Photography: The Value of Images

Lately, I have been inundated with two very different observations about photography.

1. “Why do you charge so much for photos? They’re just pictures.”

2. “Thank you so much for sharing/providing your work – it made all the difference to our brand/experience.”

So what is the real value of photography to a brand? To a website/magazine/catalog visitor? Or to someone researching a destination and looking for information/inspiration? These are the three primary users/viewers of our work. In the past weeks I have had an incredibly positive response to our work that demonstrates the true value of what images are worth. For those asking the question in number one above, the stories from others might help explain why the work of a professional photographer is indeed worth something. And I am not even going to go into all that is involved in making images, from the time, expense and knowledge – this is simply about the image.

Brand Value

A client of our’s wrote to tell us that an image we made for them on a commercial assignment launched their brand in ways they never dreamed of. They created a new product that was picked up by REI in the US. They hired us to do the photography to support it, both POP (Point of Purchase) and catalog. Off we went with a great model, had some good weather, and came up with a strong concept. The result… images they were very happy with, one of which ended up being used as the brand image. A year later? Seems REI sold over a million units, far beyond what they ever thought possible on launch. Rush orders were made to the manufacturer and the product continues to sell. Their reason for writing was to remark that the image made the difference. Value.

Experiential Value

In the outdoor industry the Patagonia catalog stands as a monument to which others are compared. Perhaps the photos are not all the best or the most creative, but as a whole, the catalog produces a feel, there is emotional appeal to outdoor people – the images are outstanding for what they are meant to do. The Creative Team knows this, it is all by design, they seek the best content for their brand. The same goes for some magazines. Pick up a magazine at the newstand, if the photography is weak, you are likely to have made a judgement regardless of the content. There is an immediate response to poor images – a shoddy product. The same goes for advertising. Often, companies spend money to advertise but not on the advertisement. Placement is simply not enough, in fact a poor ad might actually do a brand harm by decreasing the perceived quality of that brand. Ditto for editorial content. Basically, the old rule applies, “If you are going to do something, do it right”.

Recently, we have had the best response of all to our work as several people have taken the time to write and tell us that our images made a difference in their lives. One wrote to report that our Iceland images were so compelling that he booked a trip and had an amazing experience. Another couple followed our DolomiteSport site’s stories and decided to spend their honeymoon in the Dolomites. And in the last two summers our images have inspired about 50 different people to visit the Dolomites for cycling, to hike, or to trail run – the very things we shoot most. Best of all, one wrote to say that an image of our’s made in California’s Owen’s Valley landscape was so beautiful, she went, checked it out, and decided to move there.

I am not trying to blow our own horn here, I am simply relating my experiences as an image provider. For new shooters, it is critical to understand the value of your work, not only for your own compensation but to truly be a professional photographer means to understand how to provide the most value to the brands you work for. You must have clarity about what it is you are trying to provide, be it for an emotion, a brand or a location.

Right now we are in the planning stages for some upcoming travel, we have to decide between a few new destinations. What will make the difference in where we decide to go? Undoubtedly, it will be the images we see.


Comments 10

  1. Love the sun peaking through the cyclist’s arm in the last one. And the landscape is beautiful. Much much better than my desk.

  2. “A picture is worth a thousand words” … right?
    Or what did Aristoteles say loooong time ago:
    “The soul never thinks without a picture”

    So if you want to say something with a picture and want to enter in the viewers sould …. there must be not a good picture but a DAMN good picture.

    You can find something ‘good’ on every stock photo website, but try to find a picture that really speaks to you and gives you some type of emotion. That’s harder and it costs time, time nowadays is value, and value is … well .. money.

    For this reason, meeting the Patitucci’s for our Holimites travel company was, (and still is because the pictures impress us every time) like finding the “Needle in the Haystack”.

    There is just one problem, finding the right picture in an amazing stock of Dolomites pictures is like finding the “Needed needle in a haystack FULL of needles!”


    1. Well I couldn’t approve this one fast enough……. thanks Igor! I feel the same about Holimites.com – these comments look like SPAM to each other with all the compliments. 😉

  3. The photos are great and image(ry) is everything! The images we saw before deciding to run the Alta Via 1 with holimites were the factor that put us over the edge. Turned out to be one of the best experiences ever.

  4. I’ve certainly never hired the Patitucci’s for anything, but your photography inspires me in so many different ways, and it pulls and pushes so many different passions of mine. Thank You for inspiring me in all the right ways. With the heart. And the soul!

    1. Thanks Dan and Malane, nothing feels better than to know our images really do inspire, and then action is taken for one to get their own experiences based on that inspiration

  5. The Patitucci’s are true artists. They nail it every time. Mountain Gear very much appreciates what you do. Thanks guys!

  6. This reminds me of the little story I read about Picasso. True or not, it’s an excellent metaphor for understanding what goes into creating good art:

    Picasso was sitting at a table outside a Paris cafe. A woman came up and asked him to draw something for her on a napkin. He complied, doodling as only he could.

    After he quickly finished he requested the French equivalent of $5,000.

    Aghast, the woman said, “but it only took you 2 minutes!”
    Smiling, he replied, “no Madam, it took me my whole life.”

    The value of that nice photo you made today goes way beyond the photo itself. The real value comes from years and years of experience, training, hard work, courage, etc., that brought you to the place where you could take that great photo.

    Someone could be standing right next to you with the exact same camera and lens, but without your vision and experience, they would almost certainly take a very different photo.

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