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.
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.
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.