I’m super excited about this post. It’s one of those posts that, as a photographer, I’d find difficult to write, because it’d just feel a little too self-promo-y. ( <<< Totally a word!)
However, we are all fully aware of the importance of imagery, when it comes to marketing our businesses. And, if you’re not aware, then even more good reason for you to be reading this post and thank goodness you stumbled upon it when you did.
But my good friend, business coach, mentor, unofficial therapist and PR guru, Rhea Freeman, sent me this contribution as a guest blog post and I love her even more for it. It’s everything I wanted to say, but didn’t have the courage…
If you’ve not heard of Rhea before, (firstly, where have you been?) she is an incredible equestrian PR and marketing consultant and business coach, with a wealth of knowledge and experience. And I couldn’t be leaving you in more capable hands…
Why Good Photographs Matter For Your Equine Business. A Lot.
By Rhea Freeman
I appreciate that guest blogging about photography on a photographer’s blog is an odd one.
I was planning to do something else but then it hit me that, actually, as someone who has worked in country and equestrian PR and marketing for a rather long time, it might be interesting to see things from this side of the fence. Because while a lot of people want pretty pics of their products, there’s actually a lot more to it than a pretty picture.
So, I’m not going to talk to you about the technical aspects of photography because that is far from my strong area, but I will tell you about what I see when I look at a picture and what I am looking for in a picture for a brand I work with.
And these are in no particular order… just so you know…
When I say clarity, I mean how clear the image is – how crisp the edges are. I used to organise, style and assist the photographer for a brand I was marketing manager for and just because something looks sharp on a teeny tiny screen, it doesn’t mean it is.
The amount of time we spent, in the middle of fields, zooming in to make sure it was sharp was obscene really. But if an image isn’t sharp, then it doesn’t portray the right image (unless that is actually what you’re aiming at… not that I can think of a time when a blurry image is needed… but anyway…). And in my world, unless it’s a last resort, it should go in the ‘no’ file.
There are lots of things that can contribute to the clarity of an image, as any good photographer knows, but the amount of images I see for brands that are not what I would call ‘sharp’ is a real concern.
There’s quite a bit of debate around this amongst photographers, but for print, I am always asked to supply a 300dpi image at a decent size, and this is what I’ve been taught and told is high res.
In simple terms this means that there are more teeny bits that make up the picture in these images, to give it extra definition, than on a low res/web ready image that usually has 72dpi. You can reduce the size of an image but increasing it doesn’t really work… it needs to be high resolution to start.
As a PR, it’s a flipping headache otherwise.
The focus has to be the product. I have seen so many images over recent months where I have no idea what the point of the image is (not with any of my clients I hasten to add). Yes, an image, (especially a lifestyle one) can tell a story, but the story should not be bigger than the piece the image has been taken to promote.
If you’re working with leatherwork, it should be clean and every strap threaded through the corresponding keeper. Clothes should be
steamed. Everything should fit.
Yes, a lot can be done in Photoshop, but it (in my opinion) is much better to use a photographer’s editing skills to improve an image rather than create bits of it that were not there.
And why pay extra editing costs when a fraction more thought would save the photographer/retoucher a considerable amount of time? The devil is in the detail.
If you’re taking a picture that requires someone to be sat on a horse, why not use a rider? If you’re taking a pic of someone who shoots, find someone who shoots.
As per the detail comment, if someone holds a gun like a beginner, it makes it very hard to appear as an expert (as a brand) in that area. And if you see a picture of a rider who has their heels higher than their toes, what do you think of the brand? Professional? Or amateur?
I’m not sure if this is quite the right term, but if you have a horse in a sky blue rug, make sure the picture is taken against trees or something so it stands out. Again, make sure the focus is the focus.
Work with someone who gets you and your brand. This is important. Brands all have their own personality. Some are fresh and young, some ooze heritage, some are known for their technical prowess. If you’re looking, you can see it a brand’s DNA in everything it does (or, at least, you should do!).
So, let’s take Sophie (sorry Sophie!). Sophie’s brand is light, bright and friendly. It’s approachable yet aspirational and wholesome. If Sophie was having a photographer take pics for her, she would want the photographer to understand this and capture the essence of her brand. If they rocked up saying they wanted to take her pic in some dark bar in London with neon signs, it just wouldn’t work.
For the consumer, it would feel odd. You don’t want your customer to be unsure whether it’s you or not. Of course, we can take little detours and push boundaries, but your core values need to be maintained and remembered in everything a brand produces, including its pics!
I’m sure Sophie will have put some of her lovely commercial work in this blog, and I urge you to have a look at the pics and think about the points above. You’ll see what I’m talking about.
And I apologise in advance for when you now see an image on a brand’s feed and wince because you know it’s wrong!