When to hire a pro photographer

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© Paul Mozell

Let’s say that you work in the marketing communications department of a technology, financial services, or bio-tech company. The VP of marketing has just assigned you to a team developing a new corporate identity. This includes new marketing brochures, sell sheets, web content, and a schedule of press releases. The VP says  she wants the new materials to have strong graphics and make liberal use of photographs.

At the first meeting of the planning group you announce that you own a great, new, digital point-and-shoot camera, and can save the company thousands of dollars by doing most of the photography for the project. However, you are a project manager, and although you’ve taken some great photographs of your family on vacation and sold some household items on eBay using your own photos, you have no experience as a professional photographer.

Given the importance of the assignment to re-brand the company and increase its visibility in a very competitive marketplace, professional images define the difference in the success or failure of your new marketing materials. Consider the following examples of typical photographs that are used in corporate design pieces:

Executive Portraits: The company already has a hip and progressive image and this calls for portraits of key staff, taken either in their offices or in the manufacturing area. If you think the great auto-exposure features and tiny built-in flash on your camera are going to do the job — forget about it. Unless of course you’ll be satisfied with reflections on eyeglasses, harsh un-flattering shadows on subjects’ faces, and a spotlight effect that leaves the background walls of the office scene in dark shadows.

The Pro is likely to bring in portable studio strobe lights, an assistant, and a combination of cameras and lenses that give him plenty of flexibility to compose the perfect shot. If you need a set of standard head-and-shoulders photographs of key staff for the “About Us” section of your website, you may be disappointed with the results from the little camera once again. I recently photographed about 15 managers, in two sessions, on location at a client’s office. I brought in lights and a colored background to ensure the uniformity of the photographs. Several weeks after I did the job, the client hired 2 more people. Because of deadlines pressures, she  took some shots herself, sent me 2 snapshot prints to see if I could “improve” them. Needless to say, I put in some significant Photoshop time replacing the background, painting over the washed out highlights, balancing the color, and adding faux shading to simulate the badly needed soft shadow effects.

Architectural Interiors: Your company is proud of its new office buildings and plant, and wants to show off the new facilities for customers, investors, and new hires. Upon reviewing the shots you took with the point-and-shoot, you saw greenish and purple color casts on walls and ceilings, an annoying tilted effect on the shots you took of the building exteriors, and an overall lack of definition and clarity in the shots you took of the office spaces. You need a pro photographer who understands lighting and color temperature, uses cameras and techniques that render vertical lines as you see them with the naked eye, and techniques that reveal details in brightly lit and shadowy areas in a scene.

Editorial Photography includes photographs of people in action, customers using products, employees gathered around a computer or lab equipment, images in general that call for a photojournalistic approach and work that yields natural, unposed, photographs. Please call a pro if you want quality images that have impact, tell a story, and are adaptable for use in a variety of media.

Tugboat deckhand secures a line from a tanker

Sure, this is a blantant self-promotion of my photography business, but I hope I’ve made it clear that in the end, your time as a marketing professional is best spent doing what you are trained and qualified to do. Cost is almost always an issue, and ultimately it may be more costly for you or one of your staff members to take so-so photographs, using their valuable time, than it would be to hire a photographer whose rates seem very high to you, at first glance. Finally, with a nod to the many graphic design professionals I know, the same principles hold true for the do-it-yourself, in-house one-time “designer” who attempts to bang out an important brochure in Powerpoint.

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