Investing in a Visual Reputation

 Invest­ing in a Visu­al Rep­u­ta­tion

By:  Award win­ning South­ern Cal­i­for­nia pho­tog­ra­ph­er, Chip­per Hat­ter | Archi­tec­tur­al Pho­tog­ra­phy   

We’ve all heard the state­ment, “we live in a visu­al world”, its cliche to say, so rather let‘s put it in these terms.

            2.5 Bil­lion — Num­ber of images uploaded to Face­book each month

            1.8 Mil­lion — Num­ber of images uploaded to Flickr each day

It is esti­mat­ed that more pho­tographs are tak­en in the world each day than were cap­tured in the entire first 100 years fol­low­ing the inven­tion of pho­tog­ra­phy.

These sta­tis­tics are pro­found and the trend is only grow­ing. At these rates, the old adage that the one cer­tain­ty in life is death might need to add, tak­ing a pho­to­graph into the mix. How­ev­er, the key ele­ment not men­tioned in any of these sta­tis­tics and what should be para­mount to all mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als is the con­cept of qual­i­ty and sec­ond­ly val­ue.

Ask your­self, would you rather read a page of text or view an out­stand­ing pho­to­graph, and most impor­tant­ly which do you respond more favor­ably toward. You may not be able to express, in a tech­ni­cal sense, what makes a pho­to­graph appeal to you, but hope­ful­ly you do rec­og­nize a well-com­posed, illu­mi­nat­ed, dra­mat­ic pho­to­graph. Just as you are drawn to one image over anoth­er, so will your future clients, which is the goal of your invest­ment in your firm’s visu­al rep­u­ta­tion. You sim­ply can­not afford to accept any­thing less than out­stand­ing qual­i­ty when it comes to the pho­tog­ra­phy of your work as it is often the only rep­re­sen­ta­tion you share with poten­tial clients.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, mar­ket­ing bud­gets and sub­se­quent­ly project pho­tog­ra­phy bud­gets are often the first to be reduced dur­ing eco­nom­ic slow­downs that we are all too famil­iar with at this time. Yet I will hon­est­ly tell you that the clients I have that con­tin­ued to pros­per dur­ing this slow mar­ket share some­thing in com­mon, they have not sac­ri­ficed the qual­i­ty of their project pho­tog­ra­phy. They have not decid­ed to pur­chase their own dig­i­tal cam­era or look to the low­est bid pos­si­ble to pro­vide pho­tog­ra­phy, rather they have con­tin­ued to invest in their visu­al rep­u­ta­tion. They con­tin­ue to win awards and acco­lades and when they com­pete for a project they appear as though they are the only firm that has actu­al­ly com­plet­ed a project in the past few years. Again, ask your­self, which firm would be more appeal­ing to you, one that show­cas­es recent work or one that shares work that you’ve seen repeat­ed­ly in pro­pos­als for the past five years?

Once you’ve come to the real­iza­tion or final­ly con­vinced your firm that invest­ing in qual­i­ty pho­tog­ra­phy is inte­gral to the firm’s visu­al rep­u­ta­tion, step two is pay­ing for the pho­tog­ra­phy nec­es­sary for suc­cess. Out­side of sim­ply rec­om­mend­ing that you con­tact the archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er that is a fel­low SMPS San Diego mem­ber; wink, wink, nod, nod; there are three key ideas that I rec­om­mend when it comes to a firm’s pho­tog­ra­phy bud­get.

First, build a work­ing rela­tion­ship with a pho­tog­ra­ph­er, specif­i­cal­ly an archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er, and a spe­cial­ist that under­stands the nuances of cap­tur­ing suc­cess­ful images of archi­tec­ture. Just as your firm may spe­cial­ize in spe­cif­ic mar­kets, so do pho­tog­ra­phers. Cohe­sive­ness to your mar­ket­ing mes­sage is key and the appear­ance and style of your imagery plays a crit­i­cal role. Find­ing a pho­tog­ra­ph­er with whom you work well with and com­mu­ni­cate the types of images desired of your projects and then they actu­al­ly deliv­er will save time and mon­ey as you will avoid the need to re-pho­to­graph projects and often get to a point where you entrust the pho­tog­ra­ph­er to cap­ture a project with­out a firm rep­re­sen­ta­tive spend­ing their time on site dur­ing the pho­tog­ra­phy. Anoth­er impor­tant aspect regard­ing a strong work­ing rela­tion­ship with a pho­tog­ra­ph­er is the will­ing­ness to work with a bud­get, even when it is reduced, on a giv­en project. Giv­en the option between a one time client ver­sus a repeat client, even if that repeat client over the ups and downs of the eco­nom­ic cycle have to ask for a break on a project rate, I can con­fi­dent­ly tell you that any pho­tog­ra­ph­er would pre­fer the repeat client. If they don’t see the val­ue from a busi­ness stand­point in that choice, they won’t be in busi­ness ter­ri­bly long.

Sec­ond, take part in cost share oppor­tu­ni­ties. Shar­ing the invest­ment of pho­tog­ra­phy between the project team pro­vides greater val­ue for all mem­bers of the team. Typ­i­cal­ly pho­tog­ra­phers will charge a fee for each addi­tion­al par­ty that takes part in the pho­tog­ra­phy, but the end result is still a sav­ings, and often a sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings to each par­ty. The one word of wis­dom on a cost share, make sure you have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­mu­ni­cate to the pho­tog­ra­ph­er what images you need or want to illus­trate your firms work on the project. A pho­tog­ra­ph­er expe­ri­enced in work­ing on cost share projects will con­tact each par­ty to dis­cuss their image needs, but one less expe­ri­enced may just take their direc­tion from whomev­er is lead­ing the pho­tog­ra­phy process.

Final­ly, con­sid­er pri­or­i­tiz­ing your projects and invest­ing in only spe­cif­ic projects, less tru­ly is more. There is noth­ing wrong with pho­tograph­ing all of your firms projects, in fact it could sure make for a hap­py pho­tog­ra­ph­er, but if your mar­ket­ing bud­get allows you to only pho­to­graph a por­tion of projects prop­er­ly, I rec­om­mend focus­ing on those projects that bring the great­est return on the invest­ment. This could mean the projects most apt to when awards and bring the great­est PR to your firm or high­light a par­tic­u­lar mar­ket that your firm is look­ing to grow.

Our plan­et and indus­try are dri­ven more today by visu­als than ever in its past and it will con­tin­ue to move in that direc­tion. The invest­ment that a firm makes in their visu­al rep­u­ta­tion will increas­ing­ly become more impor­tant and dif­fer­en­ti­ate those that are suc­cess­ful from those that are not. In clos­ing, con­sid­er this fact regard­ing Apple Com­put­ers, the world’s largest com­pa­ny, the design depart­ment at 1 Infi­nite Loop in Cuper­ti­no is said to hold greater pow­er and pres­tige than the engi­neer­ing depart­ment.




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