Commercial content creation
All the largest brands, particularly those targeting consumers directly, define their visual style not merely in terms of their logo or colours, but by thinking about how visual identity works beyond that, particularly in their use of photography. As business marketing has become increasingly defined by great visuals in social as well as conventional media, it’s become vital that these are not merely good but distinctive.
There’s much to be said for buying images one by one from stock libraries. They have a useful place particularly as they have diversified to vector graphics or illustration. However we hear repeatedly from clients that a hodgepodge of many images bought by different teams of varying quality (some from free sources, which they then find their competitors are using) is not a sustainable strategy. Today we are increasingly working with our clients, usually small or mid size businesses creating custom brand photography.
Typically a project of this kind involves defining a photographic style, hiring a great photographer, choosing locations and planning carefully and directing the shoot to deliver a set of great, original imagery.
1. Building a mood
Every designer seeks visual inspiration to broaden their horizons or often to define what they aren’t doing as much as they are. When building a branded photographic library we seek to find common threads in a wide range of photography, then compile a series that tells a story. The idea isn’t to plagiarise but rather find a forward direction and sound brief for a photographer so they can see what we want to achieve.
These ‘directions’ usually involve a consistent approach to the angle used which affects the approach to the subject, tonal palettes that give a sense of consistency or depth of field meaning the eye focuses on one thing at a time. The great benefit of considering these ideas is that the collection of images at the end has a natural flow and can be picked up again and again, even by different photographers.
2. Faces and places
One challenging part of a branded photography project is finding good ways of including our fellow humans. It’s surprising how often including real, ordinary people in the story is something businesses want to avoid. Too many people, not enough; too corporate, not sufficiently businesslike… Sometimes it’s because they fear falling on the wrong side of a need to be overtly politically correct. We’ve found plenty of ways to address issues on all these points over the years.
Ultimately we live in a world full of people so including them is important, it’s just a question of how.
3. Where to begin
The best shoots are carefully planned. We take great care to think about timing, weather, locations and the equipment we will need. Knowing what you’re shooting seems a pretty obvious prerequisite, but it’s tough to cover every angle and recall every website page that needs its own original image. So at the risk of being overly clipboard-ish about a creative process, it’s vital to prepare a shot list to work through.
Photography requires a pinch of luck to be successful. All the prep in the world can’t anticipate poor light, an unexpectedly closed location or model with the ‘flu. By contrast, we’ve often found that fantastic imagery we’d never anticipated is regularly created on our shoots. When you’re in the right place at the right time, fantastic ancillary shots that feel looser or more impromptu than the ones on the list invariably happen. These ‘added bonuses’ are what elevates a project of this kind and have often ended up being highlights of the shoot and used on a brochure cover or website homepage.
4. Keep on going
A day of photography can yield a wealth of wonderful shots but we’ve always found that a two or three day shoot can result in not merely the expected greater quantity but a richer, broader set of images as the collaboration gains momentum. In particular as a style or way of shooting the subject ‘beds in’, the shots tend to improve and a team speeds up, anticipating what is coming next.
Some bad news: it’s not always summer. Which is a disappointment to many clients who want pristine blue skies and green trees in every shot. We all live in a world where from time to time it rains, snows and blows a gale. Why not – in the right circumstances of course – embrace the seasons and shoot around them? This is particularly true when shooting for websites which change their imagery regularly. Blue skies and bright sunshine doesn’t really strike the right tone with clients choosing gifts in December (unless they’re in Cape Town…).
5. Working together
We’ve had many instances where we’ve accepted a photo library brief, agreed the approach with the client, gone ahead and ultimately supplied the finished work without a huge amount of input or involvement.
They’ve been successful projects and have always led to more work. But the truth is that collaboration is the best medicine. Having the client involved with brief, checklist of images to shoot and the shooting process usually results in a photo set that is truly on brand and has the right dose of creativity in the mix too.
Does your business need its own imagery?
Are bought-in stock shots not really doing it for you? Creating custom brand photography isn’t as expensive as you might imagine and ensures you’ll never see all-too familiar photos on a competitor’s site. We’d be pleased to hear from you and plan a great collaboration.
Call us on 020 7351 4083 or email direct.