One. Single. Image.
Just one image can have the ability to make someone laugh, cry, click, tap, buy, engage or take action. One image can have the ability to connect on a deeply emotional level and communicate in a fraction of a second what your brand, business, product or service is all about. With the recent revolution in technology, apps like Instagram have exploded in popularity based almost solely on the power of images alone.
As marketers and branders, we all know photography is essential in conveying why you are the best choice in an ever-increasingly competitive marketplace. But so many brands cut costs on professional photography or video content, and this can be detrimental to your brand’s perception to your customers and in turn, hurt your bottom line. With quality content being such an integral part of any brand, and with you fighting for every dollar of your content budget, how do you maximize the output of your photography investment?
Here are 6 essential tips to get the most out of your next photo shoot and maximize your budget:
1. Collaborate Towards a Clear Vision
What’s the goal? Who’s the audience? Are you creating content for social? Need images for that new website you’re redesigning? What brand story are you trying to tell? How can you portray that in an authentic and transparent way?
These are just a few questions that help you define “the why” that make a huge impact on generating truly compelling content that will resonate with your audience. Patrick Hanlon, the author of Primal Branding, says “Brands are belief systems that attract communities who share your beliefs and are persistent advocates for your intention, purpose and life experience.” Your imagery is just one aspect of your brand’s Primal Code and should be fully aligned with the ethos of your company.
If you're working with a third party photographer or an agency, make sure you bring them in early to offer their expertise in crafting an overall brand narrative and vision for your content. They can help guide you through all aspects of the process. Strive for absolute alignment so that your expectations will be met and exceeded every time. With the help of a professional team and a clear definition of goals, there are many ways to optimize your shoot to generate the most content possible and extend your budget.
2. Tight Pre-Production Planning
Don’t just leave your shoot to chance, spend some time upfront creating a Pre-Production deck. A Pre-Pro deck encapsulates everything you're trying to capture during a shoot, as well as a detailed plan for how to execute it, down to every minute detail.
Must-have Elements of Pre-Pro Deck Include:
- Overall Conceptual Direction - the high-level creative direction of the shoot
- Visual Art Direction - example swipes that define image style, composition, and image treatment
- Detailed Shotlist - all the deliverables or types of shots needed
- Production Schedule & Call Sheet - the who, what and where of all the players on the shoot.
- Model/Talent Selection - any model talent used on the shoot, their relevant headshots and profile information
- Props and Accessories - any backgrounds, surfaces, supporting elements that may be included in a shot
- Location - where the shoot locations take place and when
- Storyboards - if shooting video, example keyframe sketches or examples stills of key moments in the script
Perhaps most importantly, everything in the pre-production deck should be authentic to your brand and its values. Now more than ever, consumers are increasingly distrustful of brands with recent studies reporting that “only 52 percent of global respondents trust businesses”. Consumers will quickly spot content that feels inauthentic or dishonest. We dive deep into the brands we work with to uncover the truths behind your company, product or service and use that as a compass for generating honest content.
3. Hire an Experienced Photographer
Just because your best friend from college was gifted a DSLR for her birthday, it doesn't make her a photographer. It takes years of shooting, technical knowledge, understanding of light, shadow, color, and composition, as well as numerous other aspects to be a great image-taker. Hiring a shooter that specializes in what you’re trying to capture can make all the difference between images that will elicit the essence of what you’re trying to communicate, and poorly created images with no heart and soul.
A highly skilled photographer can put model talent at-ease and help coax desired emotions from them. They’ll be able to visualize a shot, have the technical prowess to quickly pull it off, and the know-how to properly edit the shot in post-production. A true pro will be collaborative and communicative with the numerous other roles on set, from creative and art directors, assistants, stylists, to account managers and clients. They have a network of assistants, stylists, and studios locations, and can take on some of the burdens of pre-planning. Many also have access to props and accessories that they need to execute the vision for the shoot. It can be a high-pressure environment and an exceptional photographer will have the flexibility to balance all of this with a cool head and a good sense of humor.
When vetting photographers, make sure you’ve seen their portfolio of work and are confident in their ability to capture compelling moments. Do you like their style? Are their images well composed and properly lit? Do products shots look flawless, or do they appear less than stellar? Working with an agency familiar with various types of content creation can help with photographer selection, as they frequently engage a roster of trusted pros they’ve worked with in the past. And they have tight relationships that may end up saving you money due to the volume of work they provide to talented shooters.
4. Keep Everything Looking its Best
Whether you’re shooting food, lifestyle, portraits, or products, everything needs to look its absolute best. That melty mac n’ cheese needs to look delicious and appetizing. Your products need to look polished, flawless and camera-ready.
Flyaway hairs in a portrait shot or dust on a tabletop can cause hours of costly retouching fees, potentially diminishing the number of usable shots you’re left with. With the cost and logistics involved in a photo shoot, you may only have one opportunity to get it right, so it always pays off to hire a professional food stylist or hair and makeup artist that can bring out the best in the subjects you’re shooting.
Be ready to provide more than enough product to the shoot. Chances are, out of 15 products, maybe one or two are perfect enough to put in front of a camera. For instance, if you’re a CPG protein bar manufacturer, out of 15 bars maybe two have packaging with proper print alignment, an unwrinkled wrapper, and a decent looking bar inside of it. Plan to bring a lot more than you need.
5. Capture Video Content
Video is the future of digital content. According to studies, online videos will account for more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020. A photo shoot is a great opportunity to efficiently ramp up your video content assets and take advantage of the time and effort it takes to plan a successful shoot.
A professional videographer can work hand-in-hand with a photographer to capture compelling content seamlessly. It’ll be less expensive than having a second shoot and you’ll generate a wider range of valuable content on the various platforms and channels your brand appears. Video content can then be repurposed for a wide range of assets from Instagram stories and posts to Facebook content/ads, or edited together to create polished brand and product videos.
6. Smile and Laugh. A lot.
Remember to have fun with it! As someone who likely manages a brand or heads up some aspect of marketing for your company, you’re days are likely filled with spreadsheets, emails, meetings and running a team. When was the last time you’ve had the chance to get out of the office and play? Photoshoots are an opportunity for you to put the creative side of your brain into action and work with a team of creatives that are passionate about your brand and making it look its best.
Photography and video production is a highly creative process which naturally requires some degree of trial and error to see what works. Good energy on the set is infectious which elevates a creative and collaborative working environment. With the right amount of planning and upfront alignment, you can trust that your team will get what you want, and likely surprise you with a few things you didn't think about. Your end product will be better for it, so enjoy the process!
Don’t skimp. It’ll cost you more in the long run. With the tips outlined above, you'll have photo and video assets that will authentically represent your brand story, without breaking the bank.