“I know it when I see it,” a Supreme Court Justice famously said in the 1964 court case involving the threshold for obscenity.

The same can be said of stock photography: it can be hard to define, but you know it when you see it. It usually includes elements like cheesy imagery, bad graphics, unnatural lighting, and the funny feeling that you’ve seen the same woman in a headset working for dozens of different businesses.

For many commercial real estate owners, stock photography can seem like a cheap and easy solution to the problem of what to put in the blank spaces of a website and other promotional materials. But the problems with stock photography are numerous: it’s bland, it’s not relatable, it doesn’t tell a compelling story, and—above all—it’s inauthentic.

Consumers are inundated with hundreds to thousands of ads and images a day, but they only pay attention to a choice few of them. The few ads that cut through the clutter are those that resonate—those that seem relatable and authentic to the customer.

Today, authenticity is a kind of currency. Authenticity can foster trust, create brand loyalty, and add value to the business through increased ROI. Consumers like to feel that they are dealing with people, not a faceless corporation: 63 percent of consumers will choose an authentic company over their competition, according to a recent study. Authentic imagery—say, of people naturally going about their day at your office or property—can serve to humanize your company. (Studies also show that the use of human faces in web design can boost conversion rates.)

By using authentic imagery, you also ensure that you have more control over the message your company sends. If your website text says that your shopping center offers a luxury experience but your stock photography screams cheap, this mixed messaging is going to result in the user’s skepticism and distrust.

With all that said, how do you go about creating authentic imagery for your mixed use property or shopping center? In addition to the usual way (hiring a photographer to take pictures of your staff, property, etc.), the following are a few creative ways to do it. (For even more information about branding for mixed use properties and shopping centers, don’t miss our webinar on July 12.)

# 1 Use aerial photography to capture large properties.

Aerial photography will allow you to capture vast properties in their entirety, offering a surprising perspective (literally!) that grabs the viewer’s attention. Today, the use of drones makes snapping an aerial shot of a property easier than ever.

# 2 Hire a photographer or videographer for events held at your properties.

As we mentioned above, consumers like engaging with people. While beautiful photos of a property itself are good to have, photos of people actually using the property are even better. Consider hiring a photographer and videographer to capture events held at your properties and sharing these images on your website and social media.

# 3 Consider user-generated content.

User-generated content can act as social proof for your brand. It shows other consumers the value of your property and bolsters your reputation. Facebook and Instagram, in particular, are useful here. You can encourage user-generated photos of people and events at your property and create hashtags to curate the photos. (Of course, creating hashtags also means monitoring their use in order to weed out undesired images.) You might even consider creating contests or giveaways related to user-generated content in order to drive traffic to your property.

For companies focused on places, branding can be tricky. If you’ve got questions, the experts at Insivia are happy to answer them. Call us today.