Annual report: A photographer's perspective

Annual reports detail a company’s previous years activities and accomplishments to management, staff and current to future investors. The assets produced for these reports usually show up in the companies’ other strategic communications, so they must be effective across multiple platforms.

June 7, 2022


Photography education

Annual report: A photographer's perspective


Stylized annual reports are often avoided because of the cost and inability to prove ROI. So instead, an AR with no visual content is assembled, which presents just the basic facts of the financials. Companies that turn out these bare-bones reports thus miss a valuable opportunity to communicate their distinctive stories. Every tactic, including the AR should reiterate the companies’ brand story and point back to their values.

One way of producing an effective, engaging AR involves telling your story throughout the report. This can be complicated, especially if you must elaborate on the various information in your financials. Using a team with a seasoned designer, copywriter and design photographer can make this happen by organizing content to determine the best way for the story to be communicated.

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS OR DOLLARS (depending on which side of the invoice you’re on)

You don’t want just “any” photos in your AR — they must relate to your objective. That’s why using stock images would be like telling your personal family story with someone else’s photo album.  (or keeping the photos that came with the frame) You want only the images that illustrate exactly what you want your audience to see: your story. Design photographers can create a visual story may ways. A streamlined approach is to tell the story through a series of images. These photographs will basically fall into one of three categories.

THE SECRET RECIPE (feel free to add your own ingredients)

First is the Signature Photo. Just like a novel, this is the introduction to the hero, a formal photo that summarizes/illustrates an essential element of the story. It sets the theme, mood, and look and feel for the rest of the imagery. This could be a portrait of your CEO or a creative image of your product.

Next you’ll need Establishing Shots, which are either tight or wide framing showing action or an environment. Depending upon strategy, this can be an environmental portrait of a supporting character in a context relevant to the story built around the hero’s claims. It suggests setting and introduces the supporting characters who help tell the story set up by the signature shot.

Design photographers will always shoot a variety of portraits — some candid, some posed. Establishing shots give the viewer an understanding of where they are, what has happened and where we might go. This is where we put visual facts to the developing story.

All the while we are looking for Detail Shots, sometimes called people droppings or warmers. Detail shots highlight a specific element of a story. They don’t add much in the way of narrative, but they act as story push notifications. Shooting lots of details helps the designer add interest and further the story visually through the “slow parts” and to the end. These images usually support the financials to help reach the conclusion. These details frequently get picked up for social media and other uses outside of the initial AR.

BOTTOM LINE (welcome to the CFOs who skipped the above paragraphs)

ROI for an annual report can be tracked by increase traffic to online channels, increase in investments or donations or increase in brand awareness. The purpose of the AR is to promote your company story and influence the way in which you are thought of going forward. A well-designed AR and all its visual content — including copy and infographics — are perfect for sharing through social channels and other strategic communications.

Creating an AR takes planning, consideration and pre-visualization to really use it to full advantage. Imagery helps tell better stories, and build stronger brands.

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