Invest in building a company image bank

0E7A4801.jpgWhether you are redoing your website to give it a new look and feel, or launching a new one, you will need photos.  You’ll probably need lots of other things too, like video, and good strong copy, forms and quick action buttons to let your customers reach you directly or submit their briefs to you, but it is extremely unlikely you’ll even have customers if your website is not engaging and attractive enough to draw them to you in the first place.

Building up a library of your own stock images is a useful project that should be done at least once a year, if not seasonally depending on the kind of business you are in.

094A4652.jpgBooking a photographer for a day makes a lot of economic sense too. You usually benefit from a better rate than straight hourly, and you may be surprised at how much photography output one well-planned day can result in.

I receive mandates to produce in-house stock photography frequently. Sometimes from brands wishing to generate a huge volume of imagery that they can then drip out over a number of marketing campaigns, and more often directly from businesses themselves, who book me to shoot mock meetings, beauty shots of their factories or venues, product and people at work (day in the life) type photos. Once onsite I may also get asked to grab a few headshots or team photos as well. In a single day of shooting you can conceivably get your entire staff photographed, in their respective teams as well as individually, and generate a few hundred around the office or shop floor shots that can be used for any number of things beyond your own website.

094A4830.jpgSocial media channels, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook being the main ones, all have ferocious appetites for constantly refreshed content. A good photo with a caption can tell a piece of your story, one image at a time, and keep the content pipeline full.

Your company may also be featured in a trade magazine, or be asked to present at an industry event. You’ll need updated fresh images for that too.

Or you may be going through an internal transformation, with a lot of new hires who need to be added to the team section on your site.

While photo stock libraries can help in a pinch, what you wind up with is a website or other marketing product that looks a lot like everyone else’s who went to look for the same kinds of stock photos you were searching for:

  • Young people meeting and discussing something…
  • A group of professionals in a board room…
  • Corporate woman/man looking confident and happy in office setting…
  • Techie guy working on computer screen…

Whatever your particular need, I can assure you there are hundreds, if not thousands of other companies looking for more or less the same kinds of images. The result, of course, is that you end up with the same (or very similar images) and wind up with a very generic looking website that tells nothing about the uniqueness of your company.

094A4888.jpgHiring your own photographer and working with him or her to develop a creative shot list of your own people, products, office space/manufacturing environment is not only far more useful and adaptable to your needs — it is probably cheaper too.

Stock images come with costs for licensing and the better ones can be fairly restrictive.

Of course you can choose to go for free versions from sites like Unsplash or Creative Commons platforms where photographers give away some of their images in the hopes of growing their fame or getting recognized (good luck with that). But even these sites suffer from the same generic images that are not really specific to your company, your brand, your people, your story. In the end, you may have a gorgeous full screen image that says nothing at all about what your company does, makes, sells or offers and in a second your visitor is already bouncing off to look at more pretty pictures without having clicked through to you.

The fall is a very good time to start planning for your next calendar year. Look ahead and start thinking about booking a photographer for January or February (often slow business months which translates into fewer on-site work disruptions). Alternatively, mid-June or July can be good months to capture images inside and outside your office and your staff tends to look a little healthier around that time of year too.

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Building up an image library is an investment in a digital asset that all companies need – regardless of industry. I can think of very few firms who do not have need of some kind of professional photography for their websites, marketing materials, social channels and trade publications.  Make it part of the annual marketing calendar of activities and you’ll never have to scramble again for a usable headshot of your new VP who’s just been asked to speak at a conference.

Behind every photo is an idea

Men at work

I was recently hired to create the photos for a company website relaunch project. The creative briefing involved meeting with the marketing director and general manager, reviewing the look book provided by their web designers and brainstorming on what we could do to make the portraits and products look interesting, authentic and fresh in line with the new look planned for the site.

 

Decommissioned manufacturing site near Montreal
Decommissioned manufacturing site near Montreal

The look we were trying to achieve was industrial, showing real people in contexts related to the nature of the work they do (manufacturing and refurbishing various barrels, pails, buckets, oil drums and related myriad accessories). We immediately discussed shooting the portraits in a second factory location currently in the process of being dismantled. As the decommissioning of our shooting location was active, we needed to move quickly from planning to shooting to ensure there would still be machinery and interesting materials to work with to create our setups.

