The value behind shooting original photography

August 1, 2013
Jennifer Cooley Senior Art Director

There’s a chance many of you reading this may hear the words “photo shoot” and immediately dive to protect your checkbook. I often sense a hesitation among clients when it comes time to consider conducting a photo shoot with original photography. That hesitation is based on what I consider to be false fear factors – mostly associated with time and money.

The next time you need a photo for your project, you might first consider…

  1. There is great value to extract from conducting a photo shoot to obtain original photography.
  2. An art director is essential to add quality and extract full value from a photo shoot.

Here’s why.


Keep the brand in the picture

One of the greatest benefits of conducting your own photo shoot is authenticity. It’s critical to selling your identity and create brand awareness among your audience.

We talk so much about having the confidence and security to express yourselves, tell the story of your brand and connect people to your organization’s values. It is just as important to connect people to your visual identity through original photography. A photo is powerful … your own photo, with your own locations and your own people? That’s indelible.


The value of original photography

Original photography can be designed from the very start to not only convey your message, but also to support your brand. That’s where art direction comes into play.

An art director will bring conceptual vision, direction for the people (emotion, clothing, makeup, posture, etc.), composition and setting, and the experience necessary to manage the photo for the final product.

If managed properly, a photo shoot need not be an expensive and time-consuming venture. A skilled photographer and experienced art director can scout locations and conduct a shoot within a workday. Once they get started, an art director will ensure the lighting is perfect and your product, people or setting are on point.


Hidden cost of stock photography

The reflexive thought tells you it’s more affordable to buy stock photos. In some cases, that might be true. If it is, we, as art directors, find stock photography that suits our client’s needs for a given project. However, there are instances when searching for and finding the right stock photo could take hours upon hours. It’s easy to assume there’s an existing stock photo that satisfies the vision. The reality is the look you hope for might not exist in a $30 stock photo and you’ll have to settle for something less than desirable.

If settling’s not good enough for you, you may also have to add “retouching” to the photo you may have spent hours looking for. Retouching is taking an existing photo and editing it in Photoshop to enhance or alter an image. Let’s say you found a stock photo that is close enough to your vision, but needs something merged into the image to give it the full impact you need, for example, your product or enhanced lighting. The work to retouch the photo – to add design elements, to do the work an art director might have done in person at a shoot – will greatly increase the cost. It is always best to shoot the photo as closely as you can to the finished state. Retouching can be time consuming and costly if too much is needed.

Stock might work. There are no absolutes. But consider one photo, the hours it may have taken to find it, the hours needed for retouching, and the risk of using photos that could be recognized from other executions or even competitors, and there’s a hidden cost that makes original photography a lot more valuable.

Not the least of which is a lack of authenticity.


Do More

But wait … there’s more!

The photos you capture at a shoot needn’t be tied to a singular tactic. With planning and foresight, you can capture photography for a great number of items you might need. When your team is together, you can get multiple photos for needs beyond your shot list. Sometimes you don’t even know what it’ll be for, but a photo shoot, with planning and foresight, is a chance to grab them for later.

Speaking of …

Build your library! If you get your own original photo for one execution, you can add it to a library to use it later for any number of other things: an annual report, a campaign to launch a new service center for your organization, a product launch, website or whatever your need could be.

Are you getting video? Set yourself up for photos while the stage is set. Have you adopted a content model; publishing your own news for your audience? Tell the story! Take photos or short videos to share the experience and tell the story of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Giving your customers an insight through published content and your social media presences is yet another way to extract greater value from a photo shoot.
Jenn Cooley is a senior art director at Core Creative.


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