They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Now I don’t know who’s doing the counting but sometimes a picture is worth a whole lot more than that – and sometimes, it isn’t worth a syllable.

Aesthetically, a picture – any picture – can add a lot to your piece by providing a visual break … and, by that measure alone, you may want to consider it.

But when people ask me if they need a photograph, most of the time they are asking if it will help response. And to that, I say “It depends.”

The question is this: “Does this photograph communicate or clarify a specific message to my audience?”

The answer is “Yes” if your photographs can do any of the following:

Show product quality
Some products need to be seen to be sold. Clothing, furniture, automobiles come to mind. On the B-to-B side, a trade show display company needs to show how attractive their displays are. And words can’t do it as well as a photograph.

Show product size
You can provide dimensions, weights and other measurements to convey size but if you really want people to notice the size of your product, use a photograph to show your product in relation to something the reader knows.

Show product use
Sometimes you just need to show how a product is used. Often new tools need to be demonstrated – and a series a photographs can provide that demonstration. If your product has multiple applications, words might do it, but photos will be stronger.

Show product features/benefits
Some of the most powerful photographs are “call-out” photos. I recently saw a terrific “call-out” photo of a new camera. It was a close-up shot of the camera with detailed descriptions of the camera’s key features and related benefits. Each feature and benefit pointed to a specific spot on the camera.

Show product results
Landscapers can talk all they want about their credentials and service, but when you come right down to it, you want to see what they can do. A photograph of a well-tended landscape can do this job.

Show your offer
This can really boost your response. If you are offering a free white paper, booklet or information kit, show a picture of it (or at least an illustration). A visual of your offer gets your reader’s attention.

Connect with your target audience
If you are targeting a specific audience, it can only help if you use a photograph of a typical customer from that group. If your product is for seniors, show a senior. If your product is for teens, show a teen. If your product is for doctors, show a doctor.

Personalize your company
If you have a small business (one or two people), it makes sense to use a photo of yourself – on your brochure, website, direct mail pieces – because it personalizes your business. And if you’re a large company, consider personalizing your sales people.


This list may not cover everything, but hopefully, it gives you an idea of the real purpose of photography. Sure it can make your piece look good, but if you give it some thought, your photographs can also help you sell.


Written by Bob McCarthy

This article may be reprinted without permission as long as the article includes the following credit: Bob McCarthy is a freelance copywriter and consultant specializing in direct marketing and lead generation. His website is He can be reached at 508-473-8643 or by email at

About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."