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Top 7 Secrets To Better Business Photographs

By Larry Thomas

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It often seems that otherwise very intelligent business owners take a very casual and haphazard attitude towards that area of their enterprise which may be the most critical to their continued success. I'm referring to the photographic images - both of themselves and of their products or services. We, as a culture, are predominantly influenced by the way something LOOKS, from the label on a can of beans to the purchase of an expensive automobile. Yet many business owners seem blind to the importance that appearance makes in determining the eventual buying decision.

The following thoughts are derived from over forty years as a professional photographer having produced many thousands of various kinds of assignments aimed at both retail and at business-to-business marketing.

  1. Spend the money and hire the very best photographer you can. Their professional fees have been arrived at based on their experience, their general overhead expenses (price, professional-level cameras, accessories and studio space, sometimes), the requirements of the assignment, and ultimate usage and reproduction rights. Attempting to save on the cost of film is usually very unwise. Remember the real significance and importance of the photograph is intended to MAKE you money. Think of it as an investment. To avoid invoicing surprises an itemized estimate beforehand is a must!

  2. Interview the photographer before the photo-session. (You wouldn't go into surgery without having met the surgeon.) Be sure you like the photographer personally; look at their portfolio and ask pertinent questions as to exactly HOW and WHY the photograph was made. Be curious! Photographers are eager to show off; however, you may want to avoid the more obnoxious, ego-driven who are motivated only by what they can get out of the assignment. It's YOUR product that should be the "star" - NOT the photographer.

  3. Tell the photographer EXACTLY what you want - and what you don't want. You can use tear sheets from other publications that will illustrate the kind of results that are important to you. A written list of photographs and parameters will allow the photographer to better anticipate the time equipment he will require.

  4. Be sure the photographer understands the various end-uses for the photographs that you have in mind. The camera and film size he chooses is dictated by where the photographs will be displayed or reproduced. A convention exhibit display may require a larger film size than an employee snapshot for the newsletter. A digital camera image may be suitable for your Web site, yet totally inappropriate for anything else.

  5. Allocate adequate time on your part to permit the photographer to do his best. Sometimes the solution for your photographic challenge may demand a rather involved setup. Frequently he's creating something new and specific for you. You probably don't want a "cookie-cooker" result just like your competitor. For you the whole process may be nothing but a nuisance - a necessary evil, if you will - yet remember the much publicized words: "We never get a second chance to make a first impression." Your impression is communicated by your personal and corporate image.

  6. Discuss the issue of photographic copyright BEFORE the pictures are made. Not all photographers have the same policies in this regard. The photograph is, by federal law, copyrighted at the time of exposures in the camera. Negotiate for only those uses and purposes which you know you will actually need or want. You'll save money by purchasing limited usage reproduction, rather than going for "all rights." Those images are considered intellectual property. Reputable photographers will respect your need for confidentiality and honor your desire for proprietary product information.

  7. Do your best to view the entire photo experience as fun and as a positive "adventure." Also realize that the photographer may have a valuable, neutral and unique perspective of your business. His third party view of the situations to be illustrated may offer excellent lateral-thinking solutions which may not have occurred to you or your staff. It's also critical to appreciate that in most cases with photography you are involved in "right-brain" activities. Here there are no spread sheets to analyze - no set of directions to be followed. The photographs are being "made up" as you go along, and as such may require a shift in your mental approach from the sequential "left-brain" to the more free-form and spontaneous "right-brain."

    At times you may want to let go of your preconceived concepts and the visual cliche's that you've seen in the past. The ultimate goal is to be noticed - to attract attention to you or your product, communication of your message, followed by stimulating a move towards a positive buying action. Anything less is wasted energy and money. It's always YOUR choice.

Larry Thomas - Atlanta, ph:404/881-8850 Photographic Problem Solving is what I do BEST! I wish you all the happiness that you can handle!

Article Submitted On: September 08, 1999