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Photos vs. Video: How to Make an Impact with Your Storytelling

Joel Waggener

Designer, 15+ Years of Print and Web Design Expertise

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Photos vs. Video: How to Make an Impact with Your Storytelling Blog Feature

Published on October 26th, 2017

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Humans have been communicating through images for tens of thousands of years. We know this from drawings on cave walls around the world. And we know it from our own experience. With no disrespect to the power of the written word, when faced with a paragraph of text or an image that both communicate the same information, we gravitate to the image virtually without exception. We’re deeply wired for taking in information visually.

There was a time when still photography was the only visual communication option available to marketers. But with the advent of more cost-effective tools for capturing and editing “motion pictures,” as well as the internet and sharing platforms like Facebook, video has become a very powerful way to connect with your target audience.

This, of course, leaves you with a dilemma if you want to include visual storytelling in a project: should you use photography or video? Your answer to that question is an important one, as it can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your campaign. Your choice should never come down to “gut feel” or a coin flip. It’s important that you give serious consideration to what medium will work best.

“Should you use photos or video in your #storytelling? Your answer to that question is an important one.” TWEET THIS

Photography and Video Contrasted: Humans of New York in Two Mediums

Bestselling author, photographer, and blogger Brandon Stanton rose to fame with compelling still images of people around the city in his Humans of New York photo series. For several years he released portrait photography along with quotes from his subjects to tell stories. He had a knack for capturing a powerful moment while people shared their life experiences. His stories were quite emotional and remarkable in the fact that they were created with a single photograph. 


Source: Humans of New York, Brandon Stanton

Now Stanton is releasing a new series on Facebook Video that has the same intent, but with video. Again he is capturing a person’s story, but in this format we are seeing and hearing it play out in their spoken words. Is that a more effective approach?

Source: Humans of New York, Brandon Stanton

OK… in truth, that’s an overly broad and unfair question. How “effective” a photograph or video is depends on the end goal you have in mind. It’s also measured by the resources you must commit to achieve it.

Pros and Cons of Photos and Video

With stats like one from marketing automation company HubSpot saying that 43 percent of people want to see more video content from marketers, there are people who would say that video, the newcomer in visual storytelling, is kicking still photography to the curb. But the reality is each has its pluses and minuses.



  • Has a low production cost
  • Images can be captured and processed quickly
  • Has a smaller file size for easier sharing


  • Only scratches the surface of most topics
  • Doesn’t have motion or sound to engage more of the senses
  • Is seen by some as “old school”



  • Provides more sensory input for deeper engagement
  • Enables the telling of more of a story
  • Is extremely mentally and emotionally “sticky” with viewers


  • Is more expensive to produce
  • Requires more of a person’s valuable time
  • Availability and access requires higher-end technology

How do you want your visuals to make your target audience feel? How much are you willing to spend to achieve that objective? What skills and technology are needed to create and share your visual story? You’ve got a lot to think about before you make your investment.

And, of course, it doesn’t have to be a “one or the other” kind of decision. Some of the most engaging campaigns today use a mix of photos and video.

Every Project is Unique

Ultimately, you will have different goals and a different budget for every project you undertake. The key is to partner with an agency that can provide some perspective on what will work best in a particular instance from its interactions with many other companies.

Have questions about your next marketing initiative and whether photos, video, or a creative combination of the two will best help your brand stand out? We’ve got answers! Contact us today and let’s talk about what form of visual storytelling is best for this campaign.

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