Posts Tagged ‘client’
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.
When clients ask why I don’t deliver unretouched RAW files, without getting into a long diatribe listing the many reasons why I retain all files and only deliver client selected retouched versions, the simplest answer seems to be “quality control”.
I can completely understand why clients may feel as though the images they paid good money for are being held hostage. I empathize with the stress a designer may feel when the client wants an ad out the door ASAP and you can’t get in touch with the photographer. I can also relate to the desire for any party to wipe their hands clean and to not feel chained and reliant on a photographer to accomplish their goals. My business practice of retaining control of the images is not an evil plot to make others lives miserable, on the contrary, it is to ensure that you look good and the client is well served. Once I let an image out free into the world, I no longer have control, but unfortunately am the first to blame when it doesn’t look good, so yes, there is a selfish element here. My work and business are judged on the image and I need to do everything possible to control it’s quality. Fortunately for the client, what best serves my business and reputation serves them as well.
While I am sure to have more blogs on this subject as well as on the value of retouching and the time involved in doing so, perhaps for now, a before and after picture from a shoot when weather was not cooperating, may in fact best illustrate why I prefer to control the final outcome of the image.
I have to shoot an aerial tomorrow for a client and had to do something today that was difficult for me and went against my personal quality and aesthetic standards. I booked a helicopter and a pilot for 1:00 in the afternoon, the worst time to photograph when the light is so high and flat, depleting the earth of all depth and shadows. Not an ideal situation for creating beautiful aerial images. Not only did I go so far as to research the suns zenith, or highest point in the sky, but I scheduled it before the buds on the trees had a chance to sprout their beautiful light green leaves. Why you ask……… Because that is what best served the client and their needs, not mine.
Long story short, the shoot is for reference purposes in a law suit where personal property (trees) were destroyed and to best illustrate that, it requires having the property line clearly marked and visible and out of the shadows of the nearby mature trees. As difficult as it is as an artist to go into a job with no intention of creating beautiful photography it is a valuable exercise that reminds me that my needs and or desire to create great photography is secondary to what my clients needs are. It is wonderful when the clients needs perfectly align with ones own vision and expectations as a photographer but the reality is, when you shoot commercially for a living, your job first and foremost is to put aside personal creative goals and to focus intently on understanding your clients needs and delivering a product that serves them, not yourself.
So for now, as much as I love photographing from a helicopter in the early morning or late afternoon when the light is more dramatic and creates great shadows and depth on the landscape below, I will have to approach the job as we always should and do what best meets the goals of the client, not our own and create an image that although may not be beautiful, is effective.