When it comes to photography for inbound marketing, "more" is better than "better." That is to say, rather than hire a photographer who is meticulous, sets up a scene and takes 4-6 perfect images in a day, hire a photographer that knows how to work quickly with what’s available to create 60-100 good images a day. By asking a set of questions you can determine if the pictures you pay will match your inbound marketing needs and ensure they’re as distinctive as your brand. Here are the questions to ask before hiring a photographer.
1. Who are your favorite photographers and why?
If your photographer aspires to make images like Garry Winogrand, then you’ll know they work fast with a small camera, create formal images and are highly productive. When Winogrand was awarded the Gugenheim Fellowship in 1969 he shot over 25,000 pictures was inspired by Cartier Bresson’s “The Decisive Moment”. If your photographer makes pictures like Richard Avedon you can expect a slower methodology with an attention to detail in every shot. Now, it would be unusual to know who the photographers are that influence the person being considered so note and look up their influences to better understand if their work meets your criteria.
2. Would you describe your photographic approach as additive or subtractive?
Photography can be broadly (very broadly) categorized in these two big groups. The subtractive process this; If your photographer prefers to make images by narrowing the world down to just those things they find interesting to them, than you know that they see the world as a set of found possibilities. This indicates they take lots of images and can “see” on their feet. If they generally make still life images, this tells you that they probably place the camera in a set location and add objects that reflect their vision. Think of the additive process when viewing fashion, product and interior architectural photography.
3. What type of equipment do you use?
What digital camera they use is less important than knowing if they plan to light a scene. All professional cameras will provide an image that has a resolution high enough for the web but if they prefer “big production” with strobes, an array of light modifiers grip equipment and a tripod, than you know that this is a slow process that results in a less images. On the other hand, and this applies to those who think they can do it themselves, camera phones suck. Why, because they’re kept in your pocket, have a layer of grime on the lens which distorts color and contrast and the digital zoom is inferior to an optical zoom. A camera phone for snapshots is great. Using one to convey your brand is only wise if your brand image embraces soft focus impressionism.
4. How much time do you spend in post-production and what software do you use?
Photoshop is the most common photographers tool but it has always been more ideal as a graphic designers tool. It’s a slow, overly detailed method for cleaning up images for an inbound marketing purpose. If they use Adobe Light Room, than we know that image improvement will not be done at a pixel by pixel level over many hours. Inbound marketing calls for fast content production and using images shared on social media, in blogs, on fast loading whitepapers and PowerPoint presentations. Well shot, high quality images will provide a quality look and feel. This is photography, not illustration.
5. How many good images can you create in a day?
This is the ROI question. A great photographer using large format camera can take 4-8 images per day that are absolutely breathtaking. If your cost is $1,500 a day and the result is six images your cost is $250 a picture. You better hope they go viral. An inbound marketing campaign will use those images in just a day or two. You can reuse them but you’ll be more successful using a photojournalists’ approach and shooting hundreds of pictures in a day that match your brand. At $1,500 a day and an attainable goal of 60 good images, the cost per picture that’s less that’s $25 each and provides enough images for consistent ongoing visual marketing.
The bottom line?
Using bad images as part of an inbound marketing strategy is like having a tenth grader write your blog. Contact photographers at your local newspaper, research photojournalists on Linkedin or reach out to photographers who shoot for regional magazines in your area. The results are worth the effort you put into conveying your brand in a defined visual aesthetic.