I recently photographed Race Hub’s on air talent for Fox Sports, which is displayed in one of the massive windows outside the Nascar Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.
I admit, I enjoy creating images purely for art sake but there is something about creating photography that helps achieve the goals of a client that has tremendous satisfaction all on it’s own. Essentially, effective photography over self satisfying art.
One of the most satisfying examples for me is when I took on the task of branding my best friends build/remodel company. Logistically, our venture was challenging as an 8 hour car ride separates us, yet the excuse to get together on a project with an old friend made the inconvenience of traveling between Charlotte and Cincinnati worth my while. For companies like The Howland Group, as it is for most builders, architects, landscape designers and the like, the goal is simple… Show the work! The brand and talent are evident in the work they produce, which is why I believe strongly that in many cases the photography is really where it should all begin. Without good quality photography to showcase their work, websites, facebook pages, advertisements or blogs fall well short of achieving the goal they set of promoting their business effectively. Content is critical and far too often I see businesses of all different varieties short change themselves, their product, and their brand by skimping on the most important tool available to them; the image.
I could easily write a short story on how important I think photography is but to illustrate my point perhaps I simply submit my friends remodeling company as a case study of what the potential is. Now I certainly can’t take all the credit of course, because he and his business partner are the ones with the talent to design and build the projects they do but if the photography doesn’t showcase their product in a way that is consistent with the standard of quality that they deliver, then it doesn’t carry through to the potential client and hurts their brand.
Since taking on the task of photographing The Howland Groups projects several years ago, designing their website, and commissioning a designer to create a logo and a couple print ads, they have been published in two National Kitchen publications, featured on HGTV, landed a feature and cover for Cincinnati Housetrends Magazine in their direct market, and were named 2013 Contractor of the Year and won the Regional and National award for exterior project over $100,000 from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). More importantly than any one of those accolades or public relations successes is their profit margins. They are kicking ass! They are completely booked through 2014 and have more projects coming to them than they can handle. Another huge benefit, the projects are ones they want and for customers who value them and their work. Clients are coming to them for what they bring to the table, not to price shop. Because the Howland Group valued themselves and their product enough to spend the money to properly photograph and market their work, they were able to break through the market of mediocrity as well as the noise of average websites and uninspiring photography, to help identify their brand and reach their ideal clients.
No doubt I am extremely biased when it comes to valuing quality photography and design and if my opinion, the media results, awards, company profits, and owners satisfaction isn’t enough to convince you of it’s importance, perhaps a quote and story from one of their customers will.
When the Howland Group asked a recent client who contracted them to renovate their kitchen for $ 300,000 why they ultimately decided to use them over the contractor they had in mind for over a year, her answer was the following. “I liked your photography”. She recalled that she opened the front page of Housetrends and saw the ad. She said, “it really stood out from all the other ads in the magazine because not only was the work you had done great but she was very impressed with the photography”. She went on to explain that anybody who was willing to work with such an exceptional photographer was who she wanted to do her project. She felt that since they put so much care in showcasing their work with such quality that they had to put the same care into the quality of their project………. She felt “they get it.”
When the Howland Group shared this story with me, it was deeply gratifying to know that all the time and effort put into helping them identify their brand and showcase their work actually had a quantifiable result. It is rare that any photographer has the ability to point to any one specific result. Photography, marketing, and branding are a cumulative and consistent endeavor and while I know personally how important it is to any company’s overall success, being able to point to a $300,000 project and say that it was directly due to the quality of photography……….. well that is what I call effective photography.
One of my favorite clients just made it a little more interesting for me and for all sports fans. Speed Channel, an entity of Fox Sports Media Group, has decided to directly compete with ESPN and is launching a new national, multi sport network that will give sports fans some more options and ESPN a little competition. In preparation for the launch of FS1 they spared no expense in hiring Director Joseph Kahn in filming a 90 second commercial spot to air at tomorrow nights Major League All-Star Game, which will feature NFL’s Joe Flacco & Patrick Willis, Nascars Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne, USA Soccer star Alex Morgan, and Ultimate Fighter Georges St Pierre among others. Here are just a couple of production stills I photographed for FS1 for their Public Relations purposes from the Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne shoot at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The commercial will air around the 5th inning of the All Star Game on Tuesday, July 16th if you want to check it out.
