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When A Picture Is Worth 1000 Sales: Spotlight on Great Photographers

By Phil Butler | February 12, 2013

Realty Biz News is proud to profile a great Southern photographer and the art of capturing light, shadow, and people's imaginations. Jay Thomas, an old friend of our editor, has graciously allowed us to present some of the world's most communicative photos, some you have absolutely never seen. 

JacFoto luxury residence

A view of the luxury lifestyle - courtesy Jay Thomas and JayFoto

In the digital world, and in the physical one too, there's no sales medium to compare with pictures. Video or still, no single conduit for advertising, marketing or entertainment is so artistic, or effective for capturing the human imagination and attention. The Walt Disney Company said it best:

“Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.”

Cooking is a key to home sales

Cooking - Courtesy Jay Thomas collection - General Corporate

Let me start by telling you, Jay Thomas was always an artistic person. The first time I remember seeing him he was playing tennis at our High School in South Georgia. His grandfather and his father, were friends of my family's since the 50's or before, but Jay and I knew one another through the associations of school. One thing was always certain about Jay, he would be successful at whatever he chose to do. Taking photographs, it seems, had always been a fascination of his, and accordingly, the places Jay grew up and lived in were the perfect backdrop for developing his photography skills. Fast forwarding to the now, what you will see presented here is a tiny fragment of this professionalism.

Take Away NotesTake Away One - For the reader though, really examining how valuable wonderful imagery is, this can tell the difference between success in sales, and failure. First, take a look at the images above and below. Imagine yourself looking for a piece of property online.


Courtesy - Jay Thomas collection - Gallery 1 Leisure

Today, Jay Thomas is recognized as one of the top lifestyle/location photographers in the South. As the images within this report tell, a big focus of Jay's work over the last few decades has been on such venues as: Resort & Hotel, tourism, lifestyle advertising, celebrity portraits, and many others. Particularly pertinent here is his work focused on residential real estate developments like Jonathan's Landing, Seaside, Collier's Reserve, Arvida, Callaway Gardens, Blalock Lakes, Jacksonville Country Club... Well, the list is fairly endless.

I spoke with the photographer last night about his influences, the technical and artistic means by which fantastic photographs are created, and then the uses people and businesses put them too. We spoke about perhaps the world's most celebrated photographer, Ansel Adams, and what made his work so amazing. As a creative aside here, Jay offered this regarding how Adams had inspired him originally:

"...Ansel Adams is why I became a photographer. I fell in love with Black & White printing, and he was doing things with the black and white printing process, burning and dodging his prints, that most people can only do now thanks to the controls on Adobe Photoshop. He was truly amazing, and inspiring..."

Take Away NotesTake Away Two - Did you look at those two images? Besides being artistically and professionally correct and perfect, what variable(s) differentiate them from your typical real estate website variants? For one thing, each of these photos contains people. Interestingly, a component Jay Thomas almost always incorporates into his work, and one the great Ansel Adams seldom did.

Together in the mind

Together - Courtesy Jay Thomas collection - Gallery 1 Leisure

These tiny fragments of, of the American Dream if you will permit me, the images from Jay's portfolio you see are comprised of two very crucial elements so that people might "preview" the idea of a thing. First, the spectrum of color (or lack thereof in B &W), along with varying light attitudes. Secondly, the human factor that helps us get inside these ideas, visions, dreams. That smile, the tiny shadow on a face, even the bottoms of those children's feet up their jumping from the dock. Even if you did not take note there (I know you have now), in your mind's eye the vision, the idea,  it became solid. Ethereal, I know, but crucial if you want to understand why imagery is so crucial.

Childhood amazement

Courtesy - Jay Thomas collection Gallery 1 Leisure

For those reading who are NOT believers in what photographs do for ads and marketing, which magazine do you tend to pick up in the waiting room of the doctor's or dentist's office? For further convincing here, why do the big brands spend so much money on print and digital ads? What are those ads comprised of primarily? Our subject here, Jay Thomas, has made a life and livelihood working for those very same brands.

His client list, in part, goes something like; American Express, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Delta Airlines, Toyota, Motorola, Marriott Hotels, UPS, Coca Cola, Bermuda Tourism, Maine Tourism, Georgia Pacific, Westin Hotels & Resorts, and dozens and dozens more. I mention this in part because I am proud of my friend, but also to illustrate and cement the value we are talking about here. Do you imagine all these billion dollar brands are stupid?

Take Away NotesTake Away Three - I am sure many of you love the image above of the children and the butterflies. But what does that photo say to you? Maybe a better question is; "Are you in that photo, are your kids?" In the space of this article, and in the context of presenting Jay's wonderful rendition of this child moment, we have actually traversed a little story here. Can you say how?

The "place" of life

Place - Courtesy Jay Thomas collection Gallery 2 - Sporting Resort

If you are still not convinced of the ultimate power of images, a PBS tutorial (PDF) by Karen Zill is the former Manager of Educational Outreach at WETA, Washington, D.C., speaks volumes more about images and their inherent power to convey and convince. Scientifically, human beings are sensitive to visual stimuli far more than to any of the other senses. This should not be news, but as a conveyance of information, the still image is often a lot more practical and prevalent. Without going into a discertation on the uptake of visual stimuli and so forth, suffice it to say a mountain of research proves images help us construct our ideas and our world, and dramatically.

