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.