Your firm has spent years on a project, seeing it through from the pre-design phase to the ribbon-cutting ceremony and every step in between. What better way to document it than some amazing photographs of the final product? Not every photo is created equal, however; there is a lot more to documenting a project than simply pointing a camera at it and snapping a picture. In order to truly capture your hard work, there are a few best practices to follow when it comes to hiring a jobsite photographer (or even doing it yourself!).
Before You Start
In the past, photographs that showed off a building or space tended to be completely devoid of people, except one or two to show scale; the focus was entirely on the physical design. However, the trend today, and what editors are looking for, are photographs that tell a story: why certain design decisions were made and how the community is embracing the building or space, rather than an impersonal focus on the architecture.
It’s also important to think about how you will be using the photos of your project. Do you want them purely for documentary purposes, or do you plan on sharing them with publications? Does your design team intend to use them to create signage or advertisements? They might request a shot of the building with a lot of sky in the background to create space for placing copy. Does your marketing team want to include photos in press releases and share them on social media? They have a good feel for what your audience is looking for in an image.
To arrange for photographs that both tell a story and are useful for various parties’ purposes, be sure to consult the designers, engineers, marketing/PR personnel, clients, owners and any other individual who might have played a role in the project.
Setting up for Success
If you are hiring a photographer, don’t just look at their portfolio for the glamour shots. Talk to them, get to know their style and approach to a job, determine their experience with your particular project type, and decide whether or not their cost and personality make them an acceptable partner. The same goes for if you do the photography in-house; make sure the person behind the camera has some experience with photographing architecture with something more than their smartphone.
If you opt for a contract with a professional photographer, there are some simple—but important—legal issues to be aware of:
Your next step will be to provide some helpful information to the photographer about the site of the photoshoot. Provide them with the following items to set them up for a successful shoot:
Prior to the actual photoshoot, your photographer should take the above materials and do a scouting trip to see the site. This will allow them to see obstacles beforehand (“the air vents on the side of the building are unattractive; let’s try to leave them out of shots”), determine where the lighting is best, figure out whether or not any extra equipment such as ladders are needed, and talk with security, if necessary, to obtain access to any closed areas. Plus, any test photos they take that day can be used for immediate marketing needs.
After the photographer has finished their scouting trip, create a checklist with them for the day they will be doing the official photography shoot. Include:
The Big Day
It may be tempting to schedule the photoshoot as soon as the project is complete; you’ve spent perhaps months on it and are understandably eager to share it with the world. However, don’t ignore quality in favor of instant gratification – the best shots are in good weather (so if you finish a project in dreary November, it is worth waiting until spring to shoot), with landscaping established and elements of a “lived-in” quality. The current trend in architectural photograph is for how the space is used, rather than stark, empty buildings, so you want to wait until signs and furniture are installed before taking pictures.
On the day of the shoot, keep the following in mind:
After the photographer has done the initial cleaning up of their shots, they will send you the proofs, generally in a digital gallery online or in a PDF. Go through each photo and let the photographer know what you like and don’t like about each one, or what needs to be edited. Don’t feel as though you need to “sterilize” the image by removing things like light switches and outlets, but do point out anything that you feel is distracting.
Once you return your comments, the photographer will make the requested edits and send a new gallery. Be sure you are 100 percent happy with the results before you sign off on them! The final step in the process is obtaining high- and low-res files of every photograph, which will allow you to use them in a multitude of different ways, such as a high-res TIFF file for publication and a low-res JPG for social media use.
Going it Alone?
Most of the information above applies to amateur photographers as well, but there are a few key things to remember if you decide to take your own photos:
The next time you finish a project and want to document it, don’t just whip out your smartphone – consider using a photographer to capture the scene instead. Armed with the above knowledge, your jobsite photographs will be the envy of your competition. Still unsure if this is the right thing for your company? CCI gets the big picture – reach out to us today.