So why have so many institutions and businesses neglected to use images, or images of quality? Perhaps the perception is, photographers like Jay Thomas are just too expensive? Ah, now we have to depart into a digital marketing and ROI seminar. But not really. Audi to Coca Cola, on to Nike, and ending in Carl Zeiss and Zeno, companies have leveled massive resources at this question. In the end photography is cheap when compared to the conversion possibilities. Still unconvinced? Read about Frame of Mind via Time for Kids, The Power of Images at Vogue, there are literally thousands of research papers on this.

Take Away NotesTake Away Four - Now looking at the sequence of these images, can you think of how our visual story has progressed? We just traversed the sentient path of home ownership, now didn't we? A view of luxury or dream atmosphere, then a solidified sense of "home", next our childhood cemented within the context, our sense of togetherness - marriage perhaps - superimposed, the wonder and mystery of children (us and them), togetherness again - moments of mature solitude - life coming full circle, and a reinforced sense of home (below).


Digital compilation by Jay Thomas

Digital compilations by Jay Thomas

Perhaps the best bet for stoic disbelievers here though comes via an article in Psychologies Magazine in the UK. One finding reported their, by Peter Naish, senior lecturer in psychology at The Open University, and undertaken for Orange, revealed the relative "happiness" index of photographs. According to the article, while activities like eating and drinking affect our moods by something like 1 %, looking at photos elevated mood on the order of 11%. So an image is, in theory, 11 times more powerful than a Coca Cola? What about the power to make us want a Coca Cola?

Take Away Notes

Take Away Five - In our public relations practice we preach "telling the story", when most people think PR is all about press releases and hype. This could not be further from the truth for true professionals. The thing you should take away from this article is that without images, no story will ever be complete. And without superb images, telling a really superb story is near impossible. That is, unless you are Hemingway. The fact is, no images or horrible ones, tell the wrong story.

To conclude, we have reported, professed, cajoled, and ranted about the necessity for business online  to have pristine branding and PR. Research shows you have approximately 5 seconds to convince a web visitor to stay on your website. Then there are myriad ways in which to either engage further, for you to run off your potential customers. Now, the whole point of our efforts has been to help you reduce what is termed "bounce rate", and increase "conversions" - this is the Holy Grail of digital marketing, advertising, and sales. Your web efforts, without the necessary "elements", such as the very best images, are sorely wasted.

Faithful companion - courtesy Jay Thomas and JayFoto

Faithful companion - courtesy Jay Thomas and JayFoto

Need I be any more clear? The image above is reflective of this final thought, it's up to you what the future holds.

Jay ThomasAbout Jay Thomas

Jay is widely recognized lifestyle/location photographer. An expert at location production, he has worked with a very diverse group of clients over the years. Jay's areas of focused work include; resorts & hotels, tourism, lifestyle advertising, real estate, corporate annual reports, music, sports, and celebrity portraits.

Raised in coastal Georgia, Jay is an avid outdoorsman. A graduate of the University of Georgia, he also attended UGA's Portfolio Center prior to launching Jay Thomas Photography back in 1986. His Jay Thomas Productions handles ad and still photography production including digital manipulation and proofing. Jay lives with his family in Marietta, Georgia.

Readers can reach Jay via Jay Thomas Photography at: 770-429-8870. He can also be reached via email at: [email protected].

Editor's note: All images are the property of Jay Thomas Photography and may not be copied or reproduced without the photographer's expressed permission.

Phil Butler is a former engineer, contractor, and telecommunications professional who is editor of several influential online media outlets including part owner of Pamil Visions with wife Mihaela. Phil began his digital ramblings via several of the world’s most noted tech blogs, at the advent of blogging as a form of journalistic license. Phil is currently top interviewer, and journalist at Realty Biz News.
  • 4 comments on “When A Picture Is Worth 1000 Sales: Spotlight on Great Photographers”

    1. Jay has made more Art Directors look good than all the black turtlenecks and torn jeans ever bought south of 14th Street.. And he does it with patience, humor, confidence building expertise and the good grace and civility learned I suppose in that coastal town and photographer breeding ground of Jesup by the Sea. Would use him again without hesitation and indeed plan on doing so at the very next opportunity that rolls my direction.

      1. Hey Keith, thanks for taking the time to come and say so. Jay is an old friend and a gifted photographer. On top of that, a super nice human being too.

        Thanks again,


    2. My clients require high quality photo representation of real life situations. The subjects are not models and, most likely, have never been professionally photographed. The target audience consist of highly skeptical yet marketing saavy youth ranging in age from 17 to 20. A tough audience to persuade to buy. I work with over a dozen photographers from throughout the United States and Canada, yet I most always call Jay first. He consistently creates superbly composed, yet believable images. One of Jay's strengths is to see an image "on the fly" and then capture the scene. Always friendly, always understanding of the subjects' insecurities, always offering a humourous observation, Jay is a supurb technical shooter but more importantly, a man who has a positive effect on everyone he encounters.

    3. Absolutely love this photography, Phil. Thanks for sharing Jay's awesome talents! Color me jealous...I've always wanted to be able to take pics like this! 😉

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