help make sure these hero images appear in a consistent and repeated manner.
Consistency and repetition are important. They help introduce and reinforce associations of those images with your brand.
That means, next time customers see those images, they recognise them as coming from your brand.
So, for example, when you create a hero image on your website’s home page.
This is often one of the first images people see from your brand.
You can use Adobe Photoshop to make sure that image and any other key visuals looks as good as they can.
So, for example, we often use the Filter / Sharpen option on Adobe Photoshop to make sure key brand images don’t have rough edges.
We’ll use the Adjustment Panels and Levels to improve the way Shadows, Highlights and Midtones look on those images.
And, we’ll make slight adjustments to Hue, Saturation and Brightness to make images “pop” on the screen.
You can also take sourced photography, and adapt and tailor it to better fit the brand identity on your website. So for example, using colour blends and gradients which match the colour in other parts of your branding, is a great way to build a more consistent use of colour on your website.
Photoshop for marketing - Advertising
Advertising is obviously another activity where photography and imagery plays an important role.
From a purely sensory point of view, the only media channel which doesn’t directly use visuals is radio. (and even then, often radio copy describes what a situation looks like)
All other channels include some sort of visuals, either video content for TV and cinema for example, or photography for print, point of sale materials and outdoor advertising.
When it comes to advertising, visuals matter a lot. On average customers are exposed to around 5,000 adverts every day. And yet, how many do customers remember, or even notice? Not many.
In fact, how many adverts do you remember seeing in the last 24 hours? Probably a lot less than 5,000.
Our subconscious brain filters incoming sensory inputs and decides what to draw our conscious attention to. And what to ignore. And if this is the photography in your advertising, and it’s not relevant and distinctive, then you’ll be ignored.
Von Restorff effect
In fact, just on this topic, it’s also worth highlighting the Von Restorff effect. This is well-known in design circles, but not well-known by marketers.
The Von Restorff effect is named after a German psychiatrist who showed that when people look at a group of items, the one which captures attention is the one most different from the others.
People focus on differences, rather than similarities. We cover more on this effect in another article if you want to read more about it.
This is especially important when you think about how your advertising compares to competitors. If you all use a similar style, then your advertising won’t stand out.
It’s a common use of Photoshop for marketing to use its many technical capabilities in advertising development to create visuals that stand out and are distinctive from competitors.
That helps your brand stand out from the other 4,999 brands your customers will see that day.
Example of advertising creative amends made in Adobe Photoshop
Let’s have a look at quick example.
This isn’t a real advert obviously. It’s just one we mocked up quickly to show you a typical use of photoshop for marketing in the advertising development process.
So, here we want to create an advert for jewellery, and specifically this gold ring.
The original picture on the left wasn’t done specifically for advertising. In fact, it has more of a lifestyle feel to it. Look at the colour palette, it’s full of relatively muted brown and green autumnal colours.
But say our advertising goal isn’t lifestyle driven, but to highlight the product (the ring itself). So, there’s lots of ways we can edit and manipulate the photo with Photoshop to make the product stand out more, and look better.
So, here you can see we’ve made a number of adjustments to the original with Adobe Photoshop, in the right hand shot.
(if you’re not interested in the technical practicalities of Photoshop, skip this next section).
How we created this effect in Photoshop
First, we used the Quick Selection tool to create a copy of the ring itself. We then copied and pasted this (in place) on to a new layer, which sat above the original.
The original photo, we then added a Black / White filter via the adjustment panel, and toned down the brightness and contrast.
We added a diagonal gradient mask with a red hue and reduced opacity (about 20%) to bring a little warmth back into the background. Pure black and white can look quite harsh.
Then we focussed on the cut out version of the ring. Remember, we cut it out and put it on a separate layer at the start.
Here, we adjusted brightness and contrast up a little, and added a gold colour overlay, so the gold popped out a lot more.
Finally, we grabbed a screen flare from Adobe Illustrator and put it behind the gold ring to make it look like the ring was sparking with light.
If we were publishing this advert for real, we’d spend more time polishing the finished work. This was just a mock-up to show you can create something with a lot of impact, in a short space of time.
Photoshop is a great tool to create and optimise print, promotional and point of sale items. You want to adjust visual elements so key elements of your visuals stand out. You edit, add and remove elements to get the style and impact you want.
Optimising your photography for advertising is one of the most common uses of Photoshop for marketing.
Photoshop for marketing - Digital marketing
Your advertising isn’t the only place where customers see photography from your brand though. You’ll also have photography on your website and social media posts. Photoshop is a great tool to improve the impact of these photos.
On your website, you’ll likely have a mixture of in-house and out-sourced photography. So, in-house photography, you’ve either taken yourself or hired a professional to take specific shots. With out-sourced photography, you’ll use stock photos sites and license-free photos sites like unsplash.com and pexels.com. (See our photography for marketing guide for more on this)
However, when you have photography from multiple sources, it’s likely to have a lot of variety in terms of styling and specifications. So, it can be different sizes, different orientations and have different colours and effects applied, for example.
