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The Most Undervalued Asset In Your Marketing Toolkit

In over 15 years of working in the industry, the one thing that continues to surprises me is how photography is still one of the most undervalued creative assets and how clients won’t justify the cost or understand its impact.

Fact – good quality photography can impact positive change – from getting you or your company noticed, encourage trial and when available on demand (and in the right format) can elevate a client from just a mention within a piece of editorial to leading a feature or converting it into a photo spread for greater impact.

But we don’t have the budget…

If the photography is out-dated, not suitable for its purpose, or not even a decent resolution for use across your marketing then you cannot effectively promote your product, company or service to the best of your abilities. You’re missing out on exposure as a good picture can determine whether you’re used in the media, or you’re failing to impact and engage with potential customers.

With digital cameras and mobile phones many people think that they can handle their own photography and save themselves money, but there is specific knowledge, expertise and talent that goes into creating a professional image – plus you can’t fix a bad shoot once it’s done.

Professional photography is not just an ‘extra cost’ but something that should be factored into your budget right from the beginning. It is actually a really great business investment and one that can be rolled out across so much of your marketing activity.

Over to our expert…..Susannah Fields

I spoke to trusted KV Comms Partner, Susannah Fields, a professional photographer for over 12 years, who has worked in the hospitality, corporate and public sectors – to explain the value a professional shoot delivers, but also what to expect when working with a photographer to get the most out of your investment.

Susannah Fields Headshot resized

What are the common misconceptions when it comes to hiring a professional photographer?

This can be broken down to four key points:

Planning and experience: Many clients don’t consider the planning behind the shoot, once they’ve booked me then they think that the job is done instead of fully utilising my expertise and guidance to know how best to approach the upcoming shoot. I’m always happy to help with planning and advise on putting together a brief – it makes my job easier too! The more you plan, the better the shoot.

Understanding: There’s little understanding about what goes on before and after a shoot. Some clients think you’re there to take a few ‘snaps’ but there’s much more involved as well as the day itself – from ensuring all the camera equipment and backups are fully charged and working, preparing the right lighting and the time spent afterwards editing the shots to provide you with a high quality portfolio of images. Depending on the job, especially the bigger commercial shoots, you could be getting a week’s worth of time with day’s booking of professional photography.

Usage and licence: There are clients who don’t realise the legal requirements linked to the images they are taking. When you hire a photographer, the use of images needs to be agreed – is it for an event and if so can you use crowd shots or images of key speakers or do you need permission? Is it a commercial shoot for an advertising campaign and if so, do you have model releases for the images?

Price: The cost of the expert is not for just for the hours they see you for the shoot but access to years of knowledge, experience and creative talents. As mentioned before, the time to prep and edit a quality shoot is factored into the cost as well as hiring top quality equipment and insurance cover to ensure a successful photography session.

What are some of the biggest challenges you have with clients during shoots?

A lot of clients try and squeeze ‘extras’ on the shoot outside the initially agreed brief. There’s a lot of time required to set up shots. Factors such as lighting and styling need to be considered to ensure quality images and the time planned is better allocated to, say 10 great shots, rather than 20 mediocre ones.

Luckily – and again here is where experience is incredibly valuable – I’m able to think quickly and creatively and get the best out of the shoot , providing solutions to any problems on the day that arise.

How important is a clear brief to you and the work you do?

Very important – I provide a helpful ‘how to brief a photographer’ sheet upon booking to ensure that all the right questions are asked, but there are also logistical points to consider and confirm such as the time you require the photographer to turn up and who’s the main point of contact on the day overseeing the client brief?

What prices can people expect to pay for an experienced/quality photographer?

Clients can expect the following price guidelines for a decent photographer, but it all depends on the type of photography and what’s specifically required.

Product shoots, say in a hotel, venue or restaurant, for half a day can range from £400 – £600, and a full day rate £700 – £2,000. Commercial advertising, for example a brand running an ad campaign, could be anything from £1500 upwards depending on agency fees, or which established photographer you’ve chosen. There may be extra charges for planning, location recces, and licensing, which need to be factored in to the cost.

More amateurs are using their own digital equipment, how can professional photographers expect to compete?

We can only compete if a client understands what a good photo looks like. I believe they do when it’s put in front of them and they take the time to compare. If they care enough, they’ll see the difference in quality and style, and they’re prepared to pay for that.

You have some companies, say a five star hotel, who may have terrible photography on their website but they don’t see the problem and just won’t pay for quality images. There’s no accounting for someone’s personal taste and that’s fine, but then they wonder why they can’t secure business and their competitors are doing better than them or they aren’t being featured in as many media outlets.

Others may realise their photography needs an overhaul and they can’t do this themselves and recognise talent and expertise is key to achieving this. There are others who can’t afford the investment but who are prepared to review in a few months as they do see its importance.

With regards to amateur photographers, you could own a grand piano and enjoy tinkering at weekends but few of us will play the Royal Albert Hall. Someone with a digital SLR camera doesn’t compare with someone who has trained, researched, studied and practised to perfect their skills over the years.

With visual social media platforms such as Instagram growing in popularity, how has this impacted professional photography and its usage?

The need for quality photography has increased as everyone now has a website compared to 15 years ago and this should have improved the industry. However, with platforms such as Instagram it’s so easy to take a shot on your camera and edit using filters that it has somewhat diluted its importance. There is confusion as to when you need a quality photographer.

A chef taking a quick iPhone snap of a new dish he’s prepared for service is perfectly adequate for his Instagram. However, if you’re shooting for your website, brochures, promotions or other types of photography that require skill, consistency and needs the wow factor, then that’s the time to call the pros in.

Susannah Field Photographer c Mark Cornwell

Finally, what’s your personal approach when working with clients and what can they expect?

Whilst I have trained and practised professional photography for over a decade, I still revel in the fun and creative challenge involved in photo-shoots. My ideal client is someone looking for creative images to help sell their talents and what they do. For example, a designer, a hotel or a chef who has a clear vision and passion who is willing to sit down and plan the shoot to get the best possible results.

I always aim to provide a very personable, consultative experience for my clients. I’m a good listener, which helps me to understand what’s required and lots of experience means I can solve problems quickly, providing guidance and advice. I have a creative way of seeing things and this means I can often get more unusual or impactful shots not originally considered. Of course I always aim to ensure the shoot runs smoothly and efficiently and, importantly for clients, on time and within budget.

If you have any questions on using photography for your marketing or hiring a photographer please post in the comments below.

Our thanks to our talented and professional photography partner for her time and advice. To contact Susannah Fields visit her website here or email info@susannahfields.co.uk

Images: copyright Susannah Fields 2016

Kristel Valaydon

Kristel Valaydon, founder of KV Communications – delivers a straight-talking brand communications approach to building company success and longevity

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