I visited the factory location a day before shooting day to scope out some locations. I wandered through the furnace where once steel oil drums were burnished and formed, along rails they used to roll along that passed in front of a paint room with walls Jackson Pollack would envy, letting visual ideas come to me as I wandered. In the central area workers were cutting through large machines to be hauled off for scrap, their arc welders casting off sprays of sparks like oversized sparklers on a birthday cake. The floor was covered in dust and tracks from various vehicles and dollies had criss-crossed it leaving patterns like you’d see on a road of recently fallen snow.

On shooting day, I arrived early and created three set-ups: one by a stack of wonderfully aged and multi-coloured palettes; another in a room with a vast collection of black standing oil drums waiting for their final delivery; and a third in the furnace room before a gnarly, beast of a machine with pipes and vents protruding from it like a patient on life support.

The subjects, real people, not models, some of whom clearly had not had much, if any, experience with a professional photographer, arrived in time slots, 5 at a time. I decided to try to shoot each in a slight different spot, giving each a unique portrait that would all be thematically linked and visually consistent, but different enough to convey a sense of the uniqueness of each individual.

It went exceedingly well, and both my client and I was pleased with the results. I realized that a big part of the success of this shoot was having the leeway from the client to be creative and have fun with the shoot, within the framework agreed to ahead of time. As well, the subjects themselves, initially a little nervous and awkward soon found themselves enjoying the experience and contributing ideas for setups and locations that improved the final images.

And all of it was done within a few productive days. No long lead up or series of creativity-sapping meetings, no layers of approvals or complicated lighting setups. We worked with what we had, in an authentic environment marked by time and delivered a set of unique portraits that will breathe new life into the forthcoming website, a far cry above the standard, dull, headshot-against-seamless-white background that everyone has seen thousands of time.

The difference really, was this shoot started with an idea we collaborated on – photographer, client and subjects – to create something together.

Feedback welcome – on your own terms

JHP on Yelp
Yelp me out if you want to!

If you are like me you get feedback requests from nearly every online service you use. I get texts from my cell phone company asking me to fill in surveys after every call I make to them, emails from news sites I subscribe to asking for my opinion, and then there are all those annoying little slidey-up, pop-up windows that appear when you’ve visited a site asking for your opinion. Not to mention apps that periodically request a review – even ones you’ve already paid for. I get it – businesses large and small (especially small) often thrive on positive reviews and sink on negative ones. Word of mouth marketing can be the Midas Touch or the Kiss of Death, depending on how well you perform as a business in satisfying your customer needs. For an independent freelance photographer, providing superior client service is just table stakes. Nonetheless, I’ve always believed that if a client is really happy with your work, they will make the time to say so. If you’ve really done a great job, telling their friends and network about you will reflect well on them as you can then provide the same great service to their social circles. Everybody wins.

But I respect my clients and people’s time above everything and since I find requests for feedback increasingly annoying, I assume others do as well.

Which is my round-about way of saying, that I’ve created a separate page on a the pretty popular recommendations service, Yelp, where reviews from my past, present and perhaps future clients are welcome. Good or not, your honest, real feelings and thoughts on the work I’ve done for and with you are welcome and if you feel so inclined, and have the time, please stop by and let me – and the world – know what you think.

Here’s the link: Julian Haber Photography on Yelp

Thank you!

Staying safe when shooting on site in industrial locations

Earlier this summer I went on a fun shoot for a stevedoring company (the guys who load and unload ships) and I had a chance to get a shot of one of Montreal’s iconic buildings from an angle rarely seen.

Shooting in the shipping yards was hectic and felt a bit like being in a war zone. Actually it felt like being an ant in a land of giants as mega-forklifts whizzed past hoisting up containers and stacking them one on top of the other in a life-sized game of Tetris.

I was wearing safety gear – a reflective vest and helmet and had to pass through strict security on the way in, accompanied by my client.  Once on the ground, I realized how important it was to follow all the safety regulations and literally stay within the lines. My client is the only company in the Port of Montreal with a huge loading crane that looked to me like one of the spaceships in Tron. I was able to climb up to the main walkway, a few hundred feet above the ground and take aerial shots of all the activitiy in the facility, as well as grab this unique shot of the Five Roses building from an angle most Montreal photographers will never have a chance to get.

I like shooting onsite for clients with big industrial facilities. One of the advantages of being a professional freelance photographer in a great port city like Montreal is the chance to visit factories, plants and places where the GDP is actually being made. I’ve been lucky to have many such opportunities and having been in many industrial locations as a facilities photographer, I never take any chances with safety.  I always keep safety foremost in mind when shooting on location and know that it is especially important in industrial sites where there is a lot of activity and you are an out of the ordinary appearance.