Photoshop is a great tool to apply more consistency and standardise styles across all your photography.
Composition and visual appeal
Photography also has an important role in terms of composition and visual appeal on your website.
You need photography to break up long blocks of text, and to help visually signpost content.
So, you’ll see we add photos to our articles and guides so we don’t have too much text in one go.
We use signpost images, like, photographs of someone using a camera on a page dedicated to photography.
Your website design will also have different dimension sizes for hero images at the top of the page, and images you combine with text in the main body copy. Photoshop has a lot of easy cropping and resizing tools. You can use to make sure photos “fit” into the spaces your web design allows for.
For example, for each main topic we cover in our guides which has multiples articles, we create introduction index pages like this one.
But, to make sure these images blocks were consistent and aligned on the page, we had to use Photoshop to adjust each height and width dimension, so it was uniform across all six images.
This makes sure the edges align both horizontally and vertically with the other images. Doing this makes the layout of the page clearer and more visually appealing.
(see also our evaluating photos article for more on this topic).
Photoshop for social media
The same need for cropping and resizing applies, only more so, when you want to optimise the images on social media.
Each channel seems to have its own dimensions, and they change fairly regularly. You find different dimensions for header images, profile images and actual posts on each platform, for example.
(Incidentally, it’s worth bookmarking online guides which helpfully track social media dimension changes and keep an up-to-date reference list).
What this means though, is that if you want to use the same image across multiple social channels, you’re going to need to be able to crop and resize it to fit all these different dimensions. Photoshop is a great tool to manage this. It even comes with a lot of standardised dimension templates, to help you find the best one.
In fact, this applies to ALL types of media. So, for example, you may need an image to work both on a 96 sheet outdoor billboard and in a 1200 x 630 pixel Facebook post. These will need different levels of resolution and sizing. Adobe Photoshop is really flexible at managing jobs like this.
And of course, social media content being what it is, you’re also going to need to turn your photography into something worth sharing.
This might be as simple as adding funky text, or adding some simple effects to make the image stand out.
So, for example, in our blog article on the three monkeys of creativity, we used Photoshop to colour the monkeys into each of the three insight colours – yellow, red and blue.
Very quick and easy to do in Photoshop.
In fact, manipulating images so they are optimised for blogs and social media is one of the most common uses of Photoshop for marketing.
Photoshop for marketing - E-Commerce
And last but not least, there’s Photoshop for marketing when you use it in e-Commerce.
We’ve covered in previous articles, the need for good product pages to help drive online sales.
Product images are a hugely important part of this. It’s one of the most basic elements of e-Commerce that you need to show people what they’ll be buying.
One of the biggest disadvantages of selling online is that customers can’t touch or feel a product before they buy. They can only see it on a screen.
This means you need to get maximum value out of your visual impact.
So, one of the most common uses, is to to create mock-ups of your products, for example.
This is especially common in Print on Demand, where you create a design, and then use Photoshop to place that design on a picture of a “blank” item – a T-shirt, a mug, a face mask or whatever you sell.
You can also use Photoshop to add and manipulate the background images, so you can add a lifestyle feel to your product imagery.
We use a lot of beach-y type backgrounds for our shop images for example, because we’re based in Australia, and well, live near the beach.
You can create a more branded feel for your e-Commerce products, this way, compared to blank or generic backgrounds.
Conclusion - Photoshop for marketing and e-Commerce
What customers see, clearly has a major impact on what they think, feel and do.
Sourcing great photography is a great way to build your brand identity, but you also need to edit and manipulate that photography to fit many uses in marketing and e-Commerce.
Adobe Photoshop is a great tool to do this.
Typical marketing activities where you’d use it include creating concepts to test out in market research, and creating final artwork for advertising and packaging.
It’s hugely important in digital marketing and e-Commerce at both a practical level – making sure images are the right size – and a persuasive level – making your products look as good as they can, so they sell more.
For us, Photoshop is a helpful tool to edit and optimise images to create maximum impact with customers. And of, course, it can also save a huge amount of time, money and effort in how you carry out all of these marketing activities.
We regularly work with Photoshop, and have good experience in how to use Photoshop for marketing and e-Commerce. Check out our guides to Photography for marketing, and Graphic Design tools to learn more. Or, contact us if we can help you build your photo editing and photo manipulation skills.
Billboard (adapted) : Photo by DesignClass on Unsplash
Yellow Jersey Woman holding camera : Photo by Marco Xu on Unsplash
Eye : Photo by Daniil Kuželev on Unsplash
Glasses : Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash
Night time billboards : Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
Flowers : Photo by Photo by Rupert Britton on Unsplash
Ring : Photo by Jackie Tsang on Unsplash
Bus stop : Photo by Jay Clark on Unsplash
Three Monkeys : Photo by Joao Tzanno on Unsplash