If your flying this month on U.S Airways check out the article on Puppies in Training that I recently photographed at the Charlotte facility or read the online version on their website. It is about the partnership of U.S Airways and Assistance Dogs International where employee volunteers help train dogs to become guide dogs for the visually impaired. It is no surprise that it is their most popular employee volunteer program with a lottery system for who gets chosen to fly with them. Unfortunately you need to be a U.S air employee to do that but if interested in helping and working with these fantastic dogs locally in Charlotte, there are many ways to get involved, including becoming a foster home for a pup in training through the EENP (Eyes Ears Nose & Paws)
Since not all the dogs made the cut for the article I thought I would give them each some well deserved exposure for being great models. Is it wrong of me to say they were a lot more fun than working with people?
I am not a big fan of reality shows but I recently photographed some production stills for one that is worthy of watching. It is called “Neale Bayly Rides: Peru” and is on Speed Channel. The show is led by Neale Bayly who is a renowned motorcycle journalist, adventurer, and philanthropist who assembles a small group of individuals and prepares them for the journey of riding motorcycles across Peru and ends at an orphanage in need of their support.
This reality show does not capitalize on conflict or interject drama like so many others and actually has a purpose. How refreshing! That purpose is to raise awareness, funding, and support for the Hogar Belen Orphanage in Moquegua, Peru which is an orphanage that takes in abandoned and abused children. The drama comes naturally as 3 average people with varying degrees of riding experience come together to train and ultimately test their strength, stamina, and skill as they trek across a vast country on two wheels through chaotic city traffic, harsh environments, and challenging conditions both physical and emotional.
The tragedy of it all…….. I could not convince my client to send me to Peru to document the ride and had to settle for photographing the training.
Check it out and set your DVR for Friday, June 28 where Speed Channel will air all 3 episodes back to back starting at 7:30 p.m.
Once again, patience has a way of rewarding those willing to stick it out. Luck certainly plays a role as well but if you don’t stick things out long enough to see what will happen, luck never has a chance. I am not talking about some incredible photo that is life changing or will have much impact outside of the needs of my client, but when I am hired to shoot a project, my client is all that really matters anyway.
After we wrapped up an interior industrial shoot for S&D coffee in Concord, North Carolina I was asked to capture an exterior image of their brand new corporate headquarters. No problem. It was 5:30 and I could wait out the light. As I sat in my car in the parking lot it was approaching 6:00 and the late afternoon sun was starting to look pretty nice on the building. I began grabbing my tripod and gear from the back of my explorer when all of a sudden I hear the dreaded sound of the irrigation system starting up that sounds just like a 2 liter bottle of soda being opened…… only longer. Of course to most this sound would not cause any alarm but for a photographer, it is enough to cause sheer panic. If you have ever witnessed a photo shoot with strobes, light stands, power packs, and thousands of dollars worth of gear on the set when a sudden storm rolls in or a sprinkler system turns on….. you know what I mean. The quickness with which a photographer and crew can move is astounding and would imagine fairly comical to watch. Luckily on this day, it was just me, my camera, tripod, and a couple filters
While there was no real threat to my gear those sprinklers were definitely a threat to my shot as it drenched the sidewalk, part of the stone wall, and was right in the middle of the shot. Now the big question. Are they 20, 30, or 40 minute cycles and after this zone turns off which is next to start? Turns out they were 1 hour cycles and at 7:00 just like clock work, they turned off and then the sprinkler heads popped up right in the middle of the newly established sod and were more in my shot than before. With another hour of waiting, it seemed like an ideal time to hit Chick-fil-A for dinner.
