Fill product lit with photos

This is an encore of an article first published 20 years ago. In some ways, it is more difficult to organize and track photography now than it was then. In the past, at least we had a physical negative or transparency that we could hold onto. Now, digital images have a way of vanishing if they are not rigorously backed-up and cataloged. Fortunately, digital asset management software can be used to make the task easier.

I am revising my company's product literature. So far, I have not been able to locate any of the photos used in our previous catalogs, and we have only a few new pictures showing our products or projects on which they were used. How can I keep better track of our photos, and how can I get the most from my limited photography budget?-A.S.J., assistant marketing director

While a catalog is being designed and printed, the marketing staff, photographer, ad agency, graphic designer, and printer diligently keep track of the artwork. But afterward, everyone quickly moves on to the next project and forgets about the photos until the next deadline. By then the trail is often cold and the photos lost. Photography can be expensive, so before you start hiring photographers, set up procedures to create and manage a photo library.

Good photography is an investment that will yield a return for years to come. Photos can help sell your product; many designers and builders are visual thinkers and will learn more horn the illustrations in your product literature than from the text. And project photographs often are interpreted as testimonials, showing the confidence other builders have in your product. Catalog photography can be reused in publicity features, advertisements, and audiovisual presentations.

Set up a library
Make one person responsible for your photo library. Collect all the existing slides, negatives, transparencies, and prints you can locate and store them in plastic sheet protectors organized in three-ring binders. Firms with larger libraries might want to consider special media cabinets with illuminated racks for viewing transparencies.

Make an index identifying each image and the product options shown. Identify the photographer and note who owns the negatives or reproduction rights. For project photos, identify the designer, contractor, owner, and representative or distributor who serviced the job. Include phone numbers and addresses. It is a good practice to obtain signed release forms from building owners before publishing pictures of their property in your literature. These releases should be filed in the photo library.

Instead of letting original photography leave the library, send duplicates or color photocopies whenever possible. If the original is required, use a traffic log to record where and when the photo was sent. Check the log frequently to make sure originals are returned in a timely manner.

Save costs on photography
When buying photography, plan each shot carefully to minimize the cost for sets, models, travel, and other expenses. Photographers often are willing to negotiate fees, but don't sacrifice talent for price. The best photographers may be more expensive, but they save costs because of their skill in planning and capturing just the right image.

Another cost-saving option is to find existing pictures of buildings where your product has been used. Most buildings are professionally photographed for an architect's portfolio or an owner's corporate communication program. Ask your rep or distributor to identify recent good-looking or interesting jobs. Call the architects or developers to find out if they are satisfied with your product. If they aren't, take care of your customer relations problems. But if they are, they may be willing to send you photos or refer you to the photographer they used. Photographers will usually sell copies of pictures in stock for a fraction of what they initially charged to take the picture.

Construction managers take pictures to document their work and are often a good source for installation photographs. I once requested pictures of one client's product being installed on a curtain wall, and 1 received a11 entire roll of film shot by a construction manager from a swing scaffold, 59 stories above the ground.

You can also give your salespeople and field service reps good-quality lightweight 35mm cameras arid a supply or slide film. Encourage them to take the cameras whenever they visit projects. They may not shoot the award-winning cover photo that sets your product against a perfect sky, but their snapshots will provide valuable illustrations of installation and special conditions. 'They also can help you identify projects that deserve professional photography.

As an incentive, display the best snapshots on a bulletin board at the home office or in an employee newsletter. This also helps office staff understand what happens in the field.

Patterned Concrete Industries Inc., maker of tools for imprinting decorative patterns into concrete, holds a photo competition at its annual sales meeting. Each attending contractor is encouraged to bring photographs from a recent project. The photos are displayed and the contractors vote on the best picture and project of the year. Prizes are awarded at the closing banquet. The contest generates a fresh supply of pictures for the firm's marketing materials and enables contractors to learn new techniques and applications from their peers. Win or lose, participating contractors have high-quality pictures of their work to enhance their own sales presentations.

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By Michael Chusid
Originally published in Construction Marketing Today, Copyright © 1992