As a commercial photographer, I notice things. I especially notice photographs that I come across in the daily course of events. I'd like to think that they were all created by professionals who pay attention to details such as light, exposure, color, backgrounds, props, gesture, and so on. Alas, it is not always so. Just the other day I was perusing the site of a local aviation company that I'd like to work for, as they are small, but well run, and I think will go places. Working for companies like that gives me a sense of accomplishment, in that my efforts might in some way positively enhance their product and reputation, and be at least a part of their current and future successes.
I had not been to their website for a while, so it was a bit of a surprise when I recently saw utterly awful photographs. Having met the owner's in the recent past, and knowing them to be well educated, competent business people, and safe pilots, it was all the more reason to be confused as to why they would use such bad images to promote their business.
So what's my definition of an awful photograph? The portraits of the owners and staff were underexposed, almost to the point of unrecognizability. They were also off color (an ugly yellow-green), and didn't appear to be terribly sharp. The background light was brighter than the light on the subjects, thereby drawing attention away from the subject. In other words, the lighting ratio was improperly balanced. In short, they were awful.
This led me to ponder if "bad" photography can hurt a company. Based upon what I saw on this website, and at the risk of sounding self-serving, I'd have to say "Yes". I don't say that lightly, as I cringe whenever I see images that are not the best they could be. It makes me wonder about the judgement of the marketing person that might have commissioned the work, or the company leadership that allowed substandard work to be used anyway. I also have to wonder about their "taste" level. And it makes me wonder about their marketing skills, especially since websites are seen 24/7 worldwide.
With the camera equipment, lighting gear, software, and educational tools available today, it's almost inconceivable that a professional could create an image that is not up to snuff. And yet it still happens. More often than not, I believe that many substandard images used by small companies are created by amateurs who venture into photographic waters a bit too deep, in an effort to avoid the expense of "hiring a pro".
I'm often reminded of the phrase "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten." This holds true for photography as well. So when your company is faced with the decision of whether or not to "hire a pro", remember this: one generally gets what one pays for.