So it is just shy of 8:00 now and since I started this process the sun has slowly moved toward the horizon and behind some trees causing some areas of the walkway and building to be cast in shadow. Here is where the luck comes into play. The sun was pretty bright between 7:00 and 8:00 which worked out perfectly because it dried the sidewalk and the stone wall in front of the building, but now as it was setting, it started to fall behind a thin layer of clouds at the horizon. The light became soft, even, and beautiful like a huge softbox with a warming gel on it. The other benefit from what was initially the main obstacle, was that the sprinklers wet the flowers and grass making the colors rich and saturated. As I stood with my tripod and camera ready, 8:00 came and the sprinklers turned off but to my surprise there was another zone right along the road side…….. which was exactly where I needed to be to capture the entire building. That however could be managed and I did not have a lot of time to get the shot before I lost the light. So in a matter of 5 minutes, I raced into position, set up my camera, situated my neutral density filters on the lens to help balance the light between the sky and building and shot a couple of frames at a time before I had to exit the sprinklers path. I admit, I became too focused on the shot and took a direct hit from the sprinkler a couple times but was able to shield the camera and lens with my body in time. As quickly as it all came together it was gone. The sun dropped down too far and in an instant the subtle glow on the building was gone. So in a matter of a 3 hour period there was just a brief 5 minute window where all the elements came together to enable me the opportunity to capture an ideal image for the client. Most importantly though, had I given up on the shot when circumstances did not seem to be going my way or have the patience to see what could develop, that image would not exist or grace the home page on their new website. The reality is, it may not have turned out as well as it did, those clouds may not have been there at all, or the sprinklers could have outlasted the light, but if you don’t stick it out long enough to find out, you most certainly won’t give luck a chance to go your way.
These are some images from when I spent a couple days in rural Pennsylvania shooting architectural images for a Log Cabin client of mine. I could definitely live here!
Environmental portraits in a corporate office can be difficult sometimes. The second you arrive the scouting begins with stops at the usual locations. The lobby is the most logical first stop. “Are there any nice architectural elements? Is there a lot of glass perhaps that could make for an interesting background.” Next stop is the conference room. “I hope it is big and has a nice wooden table, leather chairs, and a huge bank of windows”……….. no such luck on almost all counts. Next stop, the office of the executive…… in this case it is Jochen Etzel, the CEO of Continental Tire of the Americas. We can work with this, in fact we have to work with this because I have to produce two different portraits for the client and the office is on the list as a must. So, where is that second location going to be?
This whole time during the scouting process, you feel like you are one of the most rude people in the world who also happens to be a bit of a snoop. While trying to engage in pleasant conversation with your client you are turning your head every which way, even peering into conference rooms with people in them and generally just trying to scan the entire place for possibilities before my assistant and I are off to the races setting up lights. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was not fully engaged in the conversation, unless of course the conversation pertained to the shoot itself. Fortunately, this is a long term client and by now probably understands how I operate, so I am more focussed on the task at hand then trying to develop a relationship. More over, she is a get the job done kinda of women and incredibly efficient, so as clients go, we are very compatible.
Moving on to the lunch room……… not typically a place I would ever be scouting for a corporate portrait but they just went through a renovation and low and behold there is this beautiful white plastered wall with depth, curves and shadows with the logo and word Continental mounted to it in big bold letters with a modern brushed aluminum look. Now this is what I’m talking about! Clean and simple with the ability to Brand the Company and add context to the photo. Perfect!
Well it seems that it is appropriate to put something up about Sharks since Discovery Channel just ended their “Shark Week” and since I do not have any images of Sharks, thought I would share a website I found from another photographer. Some pretty cool images here by Thomas Peschak. Also, just stumbled on a show last night on PBS called “Inside Natures Giants”, where scientists dissected a Great White. Pretty graphic but incredibly interesting. This group of scientists travel around and dissect other animals like Tigers, Giant Squid, Whales, etc. and I plan to watch every one as it really dives into the intricacies of their physical make up and evolutionary adaptations which make them so unique and at the top of the food chain, that is of course if you count humans out.