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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Caldwell

The Value of Great Photography

How many of you have invested heavily in professional photos for your business? I’m hoping most of you! And how many of you simply grab your own camera and snap away? Now that’s okay if you have some photography skills but don’t underestimate the power of great photos for your business.

In a previous life, I had a job where I produced over 1 million brochures for travel to New Zealand every year. They were distributed throughout the UK, Europe and North America primarily. The work involved in pulling these brochures together was phenomenal – we had to decide which experiences we would include and promote, negotiate with suppliers for some marketing support, create and price up packages, load the products into our booking system, train the reservations teams on how to sell each option and set the sales team loose to go and promote! But the most challenging task every single year was finding photos that were worthy of being in the brochures. And not to mention on the cover! We had 28 different versions of one brochure – which meant each year we had to find 28 cover shots! This might not sound that difficult, but trust me – it was a job that took weeks and weeks of searching!

Back to something a little more recent, my husband and I were meant to head to Queenstown for a long anticipated ski trip but unfortunately the latest Auckland lockdown meant we had to cancel. So we decided to go to Hawkes Bay instead. No snow, but there is incredible food and wine! I was searching through booking sites online to find the perfect property to book for the weekend, I didn’t really know what I was looking for – we just wanted something different to what we’d done in the past and comfortable for our stay. And then suddenly, it jumped out at me. It was one photo of a fireplace with a couple of comfortable looking chairs perched in front of it and I decided, that was the one! I hadn’t even read the description – it was the photo that sold it for me. And you can imagine how excited I was when we arrived on Friday afternoon to discover it was EXACTLY how it was portrayed on the website.

So there it is, great photos sell your experience!

It’s also important that you keep your photo library current – there is no point doing a photoshoot and then not updating it for 10 years – even though your business might not have changed, fashion and hairstyles can, and even the style of photography tends to change over time as well. You don’t want your business featured and looking like something out of the 80’s now do you?

So now we know, your images create your image. The photos, videos and other marketing materials you share with the public directly affect how consumers view your business. They shape your brand and influence customer decisions. They are an integral part of your business plan. Because they play such a large role, it is crucial to choose the best photographer to produce these images for you.

Firstly, start with a good quality brief. What is you are trying to achieve in this photoshoot? What style of photos suit your business. Do you have some example of photos you love that you can add to your style guide to discuss with your photographer? Where do you want to use these photos? Are they for a website or billboard? It’s important you think these things through so you can determine the specs of the images you require with your photographer. Think big too – you don’t just have to consider where you might use these images, but think about magazine covers when they do stories about your region, travel agent brochure covers, - these all need slightly different compositions so important to think that through. Make sure you include a good selection of both portrait and landscape options! When do you need these images by and what format do you need them supplied in? Where will the photoshoot take place? Will the photographer need any additional skills or equipment (ie what is access like to your site? Will they get wet etc)

Once you have all of this decided, it’s then time to look for a photographer you’re happy to work with. This can often be the trickiest part. But I always recommend that you meet face to face – then you can guage if you’re both on the same page and can work together. Ask around your networks to see if they have recommendations, search on social media as you will then see their style online, or ask your RTO for recommendations.

Always ask to see examples of previous work, and like you would with new employees, call some previous clients for reference checks.

And one of THE most important things, check if you will have rights to these images and what that entails – you don’t want to go through this process to find there are limits on the time you can use these images or the photographer has put a clause in there saying they can also sell your images to other people. Suddenly, what you thought was your hero shot is appearing in other publications with no link back to you! Now it’s okay if you come to an agreement with your photographer to allow for some of this to happen – for example, you might agree that you get to choose the images you want to use exclusively and you allow them to have a select few to sell – and this might help keep the costs of the shoot down. But you need to know this upfront and not be surprised at the end!

Right, so you’ve chosen your photographer – now it’s time to find the talent! This will totally depend on your budget as to whether you use your friends and family or you hire professional talent and either is ok. I’ve also run shout outs on social media to find talent too, but again – make it really clear what you’re looking for, and what it will involve and it’s always good to ask for some photos beforehand if you are relying on people you don’t know. I once did a photoshoot for a jetboat company and it meant our talent had to be comfortable sitting in a jet boat for about 6 hours! Not everyone we approached said yes to that understandably!

Remember the chat we had last week about your target audience? Well make sure you’re showing them off in your creative! Also have a think about what other markets you’re wanting to talk to, and if there is a need for ethnic or gender diversity in your shoot.

Discuss with your talent your needs and expectations for the day – do they need to dress themselves or will you have a wardrobe available? Think through colours vs patterns and how they will all come together on screen inside your business. What do your customers generally wear when they visit? If your talent is using their own wardrobe, it’s always worth asking them to bring a couple of changes of clothes – it might be that you try to shoot different times of the day, or even different seasons. But if you have a selection, it makes it a lot easier to mix and match. And you don’t want every photo to look the same at the end of the day do you?

Are you going to be shooting close ups of your talent? If so, I would highly recommend bringing in a hair and make up artist for the day. Yes, it’s another cost, but it’s pretty amazing what a difference this will make to your photos by having this done professionally.

Oh, and don’t forget to get your talent to sign talent release forms! You’ll need these so you can use the photos to promote your product. And finally, agree terms, whether you’ll be paying them, or gifting them something for helping you out.

Now when it gets to the actual day of your shoot, there are some golden rules to ensure it goes off without a hitch.

1. Be organised. Have your shot list agreed with your photographer, make sure you’re planned this out well so you take advantage of the light and sun at the right times, have your plan and ensure anyone in your team who might be affected knows what it is. Are you shooting food? Does the chef know? Do you have some space blocked off from the general public so you’re not getting in the way of day to day operations?

2. Assign someone in your team as the gopher. Someone who can be the main point of contact for the photographer and talent in case they need anything. This needs to be someone who understands your business and how to find things.

3. Find a private space that you can use for a changeroom and hair and make up – this is important so your talent feels comfortable changing into various outfits throughout the day. It can also be a room they can relax in when they’re not required for the shoot.

4. Organise snacks! Or if you have a café on-site set up a tab. It’s important to keep your crew well fed and watered throughout the day to keep energy levels up.

5. And finally – keep a time check to ensure you’re staying on track, and most importantly remain relaxed. You’ll get way more out of your photographer and talent if everyone remains calm, relaxed and is having fun throughout the day.

So I hope this helps you with your next photoshoot – they really can be a lot of fun and if done well amplify your business well beyond the marketing you do – the other thing to remember when it comes to photography is how you can incorporate this into your experience as well. Tell your customers where the best spots to take photos are – they’ll share them and help tell your story for you. And yes, I recreated THAT photo of the fireplace in my little Hawkes Bay cottage last weekend.

Do you have an opportunity to upsell with a photography package in your business? You see this at most adventure tourism experiences – it’s part of the ‘brag’ factor – but can also be done effectively in most businesses if you use a little creativity. I’ve always found the best-selling photo packages are the ones that your customers can’t take themselves! And that even includes using a little magic like greenscreen to make it work sometimes.

Well I can’t wait to see all your creativity in your businesses – use #DestinateNZ if you want to share your efforts with me, I’d love to see them.

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