For the past 18 months, I have been working with the team at Horizon Cremation on The Clyde Coast and Garnock Valley Crematorium. They recognized the importance of photography for their marketing strategy. Right from the very first moment, they wanted to make sure everything was right with the business photography and corporate imaging for this project. It has been a commission that illustrates the perfect way to approach photography for a project and it’s been a great pleasure and hugely rewarding to be part of the journey.
My work with them inspired me to write this post. I want to share five photography tips I think are essential when starting a new project or business. This list includes the five things I’ve run into in the past and have learned to handle from experience to ensure success from the very beginning.
1. Include photography in the planning process from the beginning
Jeremy is one of the directors from Horizon Cremation. He reached out to me before the first brick had been laid to discuss the photography. His plans were for a beautiful building set in a wild and uncluttered landscape. This surrounding landscape was to form a significant part of the brand, and the photography had to capture this from the start! Progress photos of the build were a significant part of the initial marketing content for the project.
Jeremy had photography in mind for every step and therefore, we were able to anticipate and plan the imagery stage by stage so there was no rush or compromise. As a result, I was free to work around the weather and pick the perfect conditions for each shoot.
If brand imaging and business photography is an afterthought in a project, there will inevitably be a fair degree of compromise. It’s not uncommon for me to be sent off to a shoot in November which has been on the cards all summer, with the words, “Try and make it look like August, will you?” ringing in my ears. Sometimes these situations are unavoidable but most often, it’s just a result of starting to think about the pictures too late in the planning process.
2. On a website, the photography carries the brand.
When designing a website for your brand, don’t underestimate the role the photography will play. I have often come across situations where a client has spent almost all of their budget on building and designing a website before properly planning for the photography they’re going to need.
Make sure you allocate the right portion of the budget for the imagery as it’s often the pictures that will carry the brand. I had no such problems with Horizon Cremations, as their site looks beautiful and every image has been used to its fullest potential. They had a vision for what they wanted the photos to capture from the beginning and it worked out in their favour.
3. Choose the right photographer
When considering a photographer for your corporate or branding needs, choose someone who can cover all of your photographic requirements. Maybe it’s Architecture and interior or portraits, product photography and event photography. Even fine art imagery to decorate the walls is something to be taken into consideration.
When you start a new business or project, there are going to be a whole variety of different aspects to cover. A new building, designing the interior, recruiting the staff, making the products and organizing the launch events. Each step has its place and each step is important. I have had quite a few clients in the last few years who have recruited me because I can cover many of the aspects they’ll be needing for the launch of their business.
With Horizon Cremation, the scope of work has been primarily about the building and its interior along with the staff portraits for the company. With my background in newspaper and magazine photography, often I was sent out to photograph a restaurant interior in the morning and a portrait of an FTSE100 CEO in the afternoon. I have always prided myself on being well equipped to tackle different disciplines of photography. This in turn has saved my clients a lot of time, not having to find and recruit different photographers for each aspect of their project.
4. Consult with the photographer
For every photoshoot, it’s imperative to consult with the photographer for their input, suggestions and comments throughout. Keep in mind there may be aspects of a photoshoot that seem like a good idea to you but are in fact hampered by something technical.
A common issue I have run into is when the client has chosen a spot with a great view but it just doesn’t work for the shoot. You may be able to stand there and look out but there may be difficult reflections in the glass that need to be overcome, window frames cutting through the middle of the shot or even features of the view being too distant to show up clearly in the picture. Therefore; consulting with your photographer ahead of the game is a very important step to getting the shots you want.
It’s also very easy to underestimate how much space is required for a shoot. If lighting is required, the lights need to be set back some distance from the subject, as does the camera. A wide-angle lens can be unflattering in a portrait but may be the only lens I can use if there isn’t enough space in the room to get far enough away from the subject.
Also, ask the photographer what time of day and position of the sun works best for the photo. If there isn’t a specific background required, a good photographer will be able to position the subjects for the best light at a time that suits the sitter. But, if there is a particular background required, the photographer will have little control.
Horizon Cremations were brilliant for this and Jeremy consulted with me at every stage.
5. Don’t make assumptions about Photoshop
Finally, no photographer wants to hear the words: “It can be sorted out later in photoshop.” Always aim to get “all your ducks in a row” before the shoot. In today’s world of CGI blockbuster movies and computer wizardry, it’s easy to assume that any mistakes can be taken care of once the images have been thrown into editing software. While it is possible to perform miracles in Photoshop, this is never the proper way to do it. The best practice is to get the picture as close to perfect in camera as possible. The less post-production required, the more authentic the resulting image….. and a Photoshop miracle will always be eye-wateringly expensive!
Photoshop adjustments might work well for small things, like removing an unsightly lamp post, but never go ahead with a shoot if one of the key players is missing in the thought that they can be added later in editing. The same thing goes if there’s scaffolding present in the shot. Don’t assume the photographer can make it disappear! The results will invariably look fake and will be damaging to your brand’s reputation.
Case Study: Clyde Coast and Garnock Valley Crematorium
Returning to the case study with The Clyde Coast and Garnock Valley Crematorium, here is a sequence of images from the first stages of the build right through to the completed website of a brilliant operation. The Crematorium is now open for business and I’m so glad I was able to be a part of this project. It always feels great to see a project right through and I’m very happy with the way these images turned out.
Kind words from the client:
“Ashley’s recent work for us at Horizon Cremation and at the Clyde Coast & Garnock Valley Crematorium exemplifies his incredible photographic skills. He creates dynamic images that are truly striking, immersive and capturing, and the feedback we have received in terms of the photography Ashley produced for us for use across our website and our PR and advertising activities, has been nothing short of incredible.
Ashley can make the mundane and the ordinary sparkle. He is professional, he is efficient, and he just gets on with the job and produces extraordinary images that are always exactly to the brief. We wouldn’t consider using anyone but Ashley for our creative, architectural and corporate photographic work.”
Jeremy Hamilton, Director, Horizon Cremation
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