“For me, the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture.” — Diane Arbus
“The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.” — Elliot Erwitt
Photography is a critical part of communicating with the people who matter to you—customers, employees, shareholders, citizens. High-quality images are a foundational element of almost every communications channel, from your website and PR to the annual report. Photography is a strategic asset, not just a creative one.
Are you leveraging it?
A brand exists only in a person’s mind. It’s a collection of associations, experiences, and memories—and human beings are hard-wired to respond to what they see. Brands are experienced and defined primarily through images. And the pictures in your advertising, websites, and brochures—these become the pictures in your customers’ heads.
A distinct, authentic photographic style is crucial for a brand to be believable and true to character. What does the photography that you are using today say about your customers, your offerings, or your culture?
When looking for a way to express their brands through photography, organizations face two equally unappealing choices.
Stock photography is relatively inexpensive, but the images are often clichéd, vague, or otherwise unsuitable for an organization’s unique needs. Photographic styles vary wildly. The time required to sift through many thousands of images is a major drain on resources. And should you get lucky and manage to find just the right photographs, you’ll know that they may not be unique to your organization. By definition, licensed images are available to anyone who wants to pay to use them—unless you enter into a rights-managed agreement (which is often cost-prohibitive.)
Traditional custom photography is at the other end of the spectrum. Creating a custom photo library can be quite expensive, and the resulting pressure can lead to images that are heavily staged and difficult to produce. Even worse, these efforts sometimes miss out on the authenticity of real people and real moments.
I believe in honoring the real people and moments that I photograph—and I believe that brands shouldn’t have to compromise on capturing that authenticity. That’s why I’ve been working for years to develop an approach to taking photographs and building libraries that sidesteps many of these issues.
Capture Real Peop le
My approach is based on photographing real people in real situations: families, employees, customers, teams. When seeking authenticity, there’s simply no substitute for the real thing.
In situations where models are needed, I interview them first to get to know them, and find the elements of personality that I’ll try to capture with my camera. I’ve even gotten their friends and family involved in the shoot for added realism. (When needed, stylists and hair and makeup artists can be utilized to style the talent while still allowing individual style to shine through.)
Capture Real Moments
Some companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to stage dramatically stylized photo shoots when real life is all around them, just there for the taking. That’s why I prefer to shoot real, unstaged situations whenever possible. If a certain look (e.g., demographics or nationalities) is desired, we can use these images as inspiration to reconstruct the scenes using models.
Capture Real Time
To add authenticity (and efficiency) I shoot spontaneously and without a script. This is the best way that I have found to see people truly as they are, and to convey that truth through photography. For certain projects, it makes sense to agree beforehand on a set of ideas, images, and concepts and then loosely structure the shoot around them.
Why It Matters
This approach to photography helps to create a real and lasting connection between brands and the people who matter to them.
AUTHENTIC: Consumers crave authenticity in their lives and relationships, and they reward brands who communicate with them authentically.
UNSCRIPTED: Shooting without a script simplifies the process while unleashing creativity.
SPONTANEOUS: Natural situations allow the real personality of a brand to come through.
FLEXIBLE: A wide variety of shots makes your photo library a versatile asset that will generate value for years to come.
INTIMATE: A glimpse into the lives of the people behind a brand creates a strong emotional connection with consumers.
DEEP: This approach enables the creation of an extensive library of photography that can be used for many future projects.
UNIQUE: When you create a photo library, the images belong to you and you have the right to use them forever.